The definitive characteristic of Christian faith is that it is rooted in a historic event. We are the Resurrection People because the core of our belief, faith, ethics, and future hope lies in the 33 precious years of our God incarnated, culminating in him, the Suffering Servant, being nailed to that old rugged cross, and his subsequent rising from the dead.
The Christian faith has always been about God coming to save us in human form.
Everything we know about what it means to be a Christian is clothed with humanity. Jesus followers learn of what it means to be Christian by way of human relationships. We recite and affirm historical creeds passed down to us through the cloud of witnesses, the generations of believers before us. We are instructed in the moral values that align with Christian teaching by our mothers and fathers, whether biological or spiritual. Our local church community is our ethics classroom, a place where we practice, learn, and grow, working out our salvation and mobilizing the revolution of God in our particular corner of the world.
The steeples of our churches? Constructed by human builders.
The songs we sing in worship? Created by human songwriters.
The Christian books we learn from, including the Bible? Drafted by human authors.
The words of prophecies, prayers, conversations exchanged? Delivered through our human speech.
Everything that matters in regards to our faith is delivered to us through human means.
Inexplicably, God has chosen to set in God’s master plan of salvation for us through none other than our own selves. You cannot extract humanity away from Jesus; he was fully human. The sacred became indistinguishable with the human in the man of Jesus Christ. In him, God decided to accomplish God’s purposes through us, the crowning glory of God’s creation.
And yet everything we have learned throughout the thousands of years in which humans have inhabited this earth is that we are capable of terrible destruction. We can make, and have made, a grand mess of just about everything we get our hands on.
This is why we should not be afraid to question things within the church, and in fact, why we should actively engage in the task of criticism in our communities. Our imperfections and propensity to malign, alienate, and destroy seeps its way into our faith, and the evil we perpetrate become insidious as it takes on spiritual forms, communicated with spiritual language, committed in the name of God. We must be vigilant to call out places within our churches where individuals are being harmed with terrible theology, corruption scandals are being covered for the sake of the bottom line, and when the church’s agenda triumphs over God’s concern for the weak.
We must be diligent in inviting outside voices to show us the ways we have veered off course, to reveal the mistakes we have been blinded to because we are too close to it.
We must strive to become transparent and above reproach, exposing our own vulnerabilities so we don’t fall prey to our own fallible ways.
This is our theological responsibility: in order to walk in steadfast faithfulness we must never stop the task of deconstructing the systems that get built up around our faith so that there is always room for the Spirit to breathe fresh winds of change.
Question, critique, deconstruct. Ask why you believe, how you act on that faith, and for whom you are faithful. Dig into the dark crevices of our own hearts and demand to expose those of our Christian leaders. Because we know the darkness is there, and the light of God is yearning to shine through.
It is not a sign of a lack of faith to question, but rather an essential path to greater faithfulness. Our commitment to our Christian communities is not a blind embrace of all of her activities, but an adamant decision to walk with her despite her imperfections.
We won’t stop being imperfect. Our weaknesses aren’t going anywhere. I sense there is an idea going around, especially in progressive Christian circles, that at some point we must stop deconstructing in order to build and create and to move our faith forward. But the reality is that life can never come before a certain death. The act of creating is dependent upon breaking rules. One cannot coexist without the other. As long as our faith is lived out among broken people, we must never rest from the work of incisive critique. As soon as something is built with our imperfect human hands, there will always be a need to refine and test it with a diversity of voices.
And even though the work is hard, the burden of responsibility is heavy, and our souls become weary, we rejoice. Because the reason that necessitates our critiques, the frailty of these human vessels with hearts prone to wander from the God they love, is and has always been God’s chosen method of dispensing grace.
We want perfect love, complete compassion, total justice, and we want it executed flawlessly. But this is not God’s way. God chooses us, even though we love imperfectly, our compassion is limited, and our justice is always delayed. Despite our terrible flaws, God chooses to work through this mess that we perpetually find ourselves in.
So we had better show up with all of our wounds and weaknesses and inadequacies to this business of being faithful; to the daily deaths and resurrections and to stand witness to the Spirit’s redemptive powers transforming a pile of heaping ashes into beauty.
Cindy Brandt blogs at cindywords.com and serves on the board of One Day's Wages, an organization fighting extreme global poverty. She studied Bible/Theology at Wheaton College and holds a Masters of Arts in Theology from Fuller Seminary.
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