I’m not too familiar with Jeff Bethke. And if you somehow have been living under a rock and missed his spoken word piece, which has gone viral this week, you can see it here. My hope in writing is not to tear down a Christian brother. My heart is telling me that Jeff loves Christ, that he longs to be Christlike, and that he is very talented (which may be part of the reason people listen past what he is really saying).
The definition of religion has changed over the past years, this I understand. There are people who see the religious structure as a legalistic hypocrisy. There are people who call themselves Christian, possible attend church on Sunday, and yet don’t live as Christians at all. And so a shift begins. People who are religious sever ties with the term and cling to the core of what makes the structure beautiful. This isn’t the answer to our problems though.
If it wasn’t for ‘religion’ I wouldn’t be blessed with a new pastor who has come to a broken church family and lovingly said to us, “We will mend this together”. If it wasn’t for ‘religion’ I wouldn’t be blessed with elders who guide and lead me in a gentle and loving manner so that I do not stumble in my walk. If it wasn’t for ‘religion’ I wouldn’t be blessed with a denomination, who in the wake of my young husband’s death, came around me to help with the physical, spiritual, and financial needs of my family. I wouldn’t have a small group of women who I consider sisters. I wouldn’t have a place to worship our God, who I love so much.
Let us not so quickly forget that Jesus was religious; a very devout Jew. And so, I too, am religious. I would like to say I’m not a hypocrite and that I’m a Christian the other six days of the week, but as Paul says in Romans, “For I don’t do the good I want to do, but instead do the evil that I don’t want to do.” I do the best I can, but it is far from perfect. This doesn’t mean I’m ready to throw the baby out with the bath water.
My fear is that we are trying to have an internal conversation with the whole world. It is not that what Jeff, and others, have been saying for some time doesn’t have relevance in a changing world. I understand people have been hurt by the structure we have built, and for those who have been I am sorry. Do we take that pain and turn people away from the church though? I think the answer is to build communities that don’t hurt. Communities that when hurt does happen grace and forgiveness is worked through together. These communities do exsist, I am part of one.
We can not undermine the importance of our communities, and I don’t believe that is what Christ wants for us. We must tread lightly when we label people, and it doesn’t matter the label that you use … religious/legalistic, orthodox/heretic, conservative/liberal, Republican/Democrat, Catholic/Evangelical . . . Jew/Greek, slave/free, male/female.
You see, because we are all one in Christ Jesus. And a label is ALWAYS a label, no matter how trendy it might be.