Religion or Jesus?
Sometimes religion is important, but usually barely, on the margin. Why is that? When you fit religion under the social sciences that helps you think it over.
There are all those social and political changes that make a difference in every part of life. That abortion issue relates to women’s rights. Needy people are so desperate that they’ll buy into any silly answer, more than those who have their lives all predictably planned. Once a pastor was high up on the pecking order, enough to get Harvard going, but right now not really. There is that virus upsetting our social order, with so many people publishing their wise advice on how to not only survive but to flourish—but on the internet there’s nothing about prayer. So if that doesn’t seem right, and that even now there should be room for religion, what can we do about it? Should we work at making it more far-reaching, more vital? So it’s not enough to try to keep unborn babies alive, but to work on caring for them when the parents don’t want to? So invent the old reliable orphan houses again? There’s such a lot of culturally popular music now in churches, but no one is teaching people how to sing it, is it supposed to be singable? Those seminaries are still puttering away with those old languages but not trying harder to show their students how to fit into the cutting-edges of where we are today. Fix all that? All that is worth working on. But who majors in social sciences now anyway, not much cash there. Those ‘liberal’ churches have been working on being ‘relevant’ for a good century now and they’re dying out even faster than the fuddy-duddies. We used to check out Europe to see what our future would be like, but only tourists go into their churches now.
That virus is a great wakeup call, everyone’s trying to figure out what life will be like a year or two from now. Let’s join in and do some predicting. More casual sex, more abortions, birth rate dropping, more and more codgers and codgerettes without any younger ones to care about them. Add to that everyone high and getting higher, of course shut down all those stores where no one wants more classy clothes anyhow, but keep the weed coming. Look again at that long list of social sciences, are we leaving anything out? It doesn’t much matter, there’s always some fun in anything new but it gets boring sooner now than ever. All that has happened before, many times. Religion can be major in the culture, but when now that culture is over and done with, all its religious frills go down with it. Once God and the king were genuinely sovereign, now kings and queens are tourist attractions with some pretending about the meaning of their decisions, so if sovereignty is what it’s about, that’s gone. Do a little nostalgia watching an old British movie with everyone all dressed up and saying Lord Peter, and then wake up and go on with real life again. It’s like everything else, we get used to those old natural everyday ways being long gone, and the way ourselves we used to be. I grew up in that comfortable hick town proud of its last dry county in Iowa, where going to church worked the same way as not being a boozer: ‘I’m not perfect but at least I don’t . . . .’ So now let’s be radical. It’s not religion or social sciences or our culture that it’s about. It’s about the living God—gasp. It’s who he is himself, not how he fits into the bigger picture, he is the bigger > picture, the only one there is. This world is here because he made it. It’s how it is even now in this mess because he wants it that way. Don’t expect him to adjust to where you are now. All the greatest idols aren’t interesting, they’re evil. That’s a start, but the most startling and the most real is, he loves sinners, so much that instead of pouring out his righteous wrath on them—he had his Beloved Son crucified. It’s grueling to see him as merciful, but there’s our only hope. So why does he love you that much? Never because of any of those social science reasons, never because you’re proud of yourself, but always and forever—because he loves you. It’s not about your loveliness or lovability, but about God Himself, the God of love. Take your pick, leave out whatever is so meaningful to you, since you used to think you’re in charge of what meaning is. Leave all that out, call them lying idols, and look straight at God himself. Read the Bible to do that, all of it, again and again, it isn’t ‘religion’ either, it’s real. Just stop right now pondering yourself all by yourself, since you aren’t. Admit your major idol is you, yourself and I. Crawl out of your feeble world into his beautiful godly world, you do that by asking, by praying—oh, not just asking and praying, but asking God! Be clear that you’re not up to escaping, but he is. Ask him to show you the truth about yourself, why he made you this way, why and how he wants you to enjoy him forever. He is able, there is nothing he cannot do, that’s what he told that virgin Mary when he told her she was having a baby without needing a man to get it started. He is able to raise Jesus from death back into life. He is able to give you the Holy Spirit so you can see Jesus by himself when he shuts down all those cultural lies all around you. Then you can see everything else the way he does. You can see your life as foolish and crippled and deliberately evil, all by seeing yourself right next to him. You can see that your only hope is his love that endures forever. Then what will he want back from you? Well, all there is, but get started with joy! Father in heaven, I hallow your name, you are my father and I give you all the glory there is, all, leaving nothing for myself. Your glory is my joy unspeakable. Then this is how it will be, forever: “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
"God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1: 4-9