March 21, 2021
We’ve been looking the wrong way.
When I begin the process of creating content for my podcast, I check the calendar we use to review, schedule and organize everything. In that calendar are the themes laid out for the next several months. It’s essentially a parking lot for teaching requests, ideas to consider, and plans for the upcoming week.
Oftentimes, I’ll include a few thoughts about the overarching message with the topic. Those few thoughts are the words upon which I’ll meditate before I begin to type.
Beneath this week’s teaching theme was the sentence that opened this blog: “We’ve been looking the wrong way.” It came to me when writing “Falling In Love With Jesus Again.” At first, I didn’t understand how the two could be connected but after hours of research then writing and recording the podcast, I knew. “We’ve been looking the wrong way” is the problem we face when religious systems attempt to contain our spiritual experience.
I intentionally chose the word “contain” for its layers of meaning. The first being the reflection of a structure that safely and securely holds something. For millions of people, this is exactly what religion does — provides a safe and secure container to hold their spirituality.
For millions of us, however, the word reflects something actionable and the exact opposite of a sacred experience. Religion became weaponized as it struggled to contain -- or suppress -- our spiritual growth and our soul’s ability to connect with the Holy.
Whether it be in familial, professional or religious settings, it’s human nature to desire community and to be led by people we trust. To that end, religion has been effective, creating systems that have successfully perpetuated itself for centuries.
But in order to survive, some theologies taught that religion was more than our desire for community -- it was required for spiritual unity with the Divine.
And as more and more turn away from organized religion to enter the spiritual wilderness, we are essentially saying that the desire for human connection cannot be the guiding force for a spiritual experience.
At least not for us.
This spiraling away from Christianity as it is presented inside the church may set us on a path to healing, but we may still be influenced by our learned beliefs. This may mean feeling entirely disconnected from the Jesus we met while churched. Why? Because the Jesus we experienced in religion told us He was only available to those who remain inside the Christian club.
Beloved, we’ve been looking the wrong way.
The Jesus story extends beyond the confines of religion and is offered as a healing balm to all of humanity to remind us that things can be different when we expect them to be. For Jesus, that meant resisting the elements of His faith that had become broken, choosing instead to sit with the outcast, heal the untouchable, and take action against corruption that marginalized the poor.
We can look back at Jesus with a new set of eyes to see that His ministry was never about starting a new religion. Instead, it was about stretching the constrictions that had been placed on His own religion -- Judaism. He did this by pushing back on the elements of His faith that had become corrupt, dogmatic and prejudiced against non-Jews.
The birth of Christianity came about for many reasons, and our questioning its origins is not sacrilegious -- it’s freeing. What is sacrilegious are those who use their Christian identity as validation for their persecution, condemnation and dehumanization of others.
In other words -- they too are looking the wrong way.
Allegiance to a belief should not take precedence over our responsibility to humanity. As tough as that ideology may be for some, it is -- I believe -- the way of Jesus. It is the Jesus we see when we take His words as an invitation to embrace all of our siblings, regardless of skin color, birthplace, gender identity, who they love, and even what they believe.
Jason Gray wrote a song that contains these words:
'Cause all religion ever made of me
Was just a sinner with a stone
Tied to my feet
It never set me free
It's gotta be more like falling in love
Than something to believe in
More like losing my heart
Than giving my allegiance
Caught up, called out
Come take a look at me now
It's like I'm falling, oh
It's like I'm falling in
Love, love, love
Deeper and deeper
It was love that made me a believer
In more than a name, a faith, a creed
Falling in love with Jesus brought the change in me
Take a look at me now.
Keep looking the other way.
Because it can be like falling in love when we listen with healed ears, see with hopeful eyes and love with the expansiveness which Jesus taught.
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