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Jesus vs. the church

May 9, 2005

My friend Matt (not the one with the kitchen, another Matt) is an amazing guy. One of the most kind, humble, honest, sincere people I’ve ever known. Brave, too. Yesterday, he came to our church service to talk about why he doesn’t consider himself a follower of Jesus.

He and I have been talking about this topic for a couple of years, and our conversation seemed to intersect with our church’s current study of Ephesians. This week, we took up the topic of the definition of Christian community: who’s ‘in’, and who’s ‘out’. One of the huge divisions in the first century church was the gulf between Jew and Gentile. Could a person be a follower of God without being Jewish? Paul introduces the revolutionary idea that, because of Jesus, we have a third race, a new race, a new people: the church.

We considered a similar situation in our contemporary culture: people who don’t consider themselves ‘Christian’, but who are quite interested in Jesus. Matt was kind enough to come and talk to us about his story: his experience with church, and his thoughts about Jesus. He was frank in his assessment of the church, and its systems of belief, and its faulty, close-minded, unwelcoming theology. What struck me was this: his main barrier to starting to follow Jesus seemed to be the theological constructs and all-or-nothing commitment requirements erected by all of the churches he’s been in. My guess is that if Jesus walked up to Matt and said, “hey, Matt, do you want to learn how to live?”, Matt would jump right in.

I hope that, in a sense, this is what is happening. So I’ll be eagerly watching and praying and trying to partner with Jesus in his work. I’m just not sure who has more to learn (or unlearn!): me, or Matt?

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