Friday, January 20, 2006

AMWAY Christianity

Before I became a Christian, I used to wonder what the point of becoming a Christian was; and with so many World Views out there to choose from, why would any thinking person choose one that seemed to place so many restrictions on them, once converted?  Aside from apologetic arguments, WHY would someone become a Christian?  What does "being a Christian" even mean, anyway?

I still wonder that, or, at least, I wonder what it must look like to someone who watches Christians, and the Church, and what might be termed "popular Christian culture"... 

People "get saved" and then... what? Join a local church? Okay, and then... what? Start "spreading the gospel"? Reading the Bible? Praying? The lines of specificity begin to blur not long after the "praying the sinner's prayer" and getting "baptized" at the local church, or so it would seem...

The most common answer you're likely to hear, though, is surely the call to Evangelism:
Go out and "share the Good News" with others! But.... toward what End??  If Christian faith is, as they say, "more than just 'fire insurance' ", then what IS it?

This evangelistically-minded approach of "signing people up to sign people up to then go out and sign people up" strikes me as resembling one of these "pyramid schemes"... I half-jokingly call it "Amway Christianity", where you are likely to hear, "come to our meetings and learn all about the 'program'...!"  But from that point, what to do -- how to go about this -- is much less clear, and the new Believer is more often than not left to fend for himself as he attempts to discover what the Christian life is all about...

The one constant he is impacted with, though, is the mission to go out and get more people to the meetings, so that they too can be signed up!

Well, that assessment is admittedly somewhat satirical, but the question remains, what is the STUFF of Christianity? What are we all doing here?  There was a Microsoft commercial on TV awhile back, showing a group of office workers gathered silently around the conference room table, and someone finally pipes up and says, "Who called this meeting?"


It seems clear that the broader theme of Scripture regarding the reason to become a Christian - indeed, God's design for each of us - is summed up in Romans 12:1,2...  Here we are told to present ourselves to God for the process of METAMORPHOSIS, quite literally, a complete and total TRANSFORMATION from one kind of being into a wholly different kind of being.

This CHANGE is fundamental, disruptive, and often counter-intuitive (at least at first). And the wording of the original text -- so say the scholars -- conveys the idea of "Present Progressive", so that it really should be read as, "be BEING transformed..." You get the idea that something like Character Change should be what we are all about, daily, as a primary Focus...

As I have thought about this for a number of years (since becoming a Christian), a systematic view of the nature of this Change has emerged; these are the Changes that are supposed to be going on INSIDE us, and coming out of us, and this Change is, itself -- ultimately, displaying the Glory of God -- the POINT of becoming a Christian at all:

This is the bedrock. It is the reason there is a Universe at all; it is the reason why Jesus took on human form and subjected Himself to the profound humiliation of the cross; and it is the ONLY motivation for, and guide for, being a Christian in the first place.  If we are not daily, passionately, profoundly all about Love, real Love toward the real people in our lives, then we are liars to call ourselves Christians.

Love is not a feeling; it is a verb, and Love is far greater than "Faith" and more important than "Hope".  One might think we should be hearing far more discussion among Christians about what Love looks like and how to do it, in practical ways, every single day of our lives...

Being put back into a right relation with God -- which then necessarily forces us to work toward right relations with those around us! -- Forgiveness is the difficult practice of giving up our desire to "put that guy in his place"... Because he, like me, is a sinner and frail and weak...

...because we will not be forgiven, ourselves (of our many and egregious sins) if we do not. A long, hard look in the mirror, and a keen awareness of our OWN depravity, makes Forgiveness SO much easier...

Daily living requires decisions, and wisdom gives those who have it the ability to make sound decisions. A proper respect for God is, we're told, the beginning of wisdom; and we are instructed to search for wisdom as if we were searching for hidden treasures.

We spend so much time in our Bible studies, prayer groups, church activities, home lives, political causes, work, recreation, etc., and amid the bustle, it's critical to ask ourselves, "Is there CHANGE going on inside me?"

--Do I really LOVE God?
--Do I really LOVE the people closest to me, and people in general (ALL people)?
--Have I really forgiven So-and-So for what he/she did/is doing to me?
--Have I ever really been broken in half over my own horrible sins? Did that experience
result in reconciliation, or just self-soothing?
--Do I study the Bible, and supporting Christian literature, in order to acquire
Godly wisdom? Am I a Fool, instead?

So enough with signing people up to sign more people up... The actual "program" of Christianity is mostly about the really TOUGH road of Character Change.  It's going to be a struggle, and painful at times, but in the end, that METAMORPHOSIS is the only reason to become a Christian at all.

Everything else is just Religion.