I was reading Letter from Birmingham Jail recently. It’s been said that anyone who reads this letter will be compelled to do something – whatever that something is – even today. It’s true. It’s powerful.
This quote stuck out to me. King writes: We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. King, was obviously focused on Civil Rights. I heard his words in light of the message of God that is held captive by institutional Christianity.
For too long the left and right have misguided those seeking God. The welcoming message of Jesus has become a list of check boxes. Believe in Jesus as savior – check. Say the sinners prayer – check. Join a church – check. Read the bible – check. Don’t forget that you’re a piece of dirt and God has saved you – check.
No. No, no, no. This is not the message of the best teacher of God to ever walk the earth. Jesus invited us into a relationship with God. He welcomed us to a new reality, a new kingdom full of grace and power beyond anything we’ve ever experienced in our culture-soaked lives.
Christians today – those who are supposed to spread this Good News – have spread their news, their interpretations, their rules, their judgment. They look down on homosexuals, pregnant teenagers, drug addicts, and alcoholics. They separate themselves from a world in need in the hopes that God will come down from on high and save them at the Eschaton.
Christian leaders have lost the rights to Jesus. When pastors are calling for gays and lesbians to be penned up they’ve forfeited their privileges to spread the Good News. When “Christians” are waving hate placards saying “death to gays,” they’ve lost their claim on the great teacher. When they’re filling the minds of those truly seeking rest in God with guilt and fear they’ve abandoned the kingdom, and can no longer tell the story.
These folks need our prayer, guidance, compassion, and love. They are welcome in the kingdom should they choose to enter. This is not condemnation. This is reclamation. Jesus does not belong to Christians. He belongs to those who follow him.
Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson