A fundamentalist approach of ardently structuring one’s life by following the letter of the holy book of any religion produces people that are fragmented at deep levels of their humanity. Folks like that wear their religion as a man wears his headache. Their character is opposite of wholesome. Various fragments of their character are rigid, and are poorly fitted together, always angrily creaking, always ready to give way at the fault lines. (This visual gives a new meaning to the word “character faults”, doesn’t it?)
A life lived like that is always do, do, do, in a never-ending quest to become. While that zeal and commitment can be admirable, the very system is deeply flawed. Its moral compass always points away from self and onto others. People living that life always build walls, draw lines, arbitrarily decide who is in and who is out, leave many wounded any dying in their wake, they scoff at laughter and joy, scorn childlikeness, trample over destinies, and ultimately sacrifice their soul on the altar of being right. As Blaise Pascal once said, “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.”
Following the spirit of living Christ leading from within our hearts is an very different matter. People like that don’t try to leave their sins behind by putting bigger and more powerful engines on on the airplanes of their willpower, trying to overcome the natural resistance by the sheer force of their human will. They simply learn to use their wings, and learn how to glide with the flow of the air of His kingdom. That approach to living one’s faith produces people that are wholesome, whose personality traits cohere and harmonize among themselves. It produces a beautiful melody of a life lived for the true glory of God, the life that sounds off praise and worship to its Creator 24×7 simply by the virtue of being present in this broken world.
People like that just “are”. They don’t try to “be”. You can smell people like that from a mile away. And when you do, the last thing you care about are their official titles, or what acronyms come after their name. You are attracted to their lives as a moth is attracted to an open flame. And when you get close to them, the thing that burns off are your fears, insecurities, and sins. You want to be like them. They transform you through the sheer power of their personal presence.
Of course, these are the textbook extremes. Most people live somewhere between the two. As for me, I’ve been taught for many years mostly from the textbooks of camp No. 1. I cal tell you firsthand that it doesn’t work the way the slick marketing brochures of its confident evangelists promise you from their meticulously designed pages. Plus, I am not strong enough to burn myself on the altar of man-made theology. I though that weakness was a curse. Now I see it as a huge blessing. One day, I might see this as something that has saved my life for the living Christ.
I’ve also been around people from camp No. 2. They are few and far between. The problem is that there are not many textbooks here. Mostly napkins with scribbled disjointed notes that are hard to put together without personal guidance. People like that seem to just somehow “stumble” into that life of genuine God-trust. Most frustratingly, most of them for whatever reason cannot coherently explain how they even ended up that way. All that they know is that at some point, something “clicked” into place. It’s like a man who is “sees” numbers a la John Nash (from the movie “The Beautiful Mind”). All of their explanations fall far short of describing the actual experience. Or the explanations are shortsightedly given from the textbook No. 1 (the one that doesn’t work), since that’s the only one that’s widely available.
We need more real teachers in the body of Christ. Not those who can simply rehash some doctrine du jour, or preach an emotionally rousing sermon, or parrot off the latest clever piece of apologetic. I am talking about the the teachers whose very lives stop the hungry for God in their tracks, leaving them with mouth agape, gasping “I want THAT!”.
Comments on: "Living by the letter vs. living by the spirit" (2)
“Folks like that wear their religion as a man wears his headache.”
Ha…I love that line! How true.
I love searching out and finding teachers in the no. 2 camp, too, starting with Jesus. 🙂
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Thank you for your comment! Very true what you said about Jesus. My goal is to get my personal relationship with Jesus to the point of real, tangible friendship.
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