It is no secret that, in the past ten years, I have made some major changes in the way I perceive and practice the Christian faith. Not everybody is happy about that. For example, a Facebook friend wrote recently to express his dismay over what he referred to as “the decidedly liberal trajectory your pilgrimage has taken.”
“You used to preach the gospel,” he wrote. “I don’t hear that anymore. You used to love Jesus. I don’t recognize the Jesus you talk about anymore.”
Well, just to be clear, I still love Jesus. Further, I believe more strongly than ever that a person can be transformed through an encounter with Jesus. The marks of that encounter, however, are different than I used to suppose.
I now believe that transformation involves not so much identifying with a particular set of doctrines or embracing some specific statement of faith. Rather, it is more a matter of exhibiting character traits such as humility, kindness, and self-sacrificing love. These are, after all, the character traits embodied by Jesus. I am less concerned, then, with what a person believes about Jesus than with how much of the character of Jesus comes out in the way we live our lives.
I suppose you could say that I identify these days with what some might call a “new kind of Christianity.” I prefer to think of it, however, as consistent Christianity, empowered and energized by the spirit of Jesus. In that regard, then, here are a few conclusions I have reached as I observe what passes for contemporary Christian faith in modern America.
If it condemns, belittles, embarrasses, humiliates, or otherwise undermines a sense of self-worth, it is not the spirit of Jesus.
If it does not contribute to emotional health and wholeness, it is not the spirit of Jesus.
If it feeds my prejudices or fosters contempt for an entire group or class of people, it is not the spirit of Jesus.
Whenever one Christian or one group of Christians is not welcome or does not feel welcome among another group of Christians, it is not the spirit of Jesus.
And when we hate or hurt or kill in the name of Jesus, it is not the spirit of Jesus. Even Jesus himself did not do that.
Have I have fallen prey to liberalism? You will have to judge that for yourself. All I can say is, “Thanks be to God. May Jesus Christ be praised!”