Don’t let religion keep you from Jesus!

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Matthew 11:28-30
– Rebekah and Derek Maul at church

The other day, listening to some documentary, I heard the narrator mischaracterize Christians as people who view life as an unpleasant but necessary hardship that we eventually escape after we die. Heaven, she said, is the reward that waits Christians who endure the disappointment and suffering of living.

This is what’s known as “Escape Theology.”

At the other end of the spectrum proponents of “The Prosperity Gospel” suggest that God rewards Christians for their faithfulness right here and right now. When we experience “God’s favor” we enjoy everything from financial prosperity to better health, promotions at work, upgraded airplane tickets, and happier children.

If we struggle financially, if we’re not healed from sickness, or if we don’t own a nice car, then it’s because we don’t have enough faith and God is holding out on us until we do.

Then (among the deceptions) there is the widespread misunderstanding that Christian belief is synonymous with nationalist and conservative politics. Christianity is seen as taking sides in the “culture wars”, standing against gender equality, gay marriage, affirmative action, and minorities.

So people walk away:

There is of course a lot of misinformation out there, and it is easy to see why so many people have drifted away from any interest in identifying as “Christian” when so much of the message is muddied.

I could write a book about what Christianity is “not”, and why ideas such as Escape Theology, The Prosperity Gospel, and Christian Nationalism are such harmful aberrations.

But what is more important – especially if I want the real story to reach people who have rejected Christianity because these lies “shut the door of the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces” (Matthew 23:13) – is to articulate the simple, straightforward message of what is true, and what Jesus still, patiently, stands at the door ready to invite us to accept.

What is true?

Essentially, Jesus promised (and continues to promise) to be for us, to be with us, and to invite us home.

  • To be for us
  • To be with us
  • To invite us home

Not to escape this world but to live in it with us. Not to make life easy but to give us purpose and direction. Not to advance our political preferences but, instead, our compassion. Not to shut the door of the kingdom in anyone’s faces but to invite us all home.

If you feel that Christians are pushing a religion that offends what is important to you then let me invite you – instead – to walk with Jesus.

I am a Christian, and I am wrong about a lot of things. I suspect that you get things wrong too. But don’t let that cut you off from the Good News!

And the Good News is this: Jesus is right there, at the door (the one those religious people likely slammed in his/your face!), and he stands ready to be for you, to be with you, and to invite you home.

It is not complicated – DEREK


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