There are three theological viruses floating around these days that concern me.
My concerns are two-fold: 1) They have wide appeal 2) I can see why they have wide appeal.
The first virus is the idea that God exists for us. God’s function is to make us happy, give us what we want and make our dreams come true. I truly get the appeal of making God a means to worldly prosperity but the message of Christ actually stands antithetical to this notion. Jesus taught that true happiness is found in submitting our dreams for ourselves to the dream of God for our lives. Jesus taught that we live by dying to self, become great by serving and our lives are defined by what we give away, not by what we have. In fact, Jesus said clearly that until the grip of material things is broken in our lives we invite an existence of anxiety and worry (the diametrical opposite of happiness). Here is the deal; God does not exist for us, we exist for God. God is not a means to our ends, God is an ends in Himself.
The second virus is the notion that Christian people should spend their lives in waiting for some great thing God may ask of them. The idea is to say “no” to the good in hopes of the very best. I get the appeal of the notion to worn out and discouraged church and charity volunteers but the bible does not support the premise. Waiting for a “burning bush” call that only has occurred once in the history of humanity seems like a bad use of the limited years we have on earth. In sharp contrast, the bible teaches that being faithful in small things is actually what qualifies and prepares us for a call to greater things. I am convinced the true greatness of a person is not defined in a single heroic act but in the grind of daily faithfulness and obedience to God. I don’t think “burning bushes” or “for such at time as this” moments are the inheritance of those sequestered in wait. Here is the deal; if you hope God will use you to do one thing big, be faithful in all things small. There is a lot right and not a thing wrong with living a simple life of love, faithfulness and obedience.
The third virus is that we are suddenly smarter than everyone else who has ever read the Bible. Such “enlightenment” is historically short-lived and never serves the Christian faith well. In this shift from classic liberalism, the focus is not “the Bible is wrong” (that one didn’t work); the focus is that “we have been reading the Bible wrong. Everybody.” These pseudo-theologians begin with socially popular outcomes and then steer the Bible their direction in a game of isogetical gymnastics. It would honestly be comical, if so many people were not taking it seriously. The harm will not be to the Bible, it will be to our culture who will lose its power, witness and critique. Surely, creating God in our own image will not stand (it never has) but we are worse for it. My default is that if the clear and consistent teachings of the Bible are in conflict with my way of thinking; it is me who stands in error.
If you see God simply as a means to your ends of your bank account moving up and to the right, you are missing the point.
If you are sitting around doing nothing in the midst of infinite opportunities to serve Jesus, you are missing the point.
If you think the Bible is something to twist and shape into your way of thinking, you are missing the point.
Contentment is found in sacrifice, calling is found in obedience and truth is found in God’s word.
Rev. Shane L. Bishop is the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois.