Monday, August 05, 2019

"You Thought I was Just Like You"

Psalm 50.21a NASU

“These things you have
done and I kept silence;
you thought I was
just like you. 

I used to be into “spirituality.” I gathered elements from a variety of sacred tradition sources and formed a quasi-religious framework upon which I hung my cherished ideals. The system of theology that evolved was a hodgepodge collection of ever-changing notions about the divine nature of Higher Power and His (or Her) participation in human affairs.

Jesus Christ pierced my pious broad-mindedness with narrow and offensive words like “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14.6). I tried to ignore this Jesus in favor of the more polite version of a Messiah, that is a warm and fuzzy, soft and likable Jesus. The exclusivity expressed in Christ’s self-proclamation was abhorrent to me.

Although I was not an Christ-follower, I considered myself a “spiritual person,” (whatever that means). I was into the pursuit of personal “spirituality,” rather than the biblical Jesus. Jesus was a fascinating historical figure, a man of influence, maybe even a powerful prophet, but certainly not divine. As an enlightened “spiritual” person, I was compelled to assent to the probability that Jesus Christ was one of many ancient and excellent “spiritual” leaders, right up there with Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius, and Vishnu. But I somehow missed the all-important point... How could I accept a religious leader and yet reject what he said? Jesus claimed to be the only way to God. I did not like that part. I wanted to remain blissfully ignorant of the fact that Jesus was not “just like me.” He did not fit inside my theological boundaries, nor subscribe to my homegrown theology. It would have made more sense to reject Jesus as a liar or a lunatic than to embrace Him as a renowned prophet who didn’t know what He was talking about!

This obvious contradiction of my personal love-hate affair with Jesus was the by-product of my clamor for meaning. I searched everywhere and forgot to look right under my nose! How did my “spiritual” quest lead me to dismiss two thousand years of orthodox Christian history and doctrine in favor of every whim of religious opinion? I was a child “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4.14). 

The Christians I knew did not help the cause of Christ with their forceful ways and blind allegiance to a book they called God’s Word. I was certain the Bible was an outmoded work of antiquity without meaning or relevance. My brand of “spirituality” was that of my own making. It had to be right because I said so. My god was “just like me.” I created Him in my own image. My belief system was rational, I thought, containing the best elements of many sacred traditions, and was broad enough to include all religious behavior as viable paths to God.

I was proud of my “spirituality.” It felt good and right. The author of “The Message” version of the Bible, Eugene Peterson, well describes my unoriginal and popular spiritual mentality in his 2006 book entitled Eat This Book [1]:

“There are a number of people around who object to the Bible as the authoritative text for our lives on the grounds that it is narrow, constrictive, and imposes a paternalistic worldview on us that we have long outgrown.
“We want a spirituality that is world-embracing, all-experience-encompassing. Our sense of life is huge…. How can we be satisfied to be the people of one book?
“But maybe we are putting the question wrongly. Perhaps we need to ask how we go about entering into a large life: Do we travel the world and pick up artifacts and souvenirs, bring them home and assemble a museum or workshop in which we can be in visual and sensory touch with as much as possible?... Does largeness come by acquisition of a lot of stuff from here and there, or by deepening what is at hand?”

He goes on to describe the Harvard biologist who spent “the summer traveling and made it halfway across his backyard.” I did not have to travel far to find the truth. It was in my own “backyard.” I was surprised to discover there was no such thing as Jesus-free “spirituality.” It was frankly disappointing to learn that God was not “just like me,” nor my devout, all-inclusive ideas about Him. When the Lord peered from heaven to observe my jumbled collection of pious thoughts and “spiritual” pursuits, He must have said…

You thought that I was just like you.”

That was then. Something, or should I say Someone happened. His name is Jesus. I no longer believe God is “just like me.”

[1] Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading, Eugene H. Peterson, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006, pp. 44-45.


One Sided said...

It has got to be a comfort factor. To want a god that is definable and fits into what we expect for and from ourselves.

I much prefer my God to be more than I can imigine not limited by what I can see and understand.

Kelly's Ideas said...

Great post - I always feel sorry for the person who says things like - I've read the entire Bible - I'm a Christian - to put credence to their statements/perceived knowledge.. when in fact they may have read the Bible but they did not READ the Bible... God is so much more than the Bible....He is so much more than a spirit - He is God...
Sorry if I rambled... I loved your post.

Dave Scriven said...

Thank you Kelly.