Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Nuts and Bolts of Christianity


If someone were to ask you why you are a Christian what would you tell them? (Provided of course, that you are a Christian. I don't mean to be presumptuous.) This is a questions that I have struggled with. It's not because I don't know, it is because I fear anything I attempted to put into words would be woefully inadequate. A couple of years ago, my friend Jeff lent me his copy of a book by Rich Mullins. In the first chapter of "The World as I Remember It: Through the Eyes of a Ragamuffin", Rich's explanation was, for me, absolutely spot on perfect. The portion of the excerpt highlighted in red is also my all time favorite quote in the whole, wide world! (Which a big deal, considering how much I love quotes.)
The only thing worse than the joke you don't get is the explanation that is bound to follow: an explanation that, while it may help you see why you should have seen the humor that you so lamely missed, is little likely to make you laugh. It may provoke you to muster a sympathy snicker so as to avoid more of an already tedious and misdirected lecture. It may inspire a mild giggle of recognition, but it will hardly ever raise a real belly-laugh, which was the original desired effect.
And so, here I go -- me and a dozen thousand other people -- trying to explain a joke that we would do better to learn to better tell. I am setting out to explain again why Jesus is the only true hope for the world, why we should put faith in Him, and what all of that won't mean. I am collecting the information, selecting from what I hope will be usable as evidence, arranging my findings into arguments, framing it for presentation and recognizing that, while it may be fine as far as it goes, it doesn't go far enough.

But then I remember two things. The first thing I remember is how I once won an argument with a heathen friend of mine who -- after I had whacked away his last scrap of defense, after I had successfully cut off every possible escape route that he could use, after I backed him into an inescapable corner and hit him with a great inarguable truth -- blew me away by simply saying, "I do not want to be a Christian. I don't want your Jesus Christ." There was no argument left to be had or won. Faith is a matter of the will as much as it is of the intellect. I wanted to believe in Jesus. My friend wanted to believe in himself. In spite of how convincing my reason was, my reason was not compelling.

So the second thing I remember is this:
I am a Christian because I have seen the love of God lived out in the people who know Him. The Word has become flesh and I have encountered God in the people who have manifested (in many "unreasonable" ways) His Presence; a presence that is more than convincing, it is a Presence that is compelling. I am a Christian not because someone explained the nuts and bolts of Christianity to me, but because there were people who were willing to be the nuts and bolts, who through their explanation of it, held it together so that I could experience it and be compelled by it to obey. "If I be lifted up," Jesus said, "I will draw all men unto me."
So, here I offer what is possibly the worst thing that can be offered: an explanation of a joke. And, what makes this more inexcusable than the fact that this is that, is the added fact that this is an explanation of a joke you've already gotten. I offer it anyway. I offer it in the hope that it might somehow encourage you to live out your lives and, by your living, tell the joke that I, in my writing, so feebly attempt to explain. Love one another, forgive one another, work as unto God, let the peace of Christ reign in your hearts. Make it your ambition to lead quiet lives. Obey. Greet one another with a holy kiss. No one will argue with that.
I don't know about you, but I could not have put it any better myself -- not even close.

9 comments:

helen said...

You are right, he said it very well.

sherri said...

Here, here.

:: jamie :: said...

Love it! As a matter of fact I want to A)steal this quote & put it on my site (I'll refer back to you!) and B)go read that book myself.
Thanks!

Annie K said...

...if those that don't 'want' God in their lives only knew what they were missing...!!

Stacey said...

Amazing! Thank you for posting this. I loved it.

Stacy from Louisville said...

I love Rich because he didn't try to be authentic, he just was who he was, like it or not. There were parts of him that were hard to figure out but his love for Christ was not one of them. I always love reading about him.

Thanks for the heads up and the great post!! Word up Girl!

Beth said...

Yeah, pretty much anything Rich Mullins wrote or sang makes me want to stand up and start cheering. He just got it. I had the honor of being at the first concert the Ragamuffin Band did after he died. A friend of mine was at that same concert, even though we didn't know each other at the time. We've talked about how that concert was one of the most powerful and beautiful times of worship we've ever experienced (well, this side of heaven, because I totally see Rich and Jesus singing together in heaven! How cool would that be??).

Koffijah said...

Rich gets it. He really does. He is one person who I believe really moved past Christianity as a religion you believe in to Christianity as a relationship with our father and a way of life that you live.

Thanks for pointing me to this post, Katdish. Sometime I'll share on my blog about when I met Rich before I ever heard of him back in 1988.

Mark said...

Inspired me to buy the book. Nice work you little bundle of inspiration.