In terms of the failings of contemporary Christianity in general and the contemporary church in particular I have the perception of mankind’s inability to piece together and connect the lessons of history.
From the beginnings of our human relationship with a God above, that God has asked for only one thing: belief! Whatever realities are, in fact, behind the story of creation and the Garden of Eden, belief was all God asked for. Through the Old Testament, the flood, the exodus, the prophets, the wars, the establishment and annihilation of kingdoms, all God sought from His people was belief. Yet, throughout the scriptural records we see betrayal, abandonment, denial and, worst of all, failure to recognize that which was to be believed.
God keeps intervening out of His great love for us, giving us second, third and fourth chances to believe but we keep walking away.
Then He sent You to His people and You taught that the most important thing to do was to believe in God. A whole new “movement” sprang out of Your teachings. But then God’s people betrayed You, abandoned You, denied You and, worst of all, failed to recognize You even though You had been promised to them. The message never changed: believe!“The work of God is to believe in Him whom He sent.” (John 6:29). Thus a Stephen can say in Acts that this generation, the generation ostensibly to whom the Messiah had come, was no different than previous generations who had betrayed, abandoned, denied and failed to recognize the work of God. We still (consciously or unconsciously) attach a residue of accusation upon the Jewish people. But the point I’m considering here is that we Christians, in this day and age, right now, are no different.
If we accept Your coming in bodily form as the promised Messiah, the Son of God, how come we, in this age, identically betray, abandon, deny and fail to recognize You in ways increasingly more cunning but of the same nature as Your chosen people of old? People are Your chosen people because whatever other label is put on them they still act the same.
Yet, as historically recalcitrant as we are, as predictably consistent in our failures as we are, as ever-the-same hypocrites that we are, You never stop gathering Your chicks under Your wing or herding Your sheep into Your fold. And who are Your chicks, Your sheep? Those who believe! Not Jews or Christians or Moslems but simply those who believe. That’s all the Father ever sought. These are the chosen people. The instruments we use to strengthen and enhance our belief so that we will not betray, abandon, deny or fail to recognize You have many names but at their root each is about belief in that which unites us all.
Would we betray, abandon, deny and fail to recognize You if You came today? History is backed by a continuum of supporting precedents. In fact, You do cometo us daily and we still betray, abandon, deny and fail to recognize You. Perhaps the bright spot is that even when we do this we profess to believe in You, and that’s what God wants. If we truly believe, the betrayal, denial, abandonment and lack of recognition in our lives is easily forgiven by God – it always has been. But pseudo-belief, belief of convenience, hereditary belief, self-serving belief, self-righteous belief, advantageous belief – all these so often attached to what we call faith, religion or spirituality, all these betray, abandon, deny and fail to recognize God in some way; and that is not what He seeks.