I first learned the Word of God when the Great Rabbi held me silently against His heart. The recovery of passion begins with the recovery of my true self as the beloved. The disciple Jesus loved was reclining next to Jesus…he leaned back on Jesus’ breast. (John 13: 23, 25) For John, the heart of Christianity was not an inherited doctrine but a message born of his own experience. And the message he declared was “God is love” (1 John 4: 16). Philosopher Bernard Lonergan once noted: “All religious experience at its roots is an experience of an unconditional and unrestricted being in love.” If I find Christ I will find myself and if I find my true self I will find Him. This is the goal and purpose of our lives. John did not believe that Jesus was the most important thing; he believed that Jesus was the only thing. For “the disciple Jesus loved,” anything less was not genuine faith. If John were to be asked, “What is your primary identity, your most coherent sense of yourself?” he would not reply, “I am a disciple, an apostle, an evangelist,” but “I am the one Jesus loves” Brennan Manning, Chapter Seven
Somehow, someway, there must be more to my Christianity than attending church services on Sunday morning and doing my very best to live out right doctrine, as preached to me by a well-meaning man or woman dressed in a flowing robe, pointing their finger at my sinful heart. Don’t you think?
Certainly, I can’t be the only one who believes that there must be more to this Christianity-thing than gearing up my very best to live out a series of rules and regulations, as spelled out by church leaders, who, quite honestly, look as burned out, frustrated, and joyless as I feel at times.
Several years ago, a pastor-friend of mine gave me a copy of a book that was frustrating him to no end. The book was called, So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore. I don’t know if you’ve read it, and I’m not sure if you even want to read it, but suffice to say that the book is pretty much full of the same sentiment I just gave you in the first couple paragraphs of my blog writing today.
In truth, there is a growing frustration out there amongst God’s people that church in America, as we presently know it, has run out of creative ways to keep the attention of folks. And that, in itself, is a problem. But the greater problem, quite frankly, is that the Church is destined to failure the moment we first decide that our primary job is to be the source of life for any Christian.
As obvious as these next two sentences might be to most of us, I must state it clearly here to make sure you and I really get it…
- Church life, my friends, is not at the core of what Jesus is all about.
- Church life is simply a by-product of, first and foremost, being loved by Jesus of Nazareth.
And as I see it, I, as a well-meaning pastor interested in encouraging healthy spirituality, have to stop promoting the machinery of successful church life in people’s lives in order to encourage folks to return to the original life found only in being madly loved by Christ.
John, another man who was madly loved by Christ, truly got it. And while I’m sure others like Peter, James, and the apostle Paul, got it as well, Brennan Manning is right when he states that John seems to be the one first-century lover of God who seems to fully understand the true secret to successful Christianity.
Christianity, you see, is not like other religions. As a matter of fact, true Christianity is not a religion at all. It’s a love life. A life outside of rules and regulations. A falling madly in love with someone who loves me so unconditionally, I can only accept it, not comprehend it.
So friends, the next time someone asks you to explain your Christian faith. Maybe the best answer is to pull out the old pop song written by composer Al Dubin and lyricist Harry Warren back in 1934 and tell ‘em that these words just might best express this love thing between Jesus and me…
My love must be a kind of blind love;
I can’t see anyone but You.
Are the stars out tonight?
I don’t know if it’s cloudy or bright,
‘Cause I only have eyes for You, Dear.
The moon maybe high,
But I can’t see a thing in the sky,
‘Cause I only have eyes for You.
I don’t know if we’re in a garden,
Or on a crowded avenue.
‘Cause I only have eyes for You.
You are here. So am I.
Maybe millions of people go by,
But they all disappear from view.
And I only have eyes for You.
My prayer: Jesus, I behold Your endless love for me. I feel Your embrace and I long for the day You and I will be able to express our love for each other in ways that will truly be heavenly. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: The depth of love John, the apostle, expresses in his writings is actually quite uncomfortable for most of us. The intimacy and closeness associated with ‘leaning on the breast of Jesus’ can stir up exotic thoughts. Yet how can I remove that residue of fleshly thinking in order to fully embrace the true depth of relationship John, the one beloved by Jesus, is calling us to?
So what is God speaking to you today as you live as Abba’s child in the midst of His Gospel of Grace?
Over an eleven-week period, you and I will take a deeper look at God’s Gospel of Grace; Exploring the Good News of God’s Unconditional Love & Acceptance. We are using Brennan Manning’s classic book, Abba’s Child – The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging as our guide. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Gospel of Grace home page for ease of use. ENJOY!
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