Christianity.......Is It Destined to Fail?

Recently we once again had the proclamation of a specific date which was to usher in the Biblical “End Times” a series of events including 7 years of world tribulation and the snatching of the true followers of God in a Heavenly rapture.  Once again, as it has every single time before, the day passed without incident and the world continued on.  

What is it about the Christian faith and our huge emphasis on exiting this realm?  We preach longingly about a heaven we will someday depart this world in which to enter into.  We romanticize about being caught up in God’s rapture and the second coming of Christ.  But why?  Could it be that we have subconsciously already written this world off like a sinking ship?  Therefore we scramble to convince as many of our friends as possible to join us in the life rafts of faith?  

Was this really what Jesus had in mind when He left us with His final words: 

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.””    Matthew 28:18-20 NIV

I’m going to be transparent here and reveal an emotion I have that might not be popular in some of my Christian circles.  And that’s this.......I don’t like the Book of Revelations and I don’t like the idea of the second coming of Christ.  It’s not that I don’t want to see Christ some day or have some sort of lack of faith.  Its quite to the contrary actually.  

When I read Christ’s challenge to His followers to go out in to the world and preach the good news to every nation, and then turn to the end of the Bible and read about a horrible apocalypse where Jesus has to return to a world of complete chaos, destruction, hatred, and tells me something.  It tells me we fail.  We fail in fulfilling His desire to reach the world with the gospel.  How can a world that has been touched by the profound love taught and demonstrated by Christ decline into such horrific disarray?  Is it possible the reason for the second coming of Christ could be very near the reason for His first coming?  

When Jesus told the parable of the Lost Sheep in Luke 15, he told a story that would have resonated powerfully (and offensively) to the Pharisees with whom He shared it.  In the story, a shepherd leaves his 99 sheep in a field and goes out to find a lost one and bring it back.  The story is deeply rooted in several Old Testament passages.  The first of which is Psalm 23, where the Lord is represented as a shepherd.  If you are familiar with the famed 23rd Psalm you are probably familiar with verse 3 which states “He restores my soul.”  The word “restores” that we use in English is actually better translated: He “repents” my soul.  Which means, “he brings my soul back”. The imagery David conveys in this passage is the idea of a lost soul being retrieved and brought back by God.  

As experts of the law, the Pharisees listening to Jesus share His parable would have immediately started making connections to various Old Testament references of shepherds and sheep.  Another passage they would have mentally jumped to would have been Jeremiah 23 with says the following:  

““Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the Lord. “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number.” Jeremiah 23:1-3 NIV

In this passage, God is condemning the shepherds responsible for His flock for not only failing to care for the sheep but actually driving them away!  The Pharisees would have known that the “shepherds” in this passage were the religious leaders of the day.....basically.....them!  This concept is further pushed in Ezekiel 34 which conveys very much the same concept...that the shepherds have failed and therefore it is God himself that will retrieve them and bring them back! 

In telling the story of the lost sheep the way Jesus shared it, He would have been playing on the Pharisees knowledge of the Scriptures to convey the point that they were the faulty shepherds and since they knew the Scriptures they also knew the person who would come to retrieve the lost sheep would be God Himself!  The religious leaders of Jesus’s day would have sat dumbfounded...blinking in Jesus told this story because in telling it, Jesus was conveying the point that He was here to now retrieve the lost sheep....a task that was to be performed by God Himself!!

Part of the reason for the first coming of Christ was due to the failure of the shepherds (religious leaders) of the Old Testament era to care for the flock of God.  As Jesus leaves this Earth, he offers a similar challenge to those He leaves behind, to care for and grow the flock.  Yet when we turn to the end of the Bible and read the story we see again it will be God Himself returning to retrieve His flock and set the world right.......this means.......for the second time.........the shepherds must end up failing. 

And is it any wonder?  I hear often preachers proclaim that the “church” of Christ is compromising to the point that we look like everyone else in the world.  No convictions, no obedience, no willingness to stand up and call right right and wrong wrong.  But if we are honest.....that’s also how most other religions look as well.  Believe in our God and you can go to our version of heaven, defy him and you will go to our version of hell.  We’ve made Christianity about faith.  Faith in Christ.  But other than the subject matter being Christ, how is that different than other religions that claim you must have faith in their system to enter heaven?  I fear Christianity has become more about what we “think” than it is about what we “do”....a place were theology and faith have risen above love as the primary message.  

If one were to Google “The Sinners Prayer”, the prayer we lead people to recite to become a Christian and enter into “salvation” you will see the words: “sinner” “believe” “forgiveness” “trust” “follow” as key themes.  But the one word that is lacking is absolutely mind blowing to me.  Jesus taught that the greatest commandments were: 

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ””
Luke 10:27 NIV

How is it possible that the word “LOVE” the most important concept in the world to Jesus, doesn’t even make it into the prayer Christians have come up with as an expression of devotion to Christ????  

Is this where Christianity has gone awry?  That in our pursuit of miracles, doctrine, and faith we have become like every other religion out there.....therefore becoming just another voice in the screaming crowd of religions?  Systems that are built primarily upon “faith” and “trust” and “belief”?  

The modern Christian church identifies itself primarily by faith.  But it was Jesus Himself who proclaimed in John 13:35 that His disciples would be known by their LOVE!  

The apostle Paul told us in the famed love chapter 1 Corinthians 13 of three great things: Faith, Hope and Love......but the greatest is LOVE.  I’ve actually heard Christian pastors proclaim that if we just focus on loving people and not converting them to Christ, then we are going to “love them straight to hell.”  I’ve heard that!!  Those words!!!  And NOWHERE in the Bible do I see or heard Christ saying anything like that!!  

I’ve come to the conclusion that it is impossible to “love someone straight to hell.”  If that is true then that would mean that hell is one of the destinations that Love leads to.  Perhaps this is why Paul places faith one step below love?  Perhaps it requires great faith to love and trust that love will be enough to get the job done...that at the end of the day it isn’t our theology or brilliant interpretations of the Bible that reaches people, its not our powerful and unwavering faith.....perhaps the loudest most powerful influence is love.  

I fear it is a faith that focuses on hell that will be tempted to make conversion the highest priority, a noble pursuit out of concern for others, but a pursuit ultimately motivated by fear.  The fear of not reaching people before they die and go to hell.  Yet the Bible also teaches in 1 John 4:18 that perfect love casts out all fear.  If that is true....then we are left with no choice but to acknowledge if I am trying to convert someone out of MY fear of them going to hell.......then I cannot be motivated by “perfect love”.......for if fear exists....then perfect love must not. 

Is this why there is a need for the apocalypse?  Is this why God Himself needs to return again?  Could it be that the shepherds once again lose our way, and in our desperation to reach the sheep we actually drive them from us.  Is it possible that in our pursuit of faith we actually demonstrate a lack of it by failing to trust that love by itself is enough and that if we commit to master the call to love that God will do the rest?  For as it stands now, especially through our countless divisions, doctrines, and denominations, we have made it clear to the world around us that Christianity cares more about what people believe than it does about who they are.  There is a long list of things we are known for.....and in our “Sinners Prayer” the one word often missing on that love.  


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