I highly doubt I’ll be going to see the film Religulous – for the same reason I’ll probably never read The God Delusion – I do a good enough job coming up with doubt on my own and don’t need the help of any overly prideful intellectuals (and certainly not any stand up comics – have I mentioned my total distaste for stand up comics?) Anyway, I get the point. Religion is the opiate of the masses. Sure. Sure it is. That’s why I just spent the whole day amongst some of the most service-hearted people I’ve ever encountered, and they didn’t seem stoned at all on dogma or blind-obedience – except maybe obedience to Christ’s call to love the world. So if you’re going to attack the church, that’s fine, just don’t do so on the premise that nothing good has ever come out of organized religion. If that’s your argument, prepare to be made a fool.
Anyway, in this horrible place where I go each week to be brainwashed into loving my neighbor, they’ve begun a sermon series on Deuteronomy which the pastor insists will not be boring. Furthermore, for people who strive to be like Christ, Deuteronomy is a necessary study since Jesus loved Deuteronomy and quoted it more than any other Old Testament text. So there is this passage which I suspect we’ll return to with frequency which reads, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5) I tend to focus on the more abstract elements of that passage – my heart and my soul. But what does it mean to love God with all my strength? That is a physical, measurable thing, and I never really think about what it means. But today I got a taste. Because last night I didn’t sleep well, and today I have a cold, and I had committed my entire day to manning a table at a volunteer fair at Black Hawk Church. This meant an early morning, a long drive, and almost non-stop physical and social engagement on a very shallow reserve of energy. Today I loved God with my strength, a lot of it, if not all of it, which was an easier proportion to reach considering that I didn’t have much strength to begin with.
So what if I gave God every ounce of my strength on a healthy, well-rested day when I had so much more strength to give? What if I went to bed at night exhausted, as I no doubt will tonight, because I had depleted the oxygen in ever fiber of my muscles, every neuron of my brain, every cell in my body, from the exertion of loving God and my neighbor so completely? And what if I didn’t stop there? What if I trained my body to have more strength, adopted a healthier diet, pruned away anything toxic in my life, so as to cultivate MORE strength which I could turn around and use for love? I would actually be a healthier person for it.
I know it’s all theoretical at this point, but when I imagine the upward trajectory of this kind of living, when I imagine the entire church moving and growing in this direction of strength (to say nothing of the dimensions of heart and soul) I have a really hard time seeing the church as the dangerous downward pull that Bill Maher claims it is. I’m not talking about the mistakes we have made and still make which lead division, I’m talking about what is possible, if we really live like Christ, who gave every ounce of his strength. Literally. Every last drop.
My friend Alex wrote a few pretty amazing words on the whole absurdity of defending our faith, which might be interesting to read as a parallel to this. You can point out all of the ways that I don’t quite live up to Jesus’ standard of living our faith instead of defending it, even right here in this post! 🙂