Thursday, December 15, 2011

Why Christian Growth Is About More Than A "Personal Relationship With God"

Photo Credit: emdot
Richard Beck at Experimental Theology offers some challenging thoughts in a post he entitles "The Bait and Switch of Contemporary Christianity." Beck argues that focusing on our personal relationship with God while neglecting how we treat other people is a trap for the modern Christian.

A highlight:
"The point is that one can fill a life full of spiritual activities without ever, actually, trying to become a more decent human being. Much of this activity can actually distract one from becoming a more decent human being. In fact, some of these activities make you worse, interpersonally speaking. Many churches are jerk factories. 
Take, for example, how Christians tip and behave in restaurants. If you have ever worked in the restaurant industry you know the reputation of the Sunday morning lunch crowd. Millions of Christians go to lunch after church on Sundays and their behavior is abysmal. The single most damaging phenomenon to the witness of Christianity in America today is the collective behavior of the Sunday morning lunch crowd. Never has a more well-dressed, entitled, dismissive, haughty or cheap collection of Christians been seen on the face of the earth. 
I exaggerate of course. But I hope you see my point. Rather than pouring our efforts into two hours of worship, bible study and Christian fellowship on Sunday why don't we just take a moment and a few extra bucks to act like a decent human being when we go to lunch afterwards? Just think about it. What if the entire restaurant industry actually began to look forward to working Sunday lunch? If they said amongst themselves, "I love the church crowd. They are kind, patient and very generous. It's my favorite part of the week waiting on Christians." How might such a change affect the way the world sees us? Think about it. Just being a decent human being for one hour each Sunday and the world sees us in a whole new way. 
But it's not going to happen. Because behavior at lunch isn't considered to be "working on your relationship with God." Behavior at lunch isn't spiritual. Going to church, well, that is working on your relationship with God. But, as we all know, any jerk can sit in a pew. But you can't be a jerk if you take the time to treat your waitress as if she were your friend, daughter or mother."
Seeking to grow in our walk with God through personal Bible study, prayer, church attendance and worship are all good and necessary things. But if I don't become a more loving person towards others in that process, then my relationship with God might not be as strong as I think it is. The basic message of Christianity is quite simple, actually -- Love God with everything you have and love your neighbor as yourself. The two really do go together.

To read Beck's complete post please click here.

(h/t to Matt Mikalatos for the link.)


Sportet said...

Hi Scott,

I'm going to be teaching a discipleship class next semester all about this very thing. 1 John 4:20 points out that anyone who says they love God and hate their fellow man is a liar. The honest truth is if someone does not love others as Christ loves them, they don't have a personal relationship. It's that simple.

If you know Him, you know Him, and you know His heart for every single person on Earth.

Manifest Blog

Unknown said...

Man...Im thinking that you arent growing in your relationship with God if you are a Christian jerk. I mean prayer and studying the Bible alone gives a greater perspective of God, which gives a great perspective of self which make the gospel penetrate your heart all the more that you are simply drawn to love least thats what I thought. I know I have my moments of self-righteousness and pride but really, how can you study the book of Romans and then go treat someone badly?? Im just sayin.

scottmcrocker said...

Thanks for the comments, Stephen and Tyshan!