I have a confession to make. I have issues with fax machines. Everyone in my office knows this is true. It’s quite comical, actually. It takes three to four times for one fax to go through. I am convinced the fax machine hates me! I mean really, I type the numbers in correctly each time—I never make a mistake and if the number turns out to be wrong, it is because the machine refuses to accept what I type in….Stupid machine.
However, last week was tops; for the first time I began to think that maybe, just maybe, I might have to share some responsibility in how this machine was responding to my request.
What I am about to share is quite personal and puts me in a very vulnerable position and I would hope that you would refrain from doing what the average human being would do…
Just like every other time, I walked over to the machine, put my forms in and began to type in the numbers… What is the deal; stupid machine, the keys must be stuck… wait a few seconds and try again…. I was just about to call out to someone to share my frustration with the stupid fax machine when suddenly the machine miraculously begins to shout, “You stupid, stupid girl, I am the copy machine!”
You can imagine how embarrassed I was. Did anyone see me? I can play it off and no one will be the wiser… No, I didn’t have it in me. This is just too good to keep to myself. After all, the girls in the office have come to expect such behavior from me and who am I to disappoint?
Unfortunately, for me, this story is true. Nevertheless, it serves as another practical lesson on how most of us think when we find ourselves in any kind of confrontation. Consider your last tiff--what was your first thought? Were you quick to accept responsibility? In all honesty, we tend to spend more time defending our position than we do listening to the other party’s point of view. Why is this? I believe it comes from our desire to be right. It somehow makes us feel important and strong.
There is no greater example of the “I’m right and your wrong” attitude than in the Christian community. All we have to do is look at the countless denominations within the Christian church to know it’s true. We fight about who has it right, why our particular denomination has it better, and we act as if we believe that we will get to sit in the front row in heaven. In many cases, Jesus is left out of the equation completely. It has become a fight for religion instead of helping others to build a relationship with God.
When people ask me what religion I am, I respond with, I am not a religious person. It usually throws them for a loop. I explain that I am a Christian. Christianity in the biblical sense of the word has nothing to do with religion at all. It is a way of life. It is exchanging my life for a life with God.
The name Christian was given by people who did not follow Christ, but noticed that those who claimed to believe in Jesus as the Messiah, actually followed him and their changed lives were evidence of that profession. The name stuck and is recorded in the Bible just three times (Acts 11:26, Acts 26:28 and 1 Peter 4:16.)
Most often, those who surrendered their lives to God by trusting in Jesus for salvation were simply called, Believers.
So why did it all change? The answer is quite simple. It started with the Catholic Church becoming the first self-proclaimed one true church. It set up rules and teachings that were never taught in the Bible. There would have never had to be an official split in the church and church doctrine, if man would have kept it biblical. The word of God was spread throughout the regions by way of letter and as we slow down and read the little words, we see that they were always addressed to the church in such and such a place, not the church of such and such a place.
Though man made it necessary to split over important biblical doctrines of Christianity, we have really gone off the deep end. Churches split over stupid reasons that have nothing to do with salvation and living a godly life.
Paul says it well it the letter to the church in Colossi:
“So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head [Jesus], from whom the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with a the increase that comes form God. Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations-Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle, which all perish with the using-according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom and self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.” Colossians 2:16-23
Need I say more? So while we are fighting amongst ourselves over religious do’s and do not’s, the world is sitting back saying, “I want no part of that”.
There will be no pew reserved for the Pentecostal, nor the Baptist, nor the Catholic, or any other for that matter. The only pews reserved in heaven are for those who are followers of Christ, those who have made Jesus their Lord, not a man made denomination. After all, what we claim is who we are. If I claim to be a Baptist, then I am putting myself under the flaws of the Baptist name. The Bible says there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved, then the name of Jesus the Christ. This is whom I identify myself.
We have left the simplicity of a relationship with Christ and replaced it with self-imposed religion. Isn’t this why Jesus rebuked the Pharisees? The church has become nothing more than an ineffective modern day Pharisee.
However, we do have a model for true biblical religion; this should be our aim as Believers:
“If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue, but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” James 1:26-27
If we spent all of our time doing the will of God instead of telling everyone else why we are right and they are wrong, we just might make a difference—and more than likely we would give up the Front Row for our neighbor.