“Do you love soccer?” she asked leaning towards me. “The only way you will be good at soccer is if you love it!” She looked at me waiting for an answer.
I mumbled, “Yeah. I love it.” Obviously disappointed with my lackluster response, she got up and repeated her spiel to more enthusiastic members of our soccer team. To be fair to myself, I had only been on the girls college soccer team for a few days, and I had only played intramural soccer before this. I really hadn’t played soccer long enough, or well enough, to say I loved it.
However, this isn’t the whole story with me. If I’m honest with myself, I struggle to “love” things like others do. I don’t care much for sports, or stores, or celebrities, or specific groups of thought. Whenever I’m interested in something, I will always try to learn what I can. But a few steps before I enter the inner circle of devotees, something inside of me asks, “Does this really even matter?”
That is the question that ends it all for me. Do sports have very valuable and helpful attributes for individuals and society? Yes, I completely agree. Does it really matter though in the overall picture of the world and time and meaning? Well, no.
This same line of reasoning applies to just about everything I’ve ever been interested in from English literature to essential oils. I can only go in so far before I have to admit to myself that what I’m doing is only valuable in a superficial way. This is a real buzz killer.
The closest I’ve ever been to accepting the party line is with my faith in Christ. To me, the question of “does this even matter” is answered with a resounding yes! However, when I became a believer in college, I had no idea that in the Christian world, there are many party lines. There is the Calvinist party line, the retreat from the world party line, the inclusive party line, the theologically accurate at all costs party line, the charismatic party line, the environmentally friendly party line and the list goes on. I’ve tried various hats on along the way–wildly enthusiastic for a while until a door is cracked open into another Christian paradigm and then I question everything.
This plethora of viewpoints, within the greater vision of faith, is overwhelming and oftentimes discouraging because each group believes unequivocally that they are correct. There is no room for error. Much like the polarizing debates of politics unfolding in our country, the arguments over needle-fine points of theology are weaponized.
My own experience within the various Christian groups is that sometimes underneath the veneer of righteous indignation one can find a cesspit of pride and self-worship. A perusal of a Twitter feed should prove that point. Since pride and self-worship are anathemas to the true worship of God, we must ask ourselves what we love more–our opinion or our God?
This has led me to crazy conclusion that it’s ok if I am wrong about lots of stuff. My political leanings could be wrong. My understanding of the trinity is most likely weak. My belief about the best kinds of worship music is tainted by my own desires. It isn’t until I admit that I could be wrong or, at least, acting on my thinking in a wrong way, that I can be teachable.
We Christians are afraid of being teachable. We are so scared of falling off the theological train to heaven that we forget that theology doesn’t save us. In fact, theology’s only purpose is to introduce us to the Savior, whose job it is to do the work of salvation. Great doctrine will not save us–only Jesus can. I take comfort in this.
In addition, learning from people who are different from us doesn’t put us in danger of compromising our faith. It may cause us to question some things and even reject points, but we shouldn’t fear different viewpoints. I am friends with believers who hold wildly varying beliefs: those who oppose female leadership, those who are female pastors, those sympathetic to the plight of immigrants, those in opposition to immigrants, those who are angry at the LGBTQ agenda, and those who embrace them.
I do know though that the Jesus I see in the Gospels is often surprising. He values things that are different. Rather than preferring theological astuteness, he encourages persistent, unabashed, humble faith. He turned conventional teachings on their heads–focusing on the inward gauge of spirituality rather than the outward discipline. He tells stories of surprising heroes, a God zealous for reconnection, and a cost of discipleship that goes deeper than religious acts.
In my Christian faith, I do not need to follow a party line. I need to follow Jesus. This is exciting because he is exciting. He shows up in random places, reveals things I never would have seen if I stayed safe in my theological bubble. He challenges me, never letting me get away with the Sunday school answer. He digs, however painfully, until we get to the marrow and then He does his amazing, transforming work of changing my heart and not just my mind.
Now this is something, someone, I can follow. I can throw my whole lot in and answer without reservation–I love Jesus. He truly is worthy of our love and worship. Let’s rediscover him, not in books written about Him but from his own words. Open up the gospels, observe this strange man who seemed to move to a different cadence than the rest. Listen to his words, sit as His feet, and see what He has to say to you too. You may find then that the clamorings of opinions that before seemed so convincing and right, no longer mean as much as they used to. Instead, maybe we can be so trained to the shepherd’s voice that His will be the one that matters most.