On a long road trip, I listened to an audio version of Zorro: A Novel by Isabel Allende. Toward the novel’s end, Zorro’s mother throws off “the weight of Christianity” and returns to her Native American ways.
What in Heaven’s name is “the weight of Christianity”?
If you’re a Christian man, you keep your hair trimmed.
If you’re a Christian woman, you grow your hair long.
You must have a daily devotional time.
You must memorize scripture.
You must tithe.
You must not go to R-rated movies.
You must not read fiction trash like Zorro.
You must be prim and proper in social settings.
You must attend church services on a regular basis.
And you must dress up when you go to church.
For sure, if you’re a Bible-believing, Spirit-filled, Jesus-loving person, you must vote for good conservative Republicans.
I’m not trying to tick people off here, so please stick with me on this one. Instead I’m trying to get into the head of Zorro’s mother (and Isabel Allende and others who hold a different worldview than me). And I’m challenging us as followers of Christ to recognize “the weight of Christianity” we often superimpose over the Gospel.
After spending time with Jericho’s chief tax collector and witnessing his conversion, Jesus had to explain to the religious conservatives, “… the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”
During his earthly ministry, the Lord had the most difficulty not with the Isabel Allendes of life who cast off “the weight of Christianity” but with the religious Tom Tarvers who added to its burden.
Just in case you were wondering …
Jesus Christ is not a conservative.
He’s not a liberal.
He’s not Protestant.
He’s not Catholic.
He’s not even Christian.
He is Lord.
Jesus Christ did not come to validate the American Dream or preserve the American Way of Life.
Nor did He come to expand the rules of the religious life and add to “the weight of Christianity”.
He came, in His own words, “to seek and to save the lost.”
I’d encourage you to drop “the weight of Christianity” and focus on two simple things—knowing Jesus Christ and making Him known to others.
In January 1972, I had a profound encounter with Jesus Christ. He changed the entire trajectory of my life—from missing life’s target to being centered in Him.
New Christian neighbors moved next door at some point after my conversion. One of the neighbors asked me a series of questions. “Were you baptized?”
“Dunked under the water?”
“What name was used?”
“What do you mean?”
“What did the preacher say when he dunked you?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Did he say, ‘… in the name of Jesus …’ or ‘… in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit’?”
“I don’t know. All I know is I have Jesus Christ in my heart.”
Not good enough. According to my neighbor …
You must be baptized by immersion.
The preacher must say, “In the name of Jesus.”
That’s “the weight of Christianity”—the add-ons that go beyond “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved …” (Acts 16:31).
I’m curious. What spiritual dead weight have you heard added to Christianity?
Jon Acuff’s “Why I don’t believe in grace”
Jr. Forasteros’ “Les Miserables: Javert and the End of Legalism”
Chris Patton’s “7 Easy Steps To Be A Missionary Where You Are”
Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes
Two men. Two eternal destinies.
One common hope.
A poignant and compelling portrayal of heaven and hell, with a powerful look at redemption from the perspective of both the lost…and the saved. Well done!–Susan May Warren, best-selling, award-winning author of You Don’t Know Me.
Tarver’s storytelling technique as he takes us along with Nick and Wayne’s journeys through opposite eternal pathways is nothing short of genius. … A must read.–Linda Rondeau, best-selling author of It Really IS A Wonderful Life
Come along with T. Neal Tarver on a roller coaster journey to the afterlife, from the bliss of heaven to the despair of hell.–Dawn Kiefer, Editor, Richland Observer
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I grew up feeling like God was some unreachable being so distant from me that all I could do was fear Him. Until I was almost 30, I didn’t know Jesus wanted a relationship with me. Religion felt like a heavy burden until I met Jesus. Not sure what spiritual dead weight added to Christianity led to this, except to say that the relationship was absent which makes all the rest seem too heavy.
“He ain’t heavy. He’s my brother.” Your last line is a gem. “…the relationship was absent which makes all the rest seem too heavy.” That insight can be applied to our faith, our marriages, our jobs, our parenting, etc. When relationships are absent or strained, everything else seems just … plain … HEAVY!
As my pastor has said many times, “you can’t have rules without relationship.”
I think we need to drop everything that is irrational, illogical, and can’t be verified if it has no benefit for individual as well as the society, especially if it is harmful for us.
Not all that benefits the individual and society will meet the criteria of reasonable, logical, and verifiable. Jesus helps us drop faith’s dead weight by narrowing life’s actions down to two understandable commandments. First, love God. Second, love others. Both individuals and communities benefit when we live by those two standards.
Yes, we should continue with things that benefit humanity, even if they seem irrational.
Jesus was one of the greatest ever born. I am fascinated by the improvements and additions he made to the already existing ideals, but he created complications by claiming to be incarnation or son of God, which I can term “dead weight” for the purpose of this discussion, His core message about human conduct is as beautiful as a flower, as bright as the sun; if the world could follow his core teachings, its misery would end immediately. There is no need for his message to be associated with divinity. People respect and adore Buddha for the simplicity, beauty, and effectiveness of his teachings even if he never made any claim of association with God. The greatness of Jesus won’t decrease by an iota if the dead weight of the beliefs of his divinity are dropped.
Love for God? God is almighty. God has no need for anyone’s love. God is beyond love and hatred. Love for God has no use, no significance. Love for God does not do any good, but you can continue with it if you would like to because it does not harm anyone either. We are like puppets in the hands of God—all our love and hatred, including that for God, are because of God.
Love for others? There are two things to consider here. Firstly, love is a natural feeling that comes and goes on its own. You cannot create or generate love for anyone or anything at your own will. And if you don’t feel love and show it, then it is even worse: pretense or hypocrisy. So, “help and serve others” or “treat others the way you would like to be treated” appeal me more as basic code of conducts. And no, they are not based only on the feeling of love; they are based on the understanding that you get what you give. Secondly, there is problem with “others”: I think our existence and welfare are so closely linked to each others’ that there is no “other”. All the humans, even all living beings, are one and same. We will keep ignoring the basic problems of people as long as we think of them as others. Unless I understand the fact that the homeless person, that victim of violence, that suffering from hunger and malnutrition, is me myself, I am not going to do anything concrete for them, I am not going to have it on my priority list—all I will do is to show love and compassion and pass by. So the understanding of oneness with everyone is more important.
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Well said! Must… resist… the… “add-ons”!
Thanks. I’m glad we don’t live by the Borg rule. “Resistance is futile.”
Great post, Tom. Thanks for leaving a link over on my blog.
You’re welcome, Jon. You do some amazing stuff over at Stretch. You’ve lead us into a sharing, lively community.