His House

Model Christianity

"And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting" (Acts 2:2).

The other day, in the minimum security prison where I work, an inmate completed a model of a Harley Davidson motorcycle that he created using a photo from a magazine. He made it out of paper, a few paper clips, and craft paint: a project that took him about 22 days of full time work. It is quite an impressive model.

The photo in the magazine is a two-dimensional representation of the real Harley Davidson that thunders, has power, and can take you from point A to point B with exhilarating speed. The inmate's creation is not the original, but a three-dimensional representation of the two-dimensional image. It is an impressive tribute to his own abilities, creativity, and efforts. Though it looks similar to the photo, it's obvious that it is only a representation. It's an illusion. The bolts on the model are not made of steel and have no threads. They are just knobs of paper painted silver perched on the exterior of a paper engine. It is no more than a model that must be carried around, moved, and propped up. It really doesn't work; it just looks a lot like the photo of the one that does work. However, although it's just a model, we were very impressed by it. We were not impressed with its utility, but more with the creativity that fashioned it out of common materials.

So it is with our modern western Christianity. It, like the model motorcycle, is not the true and real that the two-dimensional image of scripture represents, but more a paper tribute to our natural abilities, creativity, and effort. It is more of a hobby with which we impress others or amuse ourselves. We build it to scale and paint it as nice as we can so others "will see something they want." That inmate, almost evangelistically, carried around his model for days, showing it to everyone who would look. All of us were quite impressed with it. Some inmates wanted to take up that hobby for themselves. However, for other inmates, it stirred no interest in the hobby of model making, but rather, it stirred within a great desire to ride their Harley Davidson motorcycle that sits parked, awaiting their release from prison.

Popular Christianity really doesn't work. It can't thunder, has no power, and cannot take us from here to there. We say it is "the power of the Holy Spirit" that helps us to do this or that, but in reality, most of what the western church does is done through natural ability. We attribute the power of the Holy Spirit to much of what we create as a paper copy of the real. However, the chrome, steel, and rubber are just illusions made of paper and paint. The gas tank holds no fuel. It just looks like it should. It's a Christianity that must be carried, propped up, and moved with our own strength. It has no ability to carry us. It's more a hobby than a reality. Like the prisoner who spends his time reading about and looking at photos of motorcycles, many Christians spend their lives studying, memorizing, meditating, or preaching the scriptures that were meant to be lived and experienced, and not just read and understood (James 1:22).

I can see in my mind's eye one of our inmates looking at that model motorcycle. He has a far-away stare as he turns from that impressive likeness. He has no desire to take up the hobby of model making, but as he walks away, I can hear him say, "I can't wait till I get out of prison, so I can get on my bike again. I can't wait to get out of prison, so I can feel the wind in my hair!"

We've all hear stories of how God has miraculously delivered his true followers from harm when persecution has threatened, and we've also heard how God has given abundant grace to endure through much harm. Both are equally wonderful. However, the other day, in my home state of Colorado, a gunman entered a church building bent on killing Christians. One of the armed security guards (a security guard which was a volunteer and member of the church, and who eventually admitted to being a lesbian) said it was "the power of the Holy Spirit" that helped her to gun down their persecutor. I'm sorry, but it wasn't the power of the Holy Spirit. I tend more to believe that it was the power of expanding gasses caused by the combustion of fuel and oxygen pushing a lead or brass projectile from a chamber through a barrel and into a man's body, and I believe that it was training and confidence that gave a steady hand. Of course, I could be wrong.

I won't criticize her for shooting her enemy instead of loving him. I won't even criticize the church for having armed security guards while preaching Jesus' power to save, any more than I would fault an inmate for spending hundreds of hours making a paper motorcycle. When you live in prison, you do whatever it takes to make it from one day to the next. It's all about survival.

When I see a people carrying around a "Christianity" that must be propped up, and that has no real power or utility, but is simply a diversion from the pains, insecurities, and disappointments of life, I find within no desire to take up the hobby for myself, but simply long for a new day. I long for the Kingdom of Heaven to come on Earth as in Heaven; and that, not just in third-world countries, but in my United States of American, as well. I long for our release, like a prisoner released from prison. I long for the day when we as a people, all of us that name the name of Jesus Christ, will be free from our captivity. When, oh when will the church in America turn from her "model Christianity" and whisper as she turns, "I can't wait to get out of prison so I can feel the wind my hair!"?

"And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting" (Acts 2:2).


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