I can’t be the only person that has heard the “right words” come out of my mouth, and not felt right about it.  But if I’m not, I’m still in the minority…

I hate knowing what I know.  I know enough of the bible (after years of structured and unstructured study, education at the hands of religious professionals, a lifetime of solid biblical teaching, and hours of podcasts) to answer, or at least give a reasonable response to, most any question.  I don’t say this with the slightest hint of self-righteousness or pride…it is more of a desperate plea to un-know it all.  It is a desperate plea to start fresh, un-jaded, unconvinced.

I was getting my daily education from the Daily Show this morning and the Johns did a bit about how the Middle East was original divvied up.  Boundaries were drawn with little to no regard for what was natural and most conducive to peace,  and that was that.  Same with Africa.  People with negligible understanding of a land and its people did what best suited their own needs, and called it a day.

I can’t help but feel a little bit like that about the church.  I recently began a study on the origin of denominations; and the first few pages were a balm in Gilead.  We got so many things completely wrong…there are entire wars, generations of prejudice and sheer hatred between these denominations…often times over a single verse.  Sometimes, the argument is over something that isn’t even in the bible.

It could be the effects of my recent nightcap, but I just about lost it reading this article.  And I can’t conclusively say it if was in a good way or a bad way…I just knew (again) that something is fundamentally and catastrophically wrong with the church.   My best defense for the church recently is that sin is so pervasive and debilitating that no one, especially the church, is even the faintest shadow of what or who they should be in Christ.

A few days ago I heard a sermon about Matthew 22:1-14 , the parable of the wedding banquet (this all ties together…or will soon after I figure out where I am going).  A frustrating story at best, but also one with more potential than most to be distorted (not saying it was in this sermon).  The answer to “Why was the man silent?” could have a buzzfeed top 10 based on denominations.    Last night, we had an informal bible study, during which we discussed our reactions and conclusions from the sermon.  They were all over the place.  New context was presented, alternate understandings of the man’s reason for silence were debated, a brief study of the word “chosen” happened…and then I had to leave for another appointment.

Later that night, I was talking with The Wife about the bible study, about the sermon, and ended up in a bit of a rant.  I knew that somehow we were missing the point (see, it ties in) of not just the story, but what it means to be a Christian.  It is not a label, it is not a sworn allegiance to a set of rules, it is not a merit badge on your sash or a golden ticket.  It is a relationship.  If someone asked you while on a first date “What are the conditions of this relationship? What am I allowed to do and what is off limits?  Will I have to change to continue receiving your love or can I just be who I am now?”, you would kindly ask for the check, run to your car the second you were out of sight, and spend the next two weeks dodging every text, call, email and knock.

It’s tragic that we evaluate our romantic relationships by outside standards.  “We are doing ‘x’ so we must be happy…we have ‘x’ so we are doing ok.”  It sucks even more that we define our PERSONAL relationship with God by the standards of those around us.  We are so disgustingly confused that we often look to everyone around us, not for wisdom or advice, but for comparison and affirmation.

I read my bible 15 minutes a day, and he only reads for 10.

I tithe and he doesn’t.

My family has game night once a week, and their family doesn’t.

My wife and I share a bank account, and they don’t.

Who at the wedding feast (bam, full circle) is looking around to see if their robes are nicer than the people next to them?  Who is worried about how many more chicken wings they got than the person beside them?  Who is dividing themselves into groups by the people who like grape juice and those who like wine?  Who is kicking the vegetarian out of their group and judging them for not laying into a drumstick?

Gonna try to end this here, because obviously, if I could resolve this question in the next 100 words, I would be the greatest religious mind since Saint Paul.  Best I can sum it up is in this…STOP.  There is a wedding feast laid before us.  Stop listening to the bible to hear what you want to hear.  Stop looking around to see if you are good enough.  Let’s just get to the place where a relationship with God is the foundation.  Let’s stop trying to pretend that love is someone who accepts us as we are and would never try to change us.    Let’s stop trying to be infatuated with God for what He can do for us, and burn everything we have to go to Him.