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The What, Why, How, and Who of Messy Grace

Have you ever wondered how to live a more grace-filled life? If so, you’ve come to the right place.

What is messy grace?

 

God loves you just as you are, and not as you should be, because you will never be as you should be.

~Brennan Manning

What is messy grace?

People ask me that all the time.

Most people understand and agree that life is messy, but to project our messiness onto a beautiful concept like grace sometimes makes some people squirm.

Have you ever felt hopeless? In quiet moments, have you ever believed that all the bad things you have done in life were beyond redemption? Have you ever found yourself at the end of your rope or struggled as shame whispered in your ear that you are only the sum of all the miserable mistakes you’ve made?

I am Steve Austin and I’ve had bruises on my knees and left the carpet at the altar well-worn from hours of begging God to save my wretched soul. The sad thing is, every time I stood up, I fastened my mask of performance, picked up that load of shame again, and carried it right back down the center aisle of the church, believing I was beyond all hope and unworthy of God’s perfect love.

I lived that life for thirty years. Shame tried to choke the life out of me and I believed my only escape was suicide.

But I am still here, living proof that no matter how hard life gets, no matter how much you feel like an outcast, we always have a path to Grace. If you are anything like me, that path is often winding and unpredictable, but it’s worth the fight.

This is what messy grace looks like in all our lives.

“Grace is messy” has transformed in the past six years, from a slogan, to a concept, to an online community that goes much deeper than the blog.

Why messy grace?

Our mission is to love beyond the labels. To love God and everyone we come in contact with, no matter their race, color, religion, creed, disability, or sexual orientation.

Who makes up this grace is messy community?

People often ask if we are a Christian community? Sure. And we’re also atheists, agnostics, Protestants, Catholics, non-religious Jews, mystics, blacks, whites, straights, gays, transgendered, and everyone in-between. We’re not here to argue sacred vs. secular or Sunday vs. Monday. We’re less concerned with theological rightness and far more passionate about kindness. We’re here to encourage everyone who shows up, from all walks of life, to keep on keepin’ on in the constant push and pull of a life that is rarely ever easy.

Jesus commanded universal love. Period. Not just to those we love and respect and agree with. Not even just to those we don’t quite see eye-to-eye with. But, even to our enemies. The love Jesus talked about is transformational, experiential, and often mind-boggling. He hung out with sexual outcasts (the woman at the well) and criminals (Matthew, the tax collector), and Jesus even made room for the religious elite when their hearts were open (Nicodemus).

We find the love of Jesus on the other side of the tracks.

How do we do this?

By sharing our stories.

Lives are changed by stories. So we tell ours boldly. Our goal is to be respectfully raw. To never shy away from hard conversations, but to connect with others in their brokenness. Because we’re all just that. Broken. And we’re all in this together.

We tell true stories about imperfect parenting, abuse, our struggles with mental illness, recovery from addiction, and the all-too-common struggle with church.

We want people to know it’s ok to have a meltdown. We have found ourselves in desperate times and places where we needed something other than Jesus. Like a nap. And strong medicine. And a good hard cry. And a friend who will just listen.

Just to be clear: The Grace is Messy Community is completely inclusive of the LGBT+ community. As a result, we’ve gained many new friends and lost a few in recent months. We hope they’ll join us soon enough. But while we’re sad to see some go, we press on, believing that our highest calling is to tell anyone who will listen that there’s room at God’s table for them, too.

We’re not looking to win any popularity contests. We just want to sit with people who are longing for love and acceptance. For a place to rest their weary souls and a friend to lighten their load for a while.

Grace isn’t limited to gold cross necklaces that hang on the necks of little old ladies. Grace doesn’t only dwell in the multicolored glow of stained glass windows and creaky wooden pews. Grace is available every second of every minute for every human being who will ever live. To bind our wounds, heal our hearts, and accept us just as we are.

I’ve heard the argument, “But Jesus wasn’t just a grace guy! He was the perfect balance of grace and truth and those two things are at the opposite ends of the spectrum!” I disagree. As a dear friend of mine says: Grace is Truth. The two are not mutually exclusive.

That’s the whole premise of the Grace is Messy Community. It’s a safe place for you to come and share your story of a messy life: past, present, and future. A messy life, redeemed by radical, messy, unconditional Grace.

Join us and let’s learn how to live a more grace-filled life together.

Join the Grace is Messy Tribe

Sign up to get access to the member’s library, stocked with resources and printables for you.


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12 Antidotes for Toxic Christianity

My buddy Morgan Guyton has written a new book, How Jesus Saves the World from Us: 12 Antidotes to Toxic Christianity. Morgan is the director of the NOLA Wesley Foundation, the United Methodist campus ministry at Tulane and Loyola University in New Orleans. He also blogs regularly on Mercy Not Sacrifice.

I first got hooked on Morgan’s writing by reading this post (and it’s still my favorite). You may remember my guest posts for Morgan, which you can find here and here.

Morgan and I have become friends through our writing and sharing struggles. I can tell you this: Morgan is the real deal. A stand-up guy, a smart Christian, and so transparent in his own faith and humanity.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Jesus came to save the world from us! via @maguyton #graceismessy” quote=”Jesus came to save the world from us!” theme=”style3″]

Here’s what Morgan says about How Jesus Saves the World from Us:

“Christianity has always been about being saved. But today what Christians need saving from most is the toxic understanding of salvation we’ve received through bad theology. The loudest voices in Christianity today sound exactly like the religious authorities who crucified Jesus.”

I was fortunate enough to have the chance to ask Morgan a few questions. Here is the conversation we shared:

  1. You have written a book about the toxic nature of Christianity today, yet you remain in the mainstream Protestant Church. How does that work? There are plenty of others who have removed themselves from the “establishment” and are content to stand back and poke holes, but offer no solutions. What makes your perspective different and why do you stay?

There’s that praise song that says, “Oh no, you never let go.” I feel like that’s the way it is with God and me. He just won’t leave me alone, no matter where I go. I’ve tried walking away from the church before, but it never lasts. The truth is my heart burns with a need to share the gospel with people, especially Christians who seem like they’ve gotten stuck with bad theology that is making them miserable. I don’t think I’ve got all the answers, but my hope is that this book will allow people to interrogate the beliefs that they’ve been fed and discern whether there are more possibilities they hadn’t considered.

  1. Early in your book, you talk about childlike faith, the curse of performance, and a world without mirrors. I didn’t understand the curse of performance until it nearly killed me. How do we get back to authenticity? Or is it too late?

I’m not sure how to get back to authenticity, to be honest. I spend my life in a constant performance of trying to build my social media platform as well as my campus ministry. So much of what I feel like I have to do is so calculated and utterly unspiritual. It poisons my soul. So my chapter on “worship not performance” is really an exhortation to myself. I’ve had moments of authentic worship before where all the mirrors disappeared and all I knew was God’s joy. They don’t last long enough. But I’ve seen enough to know that those moments are what I desperately want to return to. To truly surrender to God’s grace means abandoning the lie that our self-worth is based upon our performance. For me, this surrender has looked nothing like a one-time conversion event. It’s something I am constantly having to redo. The hard thing about the spiritual journey is that you often have to walk the same steps over and over again.

  1. As the guy who talks constantly about grace, I can’t possibly skip over the section where you say, “Mercy is dangerous…” Will you tell us more about that?

Mercy is dangerous to moral clarity, because when you’re merciful, you can’t avoid sticking up for sinners against their accusers. You can’t avoid seeing the mitigating circumstances and complexity within sin, which looks like condoning sin to people who are unmerciful. Moral clarity can only be retained by keeping a safe distance from other people and never letting your own mask down. Mercy ruins meritocracy, and that’s precisely the point. Jesus doesn’t want us to be blameless if we’re also cruel; Jesus wants us to love even if we’re messy doing it.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Jesus wants us to love even if we’re messy doing it. via @maguyton #graceismessy” quote=”Jesus wants us to love even if we’re messy doing it.” theme=”style3″]

  1. One of my favorite sections is about Huck Finn’s Fear of the Lord. I played Huck in a high school play and it’s one of my fondest high school memories. I also grew up scared to death of God. Many of us grew up in a religion based on fear, shame, and guilt, but you are proposing a different approach to faith. Can you expound on this idea?

The fear of the Lord does not mean being afraid. It means having integrity. Every time the fear of the Lord is described in the Bible, it is the honor required to do the right thing when you have the power to do wrong with impunity. God chose to manifest himself most perfectly in the form of Jesus on the cross. When we look at Jesus, we’re not supposed to see the violence that God wants to inflict on us, but the violence God is willing to absorb from us. So whenever we talk about the fear of the Lord, we should think of the Lord we fear as a weak and bloody crucified man. What I fear when I fear the Lord is further crucifying Jesus because I can get away with it. Whatever I do to anybody or anything without power, I am doing to Jesus.

  1. Over time I’ve grown tired of black and white answers to gray questions. I think it’s true for many people. You talk about the mystery surrounding God and the narrative of Jesus. Why is it important for us to embrace the mystery, rather than searching for explanations?

Only mystery can inspire deep devotion. Any form of knowledge that can be known exhaustively ceases to have any authority once it has been conquered. Those who treat the Bible like a big answer book are seeking to give themselves authority as those who have all the answers. The only way for the Bible to retain authority is if it remains a mystery so that we can endlessly ponder without conquering it. This isn’t to say that we don’t get answers from the Bible. Of course we do. But we should hold those answers lightly because God has far deeper things to reveal once we are mature enough to handle them.

  1. In light of the toxic Christianity we see all around us, a dear friend of mine still says, “The Church of Jesus Christ is the hope of the world.” Do you agree?

The church is the hope of the world, and it is also the greatest obstacle to that hope insofar as it allows itself to be corrupted by worldly ideologies and pursuits of power.

The Greek word for church is ekklesia, or those who are “called out.” People who live comfortable, suburban lives have not been called out of the world even if they stay away from drugs, premarital sex, and curse words.

Those who actually live as the “called out” church operate according to a completely different logic than the world. They live outside of the meritocracy that defines our culture. They are utterly unpretentious and unnaturally safe to be around. I’ve met people who belong to the real church. They embody Christ’s love in a way that is so refreshingly different from the loud, mean voices of so many Christian celebrities.

[clickToTweet tweet=”12 Antidotes to Toxic Christianity…read this! via @maguyton #graceismessy” quote=”12 Antidotes to Toxic Christianity…read this!” theme=”style3″]

The Church needs this book now more than ever.

If you’ve read much here lately, you know I was once so filled with religious fervor that I was more concerned with being right than being kind. It is a struggle many of us still face often. It’s disheartening and frustrating, seeing the Gospel shared in condemnation, rather than in conversation. But instead of condemning folks just like me, Morgan Guyton seeks to start some healthy dialogue. This is not a book by another church-bashing hater. Morgan captures the toxic nature of modern-day Christianity in a way that is honest, while providing twelve antidotes to deal with the problems we face with grace and hope. This is absolutely a must-read.

Want to win your own copy? Share this blog on Facebook or Twitter and tag me for a chance to win! I’ll announce the winner in a special edition of my newsletter tomorrow, April 15th. If you haven’t signed up for the newsletter, you can do that now by clicking right here.

Order your copy of How Jesus Saves the World from Us on Amazon today.

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Setting the Record Straight about Gay Christians

I went to ministry school with a girl who had been “delivered” from homosexuality. She went on to marry a guy from our program who became a youth pastor and she was determined to act just like any other heterosexual spouse of a youth pastor would, but she was secretly miserable as hell. It’s been several years since her first marriage was dissolved, but our friendship has remained.

My friend has slept on our couch and eaten at our table more than once. We are her regular stopping point any time she travels from the Midwest to the Florida coast. In her new relationship with her beautiful partner, my friend is cherished and respected. They are friends and equals, neither one forced to hide behind the unrealistic expectations of any person or institution. I love seeing the way she supports this woman and their children, loving her partner as Christ loves the Church. I have never seen my friend more happy and whole than she is now.

For years, I have said my struggle is not knowing what I believe about homosexuality and Christianity. But that’s a lie. My struggle has been more about my own fear of being kicked out of fellowship in the Bible Belt for being willing to defend gay people.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Setting the record straight about gay Christians. You’ve got to read this! #graceismessy #lovewins #lgbtq” quote=”Setting the record straight about gay Christians. You’ve got to read this!” theme=”style3″]

I have been afraid to come out and say I believe all people were created by a God who loves us all the same. My struggle has been admitting that what you do behind closed doors in the privacy of your own bedroom with someone you love deeply and are committed to is none of my business.

I have been a coward. I was more concerned with my own acceptance and belonging in the local church than with saying yes I do love and accept and even affirm the gay community. I secretly rejoiced when SCOTUS ruled in favor of homosexual marriages last year in the same way that many whites in my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, secretly celebrated school desegregation in the 1960’s. They were called liberals then, too.

Join me on The Huffington Post for the rest of this story. Just click here.

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The Holy Spirit: Comforter or Crazy Cousin?

When you think of the Holy Spirit, what images come to mind?

As extreme as my childhood experiences may have been, I still believe in the Holy Spirit.

Growing up, the Holy Spirit felt like that distant cousin we saw only at family reunions. The one who had no boundaries, no respect for personal space. A crazy guy who made everyone laugh nervously as he threw Grandma in the swimming pool. The Holy Spirit always seemed scary, loud, and destructive.

He seemed to like flashy preachers in packed arenas best. Televised showmen, with anointing oil and forceful prayers. I can still feel those cold, soft palms on my forehead pushing me backward, ”encouraging” my faith.

I always pictured the Holy Spirit as a force, knocking little old ladies to the floor, “slaying” them. He was a message in unintelligible tongues that would need to be interpreted (usually only by the showy preacher with the slicked-back hair). The Holy Spirit was “thus saith the Lord” and a woman clucking like a chicken in the aisle at my Grandma’s little country church, with shouts of “Glory!” stretched into four syllables.

I grew up in the era of the “Spirit of…” whatever outward signs and wonders we saw that particular Sunday morning. As a little boy, the “Spirit of Laughter” was the funniest and most confusing of all. I had never read about such a spirit in the Bible, but it seemed to come over the entire congregation in waves, as people laughed, snorted, and cried uncontrollably, right in the midst of the preacher’s sermon. The teaching would be upended for the day and folks would fall all over one another, at the very throne of God. It was the happiest and certainly the silliest I’d ever seen many of those typically grumpy, stern-faced church folks.

For many years, I wondered why my personal times with God were often so different from the public experiences others seemed to have. I think it was the abuse. Alone with God was the only place I felt safe enough to fall apart. I spent the first thirty years of my life performing on and off the stage, but I longed to believe that God only wanted the most raw, unfiltered parts of my heart. I needed a God who was powerful and protective, not loud and showy. I longed to feel God the Father, wrapping me in his arms, whispering, “You’re safe here.”

 [clickToTweet tweet=”Can you hear God whispering, ‘You’re safe here’? #graceismessy” quote=”Can you hear God whispering, ‘You’re safe here’? ” theme=”style3″]

During my childhood, I saw people act forcefully on behalf of the Holy Spirit, but I never experienced Him that way. I knew the Holy Spirit as a gentle nudge, a Comfort, like one of my Grandmother’s quilts. But what I heard was that He was the hall monitor of our souls: the ever-watchful Eye of a perfect and holy God, who was more interested in finding the secrets we hid in the darkest places of our wandering hearts than being the balm for our weary souls.

As a result, for a while, I grew jaded, skeptical, angry. Every day of my college life, I drove past The Church of the Holy Comforter and referred to it as The Church of the Divine Duvet. Church had become a joke, mainly because I was tired of constantly trying to reconcile my personal encounters with God’s careful and kind spirit against the public outbursts I had seen so many times as a church kid.

But as extreme as my childhood experiences may have been, let me tell you: these days, I still believe in the Holy Spirit.

[clickToTweet tweet=”As extreme as my childhood experiences may have been, I still believe in the Holy Spirit. #graceismessy #church” quote=”As extreme as my childhood experiences may have been, I still believe in the Holy Spirit. ” theme=”style3″]

It turns out the Comfort I knew in God’s presence was the Holy Spirit all along. During my second day in ICU, I heard him as a gentle whisper. As I laid in a hospital bed, waiting to see if my liver would recover or not, I heard that soothing voice again, and I recognized it as the same voice from my youth. God was with me.

Even in that place, when there was not an ounce of performance or pretense available. In that moment, I met the strongest version of God I have ever known. He never shouted. He never pushed or “encouraged” me. He just stayed. I’ll never forget His words: “I’m not finished with you yet.”

 the holy spirit: comforter or crazy cousin?

What about you? In what ways has the Holy Spirit shown up in your life? Do you feel the Holy Spirit more in rowdy churches, or in the quiet spaces of your life? The last thing I want to try and do is to put God in a box. He is certainly capable of operating in different ways for different people, at different times. I would love to read about your experiences. Leave them in the comments or email me.

*Also published on The Huffington Post.

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I Don’t Need to be Saved

Have you ever been cut off by a friend? I don’t mean moving away and slowly disconnecting. I am talking about a sharp, intentional separation, from friendship to… not.

I don't need to be saved.

It’s happened to me twice in the past six months. I get it. I’ve been become more vocal than ever in sharing honestly who I am, who I want to be, and what I believe. I am learning to be vulnerable, but that doesn’t make me invincible. The pain of losing a true friend cuts deep.

In both situations, I lost a friend I had shared deep parts of my soul with — both past sins and future dreams. They were kind of friends you’d lend money or drop everything to rescue from the side of the highway. Vacations with your families kind of friendships. And now they are over.

Why? One word I have grown to hate: theology. In each circumstance, these friendships ended because I’m willing to say I don’t know.

I don’t know what I believe about hell. I don’t what I believe about the rapture. I’m not sure if we’ll be pre-trib, post-trib, or mid-trib. I don’t know what I believe about speaking in tongues.

I am pretty sure what I believe about homosexual Christians, and it’s not going to win me any popularity contests with the Religious Right.

The one thing I do know is this: I am called to love.

If you have answers to each of the above items, and are able to defend your faith to the fullest, I must admit I’m jealous of you. I have studied the Bible, read books and articles, and listened to podcasts and sermons, desiring to truly know what I believe. The more I studied, the more I realized God is pretty mysterious. I also realized I am not in a place where I feel comfortable speaking on God’s behalf.

Through the years, I have grown very skeptical of those who are willing to say, “Thus saith the Lord,” because after two years of ministry school, a decade of service, and a lifetime of following Jesus, I still have days when I don’t know what the hell God is saying.

I love the wisdom a mentor can bring, if that’s what I have signed up for. I also love to sit under great teachers of the faith, if that’s what I am choosing. But what I do not appreciate are friends who make it their mission to save me simply because our theology doesn’t line up on all points. I don’t like the feeling of another Christian deciding I still need to be saved.

Disagreement can teach us a great deal, when it’s done in a respectful way. I am trying, daily, to cultivate a life that invites relationships with people different from me. What I want now is for others to extend that same grace to me.

[clickToTweet tweet=”I’m no longer comfortable speaking on God’s behalf. But that doesn’t mean I need to be saved. #graceismessy” quote=”I’m no longer comfortable speaking on God’s behalf. But that doesn’t mean I need to be saved.” theme=”style3″]

Grace to be wrong. Grace to be uncertain. Grace to say, I don’t know. Do we really have to agree on every point to acknowledge the salvation of the other? Do I really need to be saved just because I have gay friends?

Losing friends over theology that none of us fully understand is disappointing and frustrating, but denying my belief in a grace that is greater than I could every fathom is not something I am willing to do. There’s grace for dreamers like me. And there’s grace for the friends who have walked away, in favor of a religion that fits in their box. There’s even grace for those whose don’t recognize their need for it. I’m so glad grace doesn’t cut off any of us, no matter our theology.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Grace doesn’t cut off any of us, no matter our theology. #graceismessy #Christianity #theology” quote=”Grace doesn’t cut off any of us, no matter our theology.” theme=”style3″]


*This post also appeared on HuffPost Religion.

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Trusting God in the Midst of Tragedy

I had no idea that the most important lesson I could ever learn is that I can trust God in the midst of great tragedy.

i don't want to do all things

I was raised in the Charismatic Movement, taught to believe we could believe it and receive it, name it and claim it.

Because I believed in God’s plan to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me a hope and a future, I knew that all things were possible if I just believed in God. In those days, I wrote Scripture on index cards and carried it with me until I had the verse memorized.

After growing up in the church, I got my first taste of freedom during my freshman year of college, and I quickly burned out on the church game. Like many kids that age, I grew jaded and bitter. I questioned everything and doubted everyone. I hung out with the party crowd and dared anyone to question my choices.

Yet I still tried everything to find my purpose, which I expected to be magnificent. I was accustomed to excelling, and didn’t God promise me a hope and a future? But after being President of my Freshman class, making the Dean’s list, and dating a couple of cute girls, I still wasn’t satisfied.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Today, I no longer want to do “all things”. Instead, I want to do a few things well. #graceismessy” quote=”Today, I no longer want to do “all things”. Instead, I want to do a few things well.” theme=”style3″]

So, at the ripe old age of nineteen, I did the next most logical thing I could think of, and walked away from a four-year scholarship. I joined a ministry internship program at my home church, because church was a place I could be anonymous, as long as I performed like the rest of the crowd. It wasn’t nearly as fun as my previous year of drinking and partying, but it was respectable and a place I knew I could excel. I’ll never forget my Dad’s words, “In ten years, you’ll look back and realize this was the biggest mistake you’ve ever made.” Dad wasn’t right. I’ve made bigger mistakes.

Trusting God in the Midst of Great Tragedy

I served as a youth pastor and worship leader off and on for the better part of the next decade, believing I could change the world and change the church. Around the age of 26, the shiny things lost their appeal and I began to wear myself out. Trying do everything extraordinary, I lost myself. I almost lost my family. For a time, I even lost my will to live.

I am no longer the boy who intentionally memorizes Scripture, and I haven’t been the President of anything in more than a decade. I work a part-time job, live paycheck-to-paycheck, and will likely never be hired by another church.

So what about that hope and future God promised me? And what about this one:

I can do all things through Christ Who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

I don’t think this verse is our promise from God that we can do anything we put our minds to. I think it is actually a verse of comfort from a guy who wrote it while chained in prison, encouraging the rest of us who are stuck in dire circumstances to keep trusting. I think this verse actually drives home the very crux of the Gospel of Grace: we can face all sorts of things and persevere through them, as long as we keep trusting in a faithful, changeless God.

I have always called this verse and Jeremiah 29:11 “the graduation verses” because that seems to be when they are most used. We want to tell our kids they can do anything. What we mean is, they can graduate with honors, get the job, get the girl, and have the life they want. But I believe this verse goes much deeper than the superficial spin we have put on it. I think Paul was actually saying when we don’t get the job, or the girl, or the life we wanted, but instead lose our house, or our baby, or our will to go on, we can still do all things. Christ’s strength replaces our human weaknesses.

When Lindsey experienced the hell of postpartum depression following our first child’s birth, it was the scariest time of my life. No young guy ever dreams of having his wife placed in a psych ward. I would have rather died. When she was rolled away on that stretcher, I couldn’t imagine anything worse.

A year later, Lindsey got the call no wife wants to get. “We found your husband’s body. He’s been transported to ICU.” In both situations, we faced our darkest days, but we trusted in God in the face of great adversity and uncertainty and He walked with us through every experience.

[clickToTweet tweet=”I can trust God, even in the midst of great adversity. #graceismessy” quote=”I can trust God, even in the midst of great adversity.” theme=”style3″]

And most recently, we were convinced we had been called to Alaska, and God was going to use us there. When the job fell through and we were left with a hefty rent and the nearest family members were 4,000 miles away, we wondered what on earth God was doing.

When I am weak, He is strong.

Today, I no longer want to do “all things”. Instead, I want to do a few things well. My hope is in raising my kids to know their value and in loving my wife in such a way that she never questions where she belongs. My future has never looked better, because I am convinced that I can truly do all things, as long as I trust in God. And so far, His track record is stellar.

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Religion is Complicated. Jesus is Not.

I’m so sick of arguments over the variety of beliefs various “Christians” have. We poke, prod, and pester one another about all sorts of things that none of us really have a freakin’ clue about. I used to be the leader of the pack, but no more.  There are other things in my life that are of far greater importance and benefit.

Religion is complicated. Jesus is not.

Most of the questions, I have heard all my life, but there’s something about the way they have been asked recently that really chaps my hide. This idea that any of us have it all figured out really bothers me. These days, most of the time my answer is a non-answer.  I am perfectly fine saying, “I don’t know” or “I don’t care” on matters of personal theology. 

I also frequently ask, “What difference does it make?”

I think that may be the most important question of all. Because if we have it all figured out, but we still live like hell here on earth, what difference does it make?

When I was a college student and a 20something, I remember getting into heated debates over the nuances of the Christian faith, but why?  To prove that I “get it” better than another person who is grappling and struggling with their faith the same way that I am?

One thing this questioning of beliefs has done in recent weeks is send me digging deeper, to the core of what I do actually believe and what I feel matters most. I’ll list them for you here, in no particular order:

  • I believe my daughter cares more about the next bite of muffin than my views on sanctification.
  • I believe my five-year-old cares more about whether I read him “just one more” bedtime story than he does about this very blog.
  • I believe my wife has far greater concern over whether or not I remembered to unload the dishwasher than the ins and outs of predestination or my understanding of the Trinity.  (I forgot to call the dentist today, by the way.)
  • I believe life is too short to get caught up in arguments over theology.
  • I believe I was put here to do my best to love God, love my wife and children, and love my neighbor …and that when I fail at any of those, Grace picks up my slack.
  • I believe life is a journey and none of us have “arrived”.  I am highly skeptical of anyone who thinks they have all the answers.
  • I believe so much of this life is about learning to see ourselves the way God already does: though eyes of Love.

I am not a Theologian. They exist, but I am not one. I am a sign language interpreter, a writer, and a photographer.  More importantly, I am a husband and father and I am not an expert at any of those things.  I sincerely wish everyone would realize we are all part of the same family.  I wish we could work together and support each other instead of bickering over who holds the corner market on Jesus.

One blog I read captures my point pretty well:

Arguing theology just doesn’t look like Jesus to me.  Somehow I can’t imagine Jesus arguing theology.  I can imagine him partying with sinners, forgiving prostitutes, healing people and dying for me.  I can imagine him talking about the Father’s love.  I can imagine him engaged in lively discussions with the Pharisees.   But I cannot imagine him arguing theology.

I am Steve Austin: an imperfect, undeserving, less-than-fascinating human being, who is just trying to make the world a little bit better, this side of “forever”. I believe in a Jesus who straightened out all the crooked paths we humans devised and made the complicated things simple. I believe in a Jesus who welcomed the little children who longed to be near him. I am one of those little children, and I am content to simply sit at God’s feet.

Want to come and sit next to me?

–Steve

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