“Our little systems have their day and cease to be. They are but fleeting certainties.” ~ Lord Alfred Tennyson
I graduated from seminary in May of 2006 and since then, my concept of the Church according to Protestantism in America, my understanding of its work, my view of its members, the demands of discipleship and the character of Her believers has changed dramatically. People are not as perfect as my Pentecostal upbringing led me to believe and I am not able to be perfect as it promised. Righteousness is not a matter of with pants or without. Moreover, my lament is only extended when I begin to think about the leaders of the Church. Time has shown me the depth of our need for God and experience has taught me that we can not do it alone or our own way.
As I shed erroneous traditions and beliefs, the Church in America has taken on a few more. One at the forefront of my mind is that of the prosperity gospel. The placement of the word prosperity, a heretical position gives me much cause for concern. This self- centered (as opposed to Christ- centered) message of economic empowerment and materialistic fulfillment is antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus did not die so that we could live in million dollar houses or drive fancy cars. Jesus died for our sins so that we might have a relationship with God. Neither the abundant life that Jesus came to give nor the Kingdom of God of which He proclaimed is synonymous with the American Dream (John 10.10; Matthew 5.3-12).
I couldn’t have imagined the day when the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ would pursue things. Drastically departing from thoughts of the “sweet by and by,” we are ruled by “the tyranny of now.” There is no more talk of “that great gettin’ up morning,” heaven or hell (because it’s not nice or politically correct), the pearly gates or streets of gold. Jesus may have gone to prepare a place for us but we now behave as if He is not coming back. No longer following hard after God, we are chasing after an appearance of wealth and fame, a social position of celebrity (Psalm 63.8). Sadly, the Church is no longer the leader but is being led by the world, looking to society in order to discern what is necessary, right, good and moral in the eyes of God.
And the same conclusions can be drawn in matters of race. It is a gospel according to the social coloring of one’s skin: the race gospel. It is the good news about the social coloring of our skin. It, too, makes promises of perfection through appearance and the ability to be perfect through external changes. It is a social righteousness that also gets in the way of Christ’s message and whose markers of goodness are superficial. But, instead of leaving behind the social designations of color, its habits and positions, we run after them. We are not satisfied with being children of God because we want to be supreme. We want to be in front and we have to be first. Still, who we really are will always be second: black/ white/ red/ yellow/ brown/ beige person.
What we go after is by definition in front of us. It leads us; we will always follow in its footsteps. It controls us; we won’t be able to move without it. We will never get ahead of what we pursue. Consequently, we must be certain that what we’re leaving behind is not worth more than what we’re going after.