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What I Don’t Understand About Christianity

I don’t understand how Jesus, who is the ultimate radical reformer, has been homogenized and made safe for the masses. I don’t understand how his followers have become synonymous with legalism, when his principle beef was with the legalists of his day. It’s hard to understand how th…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

I don’t understand how Jesus, who is the ultimate radical reformer, has been homogenized and made safe for the masses.

I don’t understand how his followers have become synonymous with legalism, when his principle beef was with the legalists of his day.

It’s hard to understand how this man who had few belongings and lived on the road is the man we worship in ever more elaborate sanctuaries.

I don’t understand how a man who said such inflammatory things about leaving family and friends has been homogenized into something as tepid as a 60 minute church service.

I struggle to find common ground with Christians who are playing it safe when Jesus described and walked on a narrow faith path that invited danger.

Our demographics don’t make sense to me. Jesus’ primary discipling relationships were men. The faith he walked out appealed to men, yet men make up just 25% of our churches. What has changed?

I don’t understand why Christians aren’t more fun. Jesus said he came eating and drinking and was criticized for it.

Why do people confuse this set of rules that has become Christianity with the man Jesus upon whom Christianity rises and falls?

Finally, how is it that we Christians are known for being a judgmental group of people when Jesus emphasized a life of grace and specifically told his followers to “judge not”?

Maybe that sounds judgmental to say all that. Please hear my heart – I don’t have it figured out. I’m just trying to look at Jesus and ask what he’d say about Christianity as we’re walking it out today. What do you think he’d say?



Comments (27)

  • Given all the things (we agree on) that we don’t understand about Christians, it is a wonder that any of the Jesus followers still go to church…
    I am struggling to find a home community, which grieves me deeply.

  • I grew up with my family going from church to church, denomination to denomination, trying to fit in. We never did. Eventually we stopped trying with the church and just congregated at home. But I grew up. And there are churches out there who get it. A few, but in many places. They’re worth finding.

  • At times it sounds as though YOU struggle to give the Grace you teach… Especially to those who need it most….

    The broken masses huddling into church desperately clutching at straws… Not knowing there’s an ocean behind them.

    You talk of Jesus teaching not to judge but sound like you’re judging the church…

    Be Careful not to create a new set rules for being holy.

  • John,

    Where you see judgement, I see truth. Let us not be quick to condemn, but quick to move the church into a closer semblance of its true calling. let us not be a passive people but instead push believers towards a better life which is only found in Christ. Paul judged the church in love, I believe this commentary was also written in love.

  • John,

    It sounds like you don’t know Seth very well.

    Seth has devoted his life to serving orphans and widows. He’s humble, loving, and overflowing with grace. He embodies the things he writes about and passionately pursues the Lord.

    Knowing him, I know that this list isn’t judgmental, it’s simply an observation about how many Christians are caught up in the culture rather than getting to know and act more like Jesus.

  • I think we create legalisms and cling to them because we (generalization here) are looking for safety. So many of us fear life: What if our finances aren’t enough to take into a safe retirement? What if our kids choose a harmful path? What if our health breaks down? What if we have to do something that breaks our pride? There are so many unknowns and I believe the world (including many of us Christians) is afraid. I’ve read many time of crazy high percentages of diseases that doctors believe are caused by stress, which includes fear. I think that many of us, deep down and maybe without consciously articulating it, feel that by adhering to legalisms and rules we can control our lives. If we can create some formula by which we can live then, in a sense, we can control the outcome. A+B=C. I think that many of us, without maybe realizing it, believe that if we do A and B, then God will do C. I think many of us have created a Genie-in-a-bottle Jesus. We’re afraid. (Again, I’m generalizing.) We desperately grapple for control in attempts to sooth our fears. I believe that one of the most difficult things for people to do is to trust God and truly believe that He’s got this. To truly let go and accept that God’s plan for us may not be our ‘secure’ plan for us. To truly rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

  • Ah, Joseph! Meant nephew…must be subconsciously wanting to make myself feel younger…at least in your family there was a group! I am a lone ranger in my family!

  • I am relieved to read that I am not the only one that feels a bit like an outcast because fitting in would mean to be less of Christian than I once was. Really struggling with Man interpretations. So easy to fall away… Please Jesus, reveal yourself to us. Someone praed for me to get a Revelation. Less information. Less motions. Less traditions.
    Thank you Seth for sharing your thoughts. May the Lord speak to you and all of us. Amen

  • This was well said, JT. We substitute a lot of stuff for what Jesus gave us because we want to maximize our comfort zones.

  • I find myself frustrated with the church as well. I do not see a bride without spot or wrinkle. I do not see the passionate love of a bride and her groom. This is not to say there are not passionate people within the church, or that the church does not have some fervent believers. Not at all. But sometimes it appears that the romance is missing. Jesus pursues, and woos his bride. He is interested in everything about her, but sometimes she seems less interested in what he is passionate about and more concerned with how she looks, or how her rules are followed. She appears to be more of a diva, than a bride. The amazing thing is that while this is frustrating to some of us, the groom continues to be enamored with his true love. He is patient, and he is continually shaping her while he waits for her to matureand since I am part of her, I am grateful for his patience.

  • I think that in large part, we have lost sight of who God is. If we really believed the things we say about God (in all three parts) and the things we read about Him in the word, I believe our lives WOULD be very different than they are.

    How did we get here? It seems to be a repetitive condition of humanity since pretty much everybody since Adam fell into the same situation. It is also likely attributed to our disconnected culture where true relationship and connection has almost become extinct.

    I think it has to be some of our choice to see God as He reveals Himself – whether in word or experience – and respond to Him. He is always reaching and revealing, but we often just brush it off like so many other details of life.

    God is there to be known. He sent Jesus with the express purpose of revealing the Father to us. I think if we are willing to look with daring eyes and a courageous heart – we will see Him as very different than the version we have painted from fairy tales and faint traditions.

    I find myself on a mission once again to open my eyes and my heart and dismantle the ideas that I have accepted as God and invite Him to disrupt my interpretation. I need a bigger view than the one I’ve been working from.

    • Good analysis here, Kim. It is a conundrum. Perhaps a repetitive cycle. We do seem to land in this place periodically through the course of history.

  • Christianity I don’t understand why you need to understand. What is there to understand. Listen, learn, and follow. He’s teaching how to live with others, not complain about others. If they don’t listen they won’t learn anyway. Live your own life right and you will have no reason to complain or understand

  • Seth is right!
    Maybe we should quit preaching the Declaration of Independence. (the right to life, and the pursuit of happiness) and start again to preach the Gospel again.
    “Give back to Cesar what belongs to Cesar, and to God what belongd to God”

  • Jesus would say of too many churches today, “Where is the love?” or “Why do you hide my Love inside these walls?”

    I shake my head at the blogs elsewhere like “relationship has ruined religion” where they want us not to focus on a relationship with God but to get back to following the religion’s rules…

  • JT nailed it.

    Legalism is easy. It is a formula. Do this, do that. Don’t do this, don’t do that.

    License is easy b/c it only requires that you do what you want when you want

    Most people don’t read/study/meditate on the WORD and wrestle w/ how it is to be lived out.

    Discipleship extends grace and wisdom to those younger and honestly trying to get this right

  • Legalism is easy because we all grow up looking for boundaries. Good boundaries help us to thrive. But people who are good at making boundaries often don’t know when to stop improving upon them. Our staff manual became so big and arcane that I scrapped it this morning. Time to start fresh so that we can connect to reality.

    Jesus called it the “yeast of the Pharisees” because their rules kept on growing.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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