It can get real easy for Christians to view the life of Christ through the eyes of a political cause or issue. Along the way, Jesus gets co-opted for man’s agenda. This is dangerous because the focus slowly moves off Christ onto something or someone else.
Typically, the thing that starts to take over may be a good thing in its own right. That is why this error can be so destructive. It is subtle. It seems right. But when you get right down to it man or earth focused religion is humanism clothed in religous verbage.
As a Christian, I believe that Jesus is THE way, THE truth, and THE life. The word “THE” in that statement makes all the difference. The entire thought changes if you insert “A” for “THE”. That is exactly what people do when the Christian faith becomes about anything other than the Gospel.
Sure, most people don’t come right out and say they are polluting the message. They would see their actions as fitting to the Gospel. The best way to tell if the person, group, movement or church has fallen into error is to see where the focus of time, money, effort and attention is placed.
Just in case you are not following the type of shift in focus that I am talking about, here are some examples:
- Right wing politics. Left wing politics.
- The appearance of propriety and public reputation.
- Social justice – serving the poor and downcast of society.
- Saving the unborn.
- Overcoming sin and addiction.
- Saving the environment.
- Being culturally relevant and hip to the latest social trends.
- Music style or dress.
- Defending the Bible.
- Evangelism – bringing people to meet Jesus.
- Standing up against persecution.
- Kid & family friendly programs and focus.
- Healthy living.
- Pop psychology/self help.
- Racial equality and civil rights.
- Religious icons.
- Preserving the sanctity of marriage as one man with one woman.
- Recognizing that God loves all people, including homosexuals.
- Prosperity, healing and God’s blessings for His children.
- Faith-based living.
Many of the things above are not bad. Actually, most people, would probably consider them good. The real problem comes when people might consider any one thing as the central focus of the Gospel instead of possibly part of it. Sure, Jesus was for helping the poor and showing mercy to sinners. You bet, Christians should be good stewards of the earth and value all human life because we are created in God’s image. But none of those issues are the totality of Jesus’ life or message.
Given enough free time, the human mind can take one passage of Scripture and create all sorts of interesting gods and diversions out of it. These things may seem good just like the fruit that Eve ate. But they can be just as deadly.
The moment we get into the “Jesus Plus ….” trap, we can easily stray into a godly cause that removes God as the center focus. Here is what one demon (Screwtape) had to say about this trick. He was writing to a fellow demon to discuss tempting a young Christian in C.S. Lewis’ book, The Screwtape Letters. The demon wrote, “What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in a state of mind I call, ‘Christianity And’. You know – Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Psychical Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform. If they must be a Christians let them at least be Christians with a difference.”
The essence of the Gospel is Jesus. The “And” part is where we can get into trouble and take our eyes of the author and finisher of our faith. While there are many good things for us to do in this life, there is only One way. And His name is Jesus.