I so admire my weekly spiritual teacher (aka pastor). He explicitly affirmed me identifying with the notion of being resistant to identifying myself as a Christian, especially to people who do not identify themselves as “Christians”. -Inconceivable! I dig it.
I can’t know what cognitive and somatic associations get conjured up for you when hearing the label “Christian” but I know what mine are, and it isn’t much of anything I want to be associated with regarding my spirituality and the way I want to live that out.
I consciously seek personal and in-depth contact with God, as I understand God. My understanding of God is primarily interpreted and informed through the life of Jesus, shown in the new testament of the bible, not Christian groupthink.
My understanding of God is in active recovery from a complicitly abusive religious system which interprets me, God and others through a shame and intimidation based system, in the name of Christianity.
When I read certain bible verses, I often find myself needing to rephrase the statements, due to them being inappropriately applied and interpreted over me by a complicitly abusive religious system. It’s a system that has used certain bible verses to accomplish changing my thoughts and behaviors through using shame and spiritual intimidation.
I am also at-risk for doing this not only to myself, but to others as well – no more denial. That is why I want and need spiritual teachers who GET this, AND to be involved within a community of others who do as well.
When it comes to what I extract from bible verses, words are extremely important, and ameliorating Christian-jargon takes conscious effort, but I have found it to be very enlightening.
An example taken from “The Voice” version of Colossians 4:5-6
“Be wise when you engage with those outside of the faith community; make the most of every moment and every encounter. When you speak the word, speak it gracefully (as if seasoned with salt), so you will know how to respond to everyone rightly.”
My personal interpretation (everyone has one) is this:
Be mindful when I engage with those who for whatever reason, do not associate within Christian circles, make the most of every moment and encounter you find yourself in. I am not called to force these moments and encounters, just to notice them. When I use my words to talk, do it gracefully and season (not drench) it with salt. Salt is what gives it flavor, which is my authentic-self and personality. Grace doesn’t mean being pretentiously nice, because that tastes bad. Seasoning with salt is being mindful that my call to authenticity is not a license to be insensitive and presumptuous towards others. The combination of grace and salt, will position me to respond to everyone rightly, through transparency and humility. Rightly doesn’t mean having the “one right” or “better” answer. It is right, to admit that there are many answers I do not have for others. It is right, when I have direct experience with the issue at hand, to share my experience of how I see my decision to follow Jesus shaping my circumstances and myself. When I do not have direct experience or am largely unaware/ignorant of the issue someone is experiencing or sharing with me about, I can respond with sincerity and compassion saying, “I don’t really know.” THAT is responding rightly.
Jesus Follower or Christian GroupThink Follower? There is a difference.