Shortly before my family started attending a SGM church just over four years ago, a friend of mine pulled me aside and expressed grave concern that we were going to be joining this church. She kept mentioning something about the church and organization heavily steeped in only focusing on the Cross. It is the cross this, and the cross that, she told me. I didn’t really pay attention and brushed her off. I didn’t give any credit to her words, partially because I had, and still do, some broken trust with her. But mainly, I didn’t believe her because of I hadn’t picked up on what she was talking about, and I really didn’t know what she was talking about either.
When I joined the church as my own member, I was asked what the gospel is. I stuttered and stammered feeling pressured to know, but I couldn’t answer. The pastor residing over my membership interview told me that it (the gospel) could be summed up in 5 words. “Jesus Died For My Sins.” One word for each finger on one hand. Easy, straight to the point, totally encompassing right? No. I can see it now, and even though I blindly sucked up everything I heard and didn’t think to question anything, that one-liner is not quite right. It’s only a part, a very small part, and I saw the cross/sin obsessed church in a clearer light at the Christmas Eve service my husband and I attended.
The past year has brought a lot of changes to how I view my faith, my church-life, and my relationships with other believers/unbelievers. I have stripped myself of ALL labels and am just now slowly coming to terms with my bible again. I still stumble over words like “blessing,” “blessed,” and I find myself cringing when anyone says a very Christian-ese term such as, “All by God’s grace.” I can barely help the sneer that creeps on my face and the shudder that washes over me. I cannot read things that I have written years ago and that are full of praises to Jesus and spiritually emotional. Reading those things reminds of the pain I went through, and the hypocrisy I have faced in the presence of my dad. In a way I mourn those old poems and writings because they were written by such a naive and innocent little girl. I mourn the innocence I used to possess and the bliss of not questioning. I grieve the days when I didn’t doubt the teachings I got from my dad or other men who were around me. Even though I know I can never go back, I am very aware of how much I have benefited from questioning, from doubting, and from being unwilling to be stagnant. I am willing to challenge anything I hear, and even though I am not 100% what I believe in most things, I am slowly figuring things out. and that is completely okay.
Through challenging my faith and shedding the things I can’t stand by, I have had a clearer view on the things that I don’t agree with at our old SGM church. Namely, their obsession with each other’s sin and the cross. I have learned that if there is one part of the cross, grave, and resurrection that I want to speak about the most, it would be the resurrection. The three parts of Jesus’ sacrifice are all important, but I chose to focus on his resurrection. He bore my sins on the cross, and faced rejection from his father. He was buried in a tomb and took my sins with him and wrestled with the devil. He rose from the dead, having conquered death, and pronounced freedom for all of those who are with him. I chose to focus on Jesus’ resurrection because that to me is the most important. I have been freed, I have been called clean and pure, and that is beautiful.
The sermon at the Christmas Eve service was, eh, okay. Both my hubby and I got up and walked away wondering where all of the joy and happiness was for Christmas. Jesus was born to fulfill the law, and to free us from the chains of sin, not to remind us of how much we have sinned and how despicable we are. The whole sermon was about how Jesus died on the cross for our sin, and how our sin is so wretched. I felt condemned and was very confused when the congregation clapped and cheered for their sinful wretchedness. My mind went back to the old caregroup meetings we used to go to. They were all about our sin, and we were pretty much required to bring a conflict to caregroup to share with the group so they could counsel us about getting to the root of our sin. How depressing! I really don’t think that the people in that church or organization don’t know about Jesus’ resurrection, but I definitely know it gets overlooked at all times of the year except for Easter.
If being a Christmas means attending a church, bible studies, or one on one interactions that are surrounded by this depressing obsession with sin and the cross, then count me out. I have stepped away and broken free from those obsessions because that does not help me enjoy God or His blessings. I cannot rejoin that crowd of people because I cannot be tied down to legalistic practices. I have broken away from those practices of obsessing about sin, reading my bible every darn day to fulfill my quota for the week, or bowing down to the cross. I have not gone back to reading my bible because I am still tied with thin strings to some of those practices and they haven’t snapped yet. By going back I would be strengthening the very ties I want to break.
I know those post is a bit rambling, but I wanted to get these thoughts out. It really bothers me when I’m asked whether or not the church I go to is a gospel centered church. I feel like asking if they mean is it a cross centered church in return. I am learning about balance in my faith, and being so one sided as focusing on the cross and sin the most does not fit the balance I’m trying to build. I believe there is a place for both of those in the balance, but I have seen too many people blow up those too much.