When I left my life as a CCSC volunteer in Buffalo, I went with my best friend Sarah right to a Christian camp in the Adirondacks, Camp of the Woods. The people were amazingly friendly, setting beautiful, and I really loved the services. They had many different events, including an evening concert and carnival, and it was comforting to see God included in every part of the camp. At night we got ice cream and spent time with friends of Sarah and her family. One even built his own telescope! He showed us many different stars and told us about them. I love science. I feel sad when people say science contradicts God, because to me, science helps us learn more about the miracle we live every day.
There was one speaker at the camp with whom I strongly disagreed. As this was one event out of many, this doesn’t ruin the whole experience for me. He doesn’t represent the views of the camp as a whole.
He used an example of looking at a place where one wants to be on a map. Looking at the map, it may seem tangible, but one might not realize how much work goes into getting there. He said people sometimes think there’s a perfect Christian and they try non-stop to be that person. He said people may feel burned out or frustrated when they don’t measure up to their goal. He said, “You’ll never make it to where you want to be, so stop trying!”
He was talking about the Old Testament, and in Jesus’ death, we are redeemed from following the rules of the Old Testament. This is supported by the Old Testament focus on revenge and New Testament focus on forgiveness. However, what he said was, “Because Jesus died, all you have to do is sit back and enjoy, and thank him.”
First, sir, you’re giving this speech to people who can afford to go to a Christian camp for vacation! Did you not consider your audience? Yes, I would like to believe that all Christians are passionate about social justice, but unfortunately, in every religion complacency is not impossible. I was so upset with the possibility of how his words would be translated in the camp-goers’ heads. After his speech, I looked around and no one looked positively affected. No one seemed fired up, thanking God. I was very upset and when Sarah and I got back to our room to rest, I wrote a journal entry starting with three of his quotes, the last of which I actually do agree.
“You’ll never make it to where you want to be, so stop trying!”
“Because Jesus died, all you have to do is sit back and enjoy, and thank him.”
“We don’t HAVE to praise God, we want to! We GET to! Throw away what you thought of religion. Throw away the rules of religion. You’re either burned out or tired of it.”
This last one, I can understand. I do believe that no one has to do anything. One can choose their actions and face the consequences.
Some view religion/church as a non-negotiable structure, in which you must follow all rules to be a good member. But I think they should throw away relying solely on structure to support their faith. If not, if their church is gone, then where is their faith? Religions and churches are just medians through which faith is expressed in community. What is your faith?
Jesus did anything but promote complacency. Yes, it is good to take time to enjoy all God has given us, but just look at the Sermon on the Mount! Jesus challenges us to do things that might not be socially acceptable. People might not understand why someone would fly across the country to see a sick family member who has given them the cold shoulder. But people don’t have to understand. We don’t need them to understand because we know God does. People may look at that person and see a “pushover,” while I think God sees a forgiving, loving heart. And I think he smiles on that.
Yes, we will never be the perfect Christian we want to be. But to tell someone to stop trying, I think, is to tell them to stop listening to Jesus. When we try, and especially when we fail, God knows what’s in our hearts and I believe he sees that as the “perfect Christian.” Any one who challenges themselves to do as Jesus did and take up his cross. I can’t accept the thought that because Jesus suffered for us, we are released from what he called us to do. That would be like saying he died for nothing. And that is just not true- he died for everything. And that’s what I think we should give him- everything. What are we giving him if we just “sit back and enjoy?” “Thanks” only. We are verbally or mindfully saying “thanks” for all he did. But why aren’t we showing him thanks? Actions speak louder than words. When we do service, when we pray, when we forgive, I think we are saying, “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you for teaching us. Thank you for loving us. Thank you for putting me in a country where I can freely praise you without fear of persecution. Thank you for blessing me with a lot of money, and giving me the privilege to help those from different situations. Thank you for the ability to be you more in this world, so that people may fully see your light.” Without that action, “thanks” is just an empty word. Jesus is God’s son, but we must remember he was human. So take him down from the “I can never accomplish what he did” pedestal and TRY. If not, he died for our complacency while our brothers and sisters die of hunger and violence, and while we ruin the earth God gave to us to tend to and enjoy.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Ghandi. Be Jesus.
“Must Jesus bear the cross alone and all the world go free? No, there’s a cross for everyone and there’s a cross for me.”(Lyrics from “Praise His Holy Name”)
Jesus, thank you for putting this man in my path, so I can channel my anger with his speech to getting fired up to bear my cross.