Tuesday, August 4, 2009

When we all get to Heaven...can I play football?

Are you a Christian?

If you're anything like me, you love being posed that question by someone not a Christian. It's an open invitation to share the wonders and glory of God with someone obviously curious...or sometimes aggrevated. When asked that question and the door opens for me to go into a full court press, I get the same pregame jitters I used to get back in the day before playing a high school football game. My coach called it E I...which according to him, stood for Emotional Intensity. He deducted that tidbit of wisdom when his 3 year old daughter would yell 'E I daddy, E I!' every time they passed the Golden Arches. 'She's got emotional intensity about the Mac Donald's like most kids do,' he would explain, 'the same emotional intensity you should be feeling about the privilege to play this game of football!'

Even though sarcasm was practically a way of life for me in those days, I didn't have the nerve or the guts to point out his daughter's association with the Golden Arches, in all likelihood, stemmed from the popular song that most all 3 year old's know as 'Old McDonald' and the repetitive verse of 'E I E I O.' He was a very scary man and wouldn't have taken kindly to me pointing that out...I'm sure.

Back to the question at hand.

If there's excitement in the opportunity to answer the question 'Are you a Christian?' from a nonbeliever, there's also a certain degree of gastrologic activity when I find out the question is directed by another Christian...stomach rumbles often in the form of anxiety. Why? Because most certainly, the follow up question by another Christian seems to always be 'What church or denomination do you belong?'

And there's where the problems always begin...

It would be so nice to leave it at 'the Jesus denomination,' but we all know that wouldn't fly, and the questions will become more persistent...and judgemental. Why is that such an important question to other Christians? Well...to Protestant Christians. Catholics are only subject to a single follow up question. Once they answer 'Roman Catholic,' the issue is dead...and that's not some Protestant pun I'm slinging.

Quick side bar...I actually spray spit my beverage once while with some friends and the question was answered 'Catholic' by a newcomer to our group only to be countered with 'That's not Christian!' Yes...apparently there are actual college students not familiar with the movement called the Reformation and a gentleman named Martin Luther...as surprising as that may be. But I'll revisit that at a later time.

Labels. We have to label everything...even God. If you are a Christian, have you ever stopped to think what our denominational divide looks like to the nonbelievers? I mean, if we can't all be in unison on something as important as the Creator of all things and His plan for our eternal home, nonbelievers must wonder how inspired can we really be? It's an age old, 16th century problem that's as likely to be resolved as the problem of wiener vendors packaging wieners in quantities of 10 and hot dog bun vendors packaging buns in quantities of 8...because none of the parties involved are going to compromise.

I'm a Christian...a follower of Jesus Christ. I should feel emotionally intense about this symbol and what it means to all of us. I know and believe that Jesus is the only way to the Father. That's how it is...His game plan. As I strive each day to walk closer with Him and follow His teachings from over 2000 years ago, is it really an important detail that I go to church at the First Church of the Sword of Joshua Independent Full Gospel Pentecostal Assembly?

Just kidding mom...I'm still a Baptist...take a deep breath...


David said...

Great post Tony! I am so sick of Christian snobbery, no matter what camp it comes from. I also believe there is one way to Heaven, a relationship with Jesus. I often chuckle about the Catholic bashing (it is sad), but they have given us an amazing heritage as Christians as well as a strong theology regarding the trinity.

Why so many contemporary Pharisees? Religion-- that is what messes us up. We have to do these empty rituals which end up separating us from God. Better to not do them at all. And yet, imagine communion with Coke and tater Chips? Tradition has its place.

Too bad the media has defined Christians as anti-gay, pro-gun, pro-death penalty and pro-life-- sex, power and drug abusers. Is that what we really are?

How is it that they will know us by our love, our life style and our faith? How is it that they will praise God for our good works, if they never see them. The answer, never apart from the redemption of the cross and the power of the Holy Spirit. Never.

Mesha said...

lol...love the reassurance to your mom. :) I AM A CHRISTian...that means I SHOULD be Christ-like. My life should be a reflection of His - my foundation should be built on His word and not my own theology. As a body we are supposed to operate together, not be split and debating like we are. It's truly sad. This has been my theme almost lately, seems like God's showing me so much on it "A house divided cannot stand." That's all the devil wants to do is bring division and confusion.

Hmmm...love one another deeply...where is the love? Obviously we don't compromise - but the Bible WARNS about foolish arguments and debates. (Titus 3:9; 2 Tim 2:23-24)

NC Sue said...

I've gotten that "I'm not Christian" stuff already, along with the statement that someone's Protestant denomination was first, the Catholics later. Interesting view of history, I think. Probably from the same school as the folks who swear there was no holocaust.

But as to the division within the Church, don't you think it must grieve the heart of God to see believers so fractionated?

And as to the names of denominations, when I was trying to decide what denomination I wanted to join, I read through The Handbook of Denominations. My favorite was the "Two Seed In The Spirit Predestinarian Baptists."

Yes, that's for real.

Matt @ The Church of No People said...

Definately, I always feel like the follow up question is always a little bit motivated by the desire to see if I'm *really* in the group.

The Yager Family said...

Very interesting post! I totally agree that Christians should stop getting hung up on sorting people into different denominations. I once heard someone say that denominations are like looking at God through different knot holes in a fence - why not just take the fence down and everyone look at God as one group?

All that matters is that Jesus Christ is the one and only way to spend eternity with God in heaven. Period. The number of hail Mary's, sprinklings, confessions, hymnal songs, baptisms, bible studies, church attendance, etc have no bearing on getting you into heaven because they are self-efforts. Those things can be great forms of worship and ways to show appreciation to God for the gift of salvation, but they certainly do not help you get into heaven in any way.

Simply put: Trusting in Christ alone is the way into heaven, not Christ plus works or anything else.

Lula! said...

OK, I was reading this and loving it...taking it all in, marveling at your intelligence, insight, and way with words.

Then I got to the ending...and the mention of your church. And was all, "HUH?????"

Thankfully you redeemed yourself with the "I'm still Baptist, Mom" comment. Not because you're Baptist...but because I was really hoping there wasn't a church out there with that name. Ridonkulous!

p.s. I was Catholic until I was 19. I got saved at the age of 13. Tell the naysayers to deal with that!

p.p.s. I attend a Baptist church. But if anyone asks, my usual response to ponderings about my "religion" is, "I'm a Christian...and I attend a Baptist church." End of story.

nadia said...

christianity and the term christian is referenced in such a blase manner in our contemporary. i've stopped using either term altogether. i am a Christ follower. anyone can ascribe to the belief of christianity, but the real question is not, do you believe, but do you KNOW HIM? :)
great post.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed your thoughts and humor. I'm sure if more people were interested in carrying their cross instead of just wearing them, the color carpet in the "Dr. James Harmon D.D.S. Jr. Fellowship Hall" wouldn't be such a big deal. Even though it should be, right?

Anonymous said...

I wish you posted daily because reading your stuff is awesome.

You say exactly what I feel most of the time and you make it funny. I don't know if you are a fan of Dave Barry, but you give him a run for the money.

Please post more often for our sake!

Mandie said...

Don't religious people make you sick?

It's about serving God and not about serving self. One God, one way, and one people.

Each of the twelve disciples had his own opinions and views, but each one followed Jesus and His way. We know them collectively as the disciples and not by association of their individual opinions.

Great post.

Z said...

I'm not Catholic but I'm proud to be a leader of a huge international Bible Study..and TRUST me, there are a LOT of Catholics who totally follow Christ and read the Bible...and THAT is all that matters. Yet, I almost always get some Protestant with the "...Catholics aren't Christan" stuff...and I always have to move the conversation in a different direction...!!

Tony, I loved this post...
"When we all get to Heaven..." can we be friends? :-)

Also...I'm eager to hear your take on M Luther...I was Armenian Orthodox (probably still am, at heart) but do love the Lutheran beliefs now . I can't say much about my study or my church because I"ve mentioned what city I live in and ..well, I'm Z-ANONYMOUS so I have to be careful :-(
I wish I could say more. xxx