Family Matters: On Cathedrals, Christianity, and Compromise
The news has been flooded with stories this week about the burning of Notre Dame in Paris. I was saddened to see images of the beautiful old cathedral all ablaze. Such an exquisite example of medieval architecture and such rich history, consumed in flames.
Yet, it is important to understand that, from a Christian viewpoint, the building where believers gather is just that – a building. This is true whether a house of worship has been around for 90 days or 900 years. The church is not made of towers and spires, arches and belfries, pulpits and pews, brick and mortar.
No, the church is made up of people. People who have put their faith in Jesus. Who’ve accepted the grace and forgiveness He made possible by dying on the cross for our sins and rising again from the grave.
This marvelous, redemptive work of Christ is what we celebrate every Easter Sunday.
I’ve read that the Notre Dame Cathedral averaged 30,000 visitors a day. It was the most visited monument in Paris, surpassing even the Eiffel Tower.
Although we normally see a spike in church attendance on Easter Sunday, I don’t recall ever being in a worship service with a crowd that size. In fact, membership in many churches has significantly declined in our postmodern culture. So much so that some congregations are scrambling for ways to boost attendance. And not just on Easter, but all year long.
Tweak The Gospel?
I read an article recently which suggested that evangelical Protestantism won’t survive unless we’re willing to rethink what parts of Christianity are non-negotiable. From the tone of his writing, I suspect the author sees a lot more room for “tweaking” the gospel message than I do.
Although I appreciate the fact that our delivery methods will change over time – tent revivals and circuit preachers have already given way to evangelical YouTube videos and social media campaigns – the gospel itself needs no revision. In fact, if you try to revise it, it will cease to be the gospel at all.
Second Timothy 3:16 tells us, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.”
If instead of teaching Scripture in its entirety, we cherry pick the feel-good, non-controversial, inspirational parts we like. We totally ignore, minimize, or contradict the harder parts. The parts about sin and death and hell and Satan’s schemes and Christ’s sacrifice and our accountability before God. Doing so, we effectively strip the gospel of its power to change lives.
Once that happens, “the church” becomes nothing more than a social club where motivational speakers tickle our ears but steer clear of our consciences. (2 Timothy 4:3) They don’t teach the whole of scripture. They don’t adhere to sound doctrine. And they do their very best not to step on any toes.
It’s Sunday morning, zero-calorie “Christianity-lite,” and it has little effect on how its adherents conduct their lives on Monday through Saturday.
Legalism and Liberalism Both Miss the Mark…
On the other end of the spectrum, some congregations are all about rules. They, too, ignore large portions of Scripture on grace and love and gentleness and mercy, choosing instead to stubbornly cling to the traditions of men.
Like the Pharisees, they “tie up heavy, burdensome loads and lay them on other’s shoulders.” (Matthew 23:4-7) They crave the respect and admiration of men, but have hardened their hearts to the stirrings of God. They speak of holiness in public, but live like the devil in private.
That’s because legalism is just as dangerous a condition as liberalism. They both miss the mark.
True Christianity is not primarily about rules or relevance. It is about relationship — our broken relationship to God due to sin, and the overwhelmingly generous opportunity He offers us to enjoy a restored relationship with Him through the finished work of His blessed Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross.
Jennifer Flanders thinks the gospel is the sweetest story ever told. For a basketful of free printable resources to help you celebrate the real reason behind Resurrection Sunday, please visit https://www.flandersfamily.info .