It’s 20 years since the Rwandan genocide. Thousands of people were killed by people they knew. I was astonished to learn, while listening to Radio National in an interview with Tim Costello, that Ruanda had been one of the most successfully evangelized countries in Africa. ‘Many priests and pastors were martyred in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda - but many were also accomplices in the slaughter.’ Costello remarked that the churches failed in Africa – failed we may note in preventing the ultimate form of un-love. They failed to stop Christians murdering each other.
The question that arises is, ‘Are the churches a success here?’
Clearly what had been embraced there proved to be an impotent version of Christianity. Or was this the problem – that churches promoted Christianity but not Jesus? Can Christianity be the most subtle form of false christ? Jesus is love and self-sacrifice in person. He is resurrection, hope and life. Not murder and death. Jesus declared, ‘I have come to give you life that you will have it to the full.’ It’s the thief that kills and destroys. Is it possible to market theft in the name of life?
‘The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full’ John 10.10 NIV.
If the churches failed in Ruanda can they be said to be succeeding in Australia and the United States? Do churches here produce a religious version of the notion of
‘Hey, there’s the cross and up there is some pie in the sky by and by. Yes! Get going. It’s basically it’s up to you to believe and do - a kind of non-capitalist version of the survival of the fittest?’ Is this what we are marketing as life?
Strictly speaking Christianity is not a religion. It is a person; the person of Jesus in us. But more radical than this, it is Jesus as us. Real Christianity is Jesus as our life personally and collectively. But if we are marketing something else we are selling individuals and entire nations short.
Jesus urged people to believe in Him. This was not just an assent. It meant eating Him. It meant receiving Him as their life and receiving Him into their being as living bread. This is much more than a denominational attachment and church attendance. It’s quite different to striving to live by a bunch of new testament principles. It’s Christ incarnated as you and as His people.
Before the cross and the resurrection God could be near people, speak to them and anoint them. But after Pentecost He came to live in them. Father, Son and Holy Spirit would dwell in all who believe. The Kingdom of God is personal and communal. It is family. God’s kings and priests, people in whom Jesus lives, are God’s means of loving the world. To love like Jesus we simply need to agree that He is our life.
‘To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you’ Col 1.27 NIV.
There is nothing generic about the Kingdom of Heaven. Nothing abstract. It is the person of Jesus in you and the multiplication of Jesus as the church.
In Christ His cross is in us. And so is His resurrection. To agree that Christ is our life is to possess all that heaven has accomplished for us and progress into all that He is as the Son of Man. The eternal cross is the cure for selfishness and the source of love. His resurrection is the source of His life in us. By embracing Jesus Himself we become who we already are in Christ.
‘I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms’ Eph 1.19,20 NLT.
The cross redeems us to become one Spirit with God. Joined to God we have the potential to express His love where we are. God is love. By being one with the Father we too become love. We have intimacy with the Father by choosing life in the Son. But should we make gods out of performance or law (religion) we obstruct our relationship with our Father and we are left to be ourselves: Carnal. There’s a lesson for us as Christians and as His church. Don’t teach religion in the name of God’s Son. Make Jesus your life. Promote Jesus as the life of the world.
‘I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world’ John 6.51 NIV.