The downside of evangelical American Christianity

My reading has me in Micah for a few days and as I read it I get this picture of Israel that the prophets portray over and over. Israel is “weary” of serving God. They have some sense of obligation, but they are in love with the gods of the age and want to pursue other lovers. Yet, they know Yahweh is there and they need to “appease” him. The question becomes: “Okay, God, what do you want? What’s it going to cost me this time?”

They had not seen the covenantal relationship with God. For them, it was just transactions.

This is the downside of evangelical American Christianity. We’ll TALK “relationships”, but it’s about “me and Jesus.” It’s then about a sin (and “sin” is used in a transactional way) that we need to “take care of” by asking forgiveness… for THAT sin. We see sin as transactions and actions and forgiveness as a transaction in return.

We become weary of our relationship with God in a transactional mentality. “Okay, God. I did this wrong, so I need to get this one thing right.” Then… it’s another thing… and another thing… and it’s one transaction at a time. And it wears us down.

This is the problem Micah hits head on:

With what should I approach the Lord
        and bow down before God on high?
Should I come before him with entirely burned offerings,
        with year-old calves?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
        with many torrents of oil?
Should I give my oldest child for my crime;
        the fruit of my body for the sin of my spirit? (Micah 6:6-7)

It’s an attitude of, “Okay, God, how big of a check do I write you today? What’s it going to cost me? Just let me know so I can write the check and get on with my life!”

We may talk about our “relationship” with Jesus, but too often it’s about one action (either our own or God’s) followed by a responsive action. God acts in this way… I then respond in this way. I act in this way… God responds in this way.

We treat worship services and praise music this way. We treat prayer this way. It’s one transaction after another to be in good standing… or to be left standing outside…

In Micah 6:6-7, the question Israel is asking is this: “Okay, God… what do you want? What’s my pound of flesh you’re demanding this time?”

That’s a transactional attitude. And it’s too often what we have in our walk with God with our American evangelical theology.

God’s response in v. 8 is something like this: “I want what I’ve always wanted. I want you to understand what is GOOD. And what is GOOD isn’t about the transaction. It’s about the LIFE. I want you to understand the GOOD LIFE.”

That life is about the image of God. What is constantly shown to Israel is the character of God and he wants that fruit flowing in the life of Israel: God is just. God is righteous. Therefore… do justice and love mercy. In other words, shine out to the world what God looks like as if he were standing right there!

It’s a covenantal walk the brings the goodness of justice, mercy, and humility. Those aren’t transactions. Those are parts of character.

We have spent so much time focusing on the transaction, we often have Christians who are more afraid of hell than they are concerned with the radical love and abundance of God. They end up doing things out of fear… “I don’t want to go to hell”… rather than love. We too often have amped up the fear of hell and forgot about the glory of heaven.

The mistake we make in that is we have made heaven a place only instead of understanding it’s about the RULE of heaven as well. When we bring Kingdom goodness into our lives and message, we will find justice, mercy, and humility again.

The longer I walk with Jesus the more I realize I’ve done so many things in the past based on fear and not enough based on character. I’ve done a lot of damage acting out of fear…

I need to walk with Christ to understand his character and all that fruit to flow out of me. I don’t get that in transactions. I get that in covenant. He has provided it. I simply walk in it.

Photo by Sébastien Marchand on Unsplash

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