taking the words of Jesus seriously

Human history could easily be defined as the study of the human evasion, distortion and avoidance of the claims, character and calling of Christ.

If there had never been anything like the Gospel message, do any of us really believe that the last 2, 000 years or so would have had any more, or perhaps less, war, oppression, corruption, injustice, pillaging, slavery, murder and pointless destruction?

Has Christianity, would anyone argue, been a brake on those roving human catastrophes?

Or has it been, at least as often, an inspiration and justification?

Once a century or so, we have a figure who stands up against the blatantly, and many times state authorized, brutality and conquest, but mostly we, in history and even now,  cheer it on, participate in it and profit from it.

Related: Progressive Christianity is as Broken as Evangelicalism…Here’s How to Fix It – by Frank Schaeffer

Christianity (or any world religion perhaps) does not have a tradition of honoring (until long after the fact, perhaps) those who would stand up against the corporate or cultural imperialism that keeps us safe and comfortable – at whatever cost to others – including those of future generations.

In the literacy world, there is a contrast between learning to read, and reading to learn.

The inherent assumption is that learning to read involves the work of acquiring a skill while reading to learn is the use of those skills for entirely different – and far larger – purposes.

There a similar corollary in the contrast between eating to live and living to eat; one is, or at least certainly should be, in service to the other.

I would submit that the same principle holds true in the symmetry of faith and salvation.

The vast majority of Christians live a stunted and unfruitful spiritual life because they believe that the purpose of faith is to ‘get saved’.

This would be like believing that reading is the purpose of ‘learning to read’; the skill of reading is not the end – it is the beginning!

Reading, if anything, is the foundation, the starting point, the opening of a door; to perceive, or even worse, live, as if it were the end is to miss the point entirely.

In the same way, ‘getting saved’ is not the end, or even the primary purpose of faith.

How many of us know people who are ‘saved’ but carry their ‘salvation’ like a strange abstracted exercise in self-righteousness?

Or how many of us know someone who wears their ‘salvation’ with the same empty confidence of a swaggering six-year old who proudly proclaims ‘I’m big now!’

We adults might be justly proud of the accomplishments of our favorite six-year old, but we know something they don’t; their journey – spiritual or earthly – is far from over – in fact it has barely begun.

And most of us, like that six-year old, can’t even begin to imagine the journey we embarked on.

This familiar, if truncated, ‘gospel’ is far from the Gospel of Jesus or Paul.

Also by Morf: Writing in the Dirt – the Choice Between Being Right and Being Like Jesus

Or James, who reminds us that isolated faith, faith without works is dead in the eyes of God – and in the eyes of a waiting and wondering world (James 2:14-26).

Reading is not the purpose of ‘learning to read’, just as eating is not the purpose of living, and ‘salvation’ is not the purpose of faith; the purpose of reading is to enter – and engage with – the wide world of learning, the purpose of eating is to nourish and strengthen us to live a productive and fulfilling life, and ‘salvation’ is meant to equip and inspire us to do ‘good works’ far beyond our imagining.

We are not saved BY our good works – but we are ‘saved’, in fact created, to DO good works (Ephesians 2:10).

God’s sense of time (and His work) is far larger than ours. It is His will that will be ‘done’ – meaning fully accomplished.

What God wants from us is not so much finished projects as His ‘good works’ finally begun.

Morf Morford considers himself a free-range Christian who is convinced that God expects far more of us than we can ever imagine, but somehow thinks God knows more than we do. To pay his bills, he’s been a teacher for adults (including those in his local county jail) in a variety of setting including Tribal colleges, vocational schools and at the university level in the People’s Republic of China. Within an academic context, he also writes an irreverent ESL blog and for the Burnside Writers Collective. As he’s getting older, he finds himself less tolerant of pettiness and dairy products.

About The Author


Faith is not a formula. And I wouldn't even use the word 'relationship' - and probably not the metaphor of 'a journey'. The older I get, the more it seems that faith is a process - a determined focus on listening to the eternal, sifting out the noise and distractions and becoming closer with each breath and each word, to the fullness - and emptiness - of the pulse, hand and purpose of our Creator, which, ultimately brings us where we belong. I'm a teacher and writer, which really means that I am a listener and I share what I see and hear.

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