taking the words of Jesus seriously

We trust in our churches.
We trust that the nurseries will carefully and tenderly watch our babies.
We trust that the Sunday Schools will lovingly teach our children.
We trust that our teenagers won’t be bullied in youth group.
We trust that our families will be safe within the church’s care.
We trust that our tithes, gifts, donations and offerings will go where the bulletin claims it’s going.
We trust that our churches will be financially wise.
We trust that our pastor’s translation of Greek and Hebrew is going to be correct.
We trust that the leadership will prayerfully seek God’s will.
We trust that our spiritual leaders will practice what they preach—even when nobody is watching.
We trust that the elder boards have mission-oriented goals instead of business ones.
We trust that missionaries’ support letters will be transparent and honest.
We trust that they’ll promote Christ’s love and not their own hidden agendas.
We trust that our money will go where Christian organizations say it will.
We will trust the people in our small groups.
We will trust that our spiritual communities will be welcoming and accepting when we introduce friends and visitors.
We trust that our church communities will befriend us, relate to us, and connect with us.
We trust that the church will care for us when we’re in need.
We trust that people won’t abuse our vulnerability.
We trust that they’ll forgive us.
We trust that they’ll love us.

Inevitably, our trust will be broken…and we’ll blame God.

The truth is, our faith and spirituality is often dependent on hundreds of different relationships, factors, institutions, and circumstances that we directly correlate with God.

When our Christian expectations are shattered it’s easy to blame God. We mistakingly idolize the things that are associated with God, and assume that if one of these aspects failed then God failed.

Also by Stephen: An Open Letter to All Christian Theologians

“Christianity” will fail us. Our churches will attack, our pastors will lie, our mentors will manipulate, our friends will betray, and when this happens our beliefs will be shaken to their core.

We often unfairly judge God based on expectations of perfection, and if something in our life goes wrong, it’s hard to reconcile with our perception of an all-loving, all-caring, all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present God. How could God let something bad happen? And to us?!
The danger is that we place unrealistic expectations on our faith and assume that if we’re in God’s will, our spiritual lives will be ideal—this isn’t reality.

In the New Testament, even Jesus’s disciples lived lives that were messy and full of doubt, pain, suffering and confusion. Following Christ meant that struggling was part of the routine instead of the exception—we must start bravely accepting this.

Stephen Mattson has written for Relevant, Sojourners, and The Burnside Writer’s Collective. He graduated from the Moody Bible Institute and is currently on staff at Northwestern College in St. Paul, MN. Follow him on Twitter @mikta.

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About The Author


Stephen Mattson is the author of "The Great Reckoning: Surviving a Christianity That Looks Nothing Like Christ." Follow him on Twitter (@StephenMattson_)

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