A – Adoration
Wow. Where to begin. This week marks a year since the Trump-incited insurrection attempted to thwart our democracy. We enter yet another year caught in the swells of the COVID-19 pandemic, with case numbers climbing substantially with Omicron. Our racial reckoning is still front of mind, our politics are as divided as ever, and our economic recovery has been both K-shaped and uncertain.
But, amidst all this, I’ve been trying to wrap my head around Christianity in the early days of 2022. I keep asking myself: How do I practice my faith in our present reality?
More specifically: How do I continue to practice my adoration of God – that is, giving God praise for all He’s done, is doing, and will do – when the faith tradition I practice is realizing the consequences of having been corrupted by an immoral political movement? There seems to be a huge chasm between the good God the Bible speaks of and an American conservative Christianity of, as Rachel Held Evans said, “Patriarchy, White Supremacy, and Violent Religious Nationalism.” You don’t have to look much further than the recent Pew Research Center study that shows how the Trump years have accelerated the growing secularization of America – especially among my generation, the Millennials. Unfortunately, Pew’s data shows that the church needs Millennials a lot more than the Millennials need the church.
What I do know is that Christians have practiced the adoration of God for thousands of years, in a myriad of political and cultural contexts. The Christian faith started amidst Roman occupation and persecution, so I know the God of the New Testament is for and with the oppressed. Not only was Jesus nailed to a cross because of the challenge he posed to the political and religious power structures of His day, but the New Testament is filled with examples of early church heroes being jailed and/or killed for their religious and political declaration that Jesus, not Caesar, was Lord. But then, starting with the conversion of the Roman Emperor Constantine in 313 AD, Christianity became a tool of empire, with a very imperfect historical record ever since.
But, here, a year into the Biden presidency, I’m asking: How do I present Christianity to the person who is part of that growing number of Americans who consider themselves religiously unaffiliated? (30% of American adults) What could I say to THAT person so that he or she would give God a chance or, maybe, even come to the place of adoring Him?
I would start by pointing to the inspired, historical writings of Christianity that paint the picture of a God who is good, who is endlessly creative, who is on the side of the oppressed and downcast and lowly, who comes to the rescue of those in bondage, who makes clear His distaste of performative, empty religion, who comes to earth to save humanity, who comes to give us life to the full, and who is still at work today.
Let me show you what I mean ⬇️
-God created the whole universe (Genesis 1)
-God saves His people from slavery by parting the Red Sea (the book of Exodus)
-God protects His people while in exile in Babylon (the book of Daniel)
-God rescues His people from genocide through an amazing woman (the book of Esther)
-God despises hypocritical, performative, immoral religion (Isaiah 1:11-17)
-And much more…
-God becomes a Middle Eastern, improverished Jew and dwells among us in the form of Jesus amidst an occupation of God’s people by the Roman Empire (John 1)
-In Jesus, God is with and for the lowly and oppressed (Matthew 5) and calls out religious hypocrisy (Matthew 23:27-28)
-In Jesus, God comes to give humanity abundant life (John 10:10)
-In Jesus, God becomes a servant to humanity through His life on earth and His death in a cross (Philippians 2:6-8)
-In Jesus, God is a High Priest who is able to empathize with our weakness (Hebrews 4:15) while also being the perfect sacrifice for all of humanity’s sin (Hebrews 9:26)
-And much more…
I would say that I can give God adoration today, despite everything going on, because I actually believe that the writings of the Bible – the seeming myth about a God who comes to earth to set humanity free – are TRUE. It’s almost fantastical: that God would do this for us. But I believe this story is true. This seeming myth is a true story: the truest story of the craziest love of a Creator for His Creation. C.S. Lewis says, “The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact.”
All said, though, I adore God because He first adored us. I love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). Or, as Chance the Rapper says in that Bieber song, “I know we believe in God and I know God believes in us.”
I would say that I practice adoration not because God is a needy God, and not because Christianity has a perfect track record, but because adoration reminds me about God’s unconditional, sacrificial, and eternal love for all of humanity. Adoration is a practice that reminds me that we are adored by God – even to His own death on a cross. I adore Him because, even in our brokenness, even amidst our political, social, and economic turmoil, He adores us unendingly – while giving us clear directives to stand with those who are lowly and oppressed. The Creator of the universe, the God of all creation, the Savior Christ, adores YOU and ME and our family and friends – and even our enemies – and wants to set us free. That’s why we can sing the Christmas carol: “Come let us ADORE Him, [for He is] Christ the Lord.” The Christ has come, right into the middle of our brokenness and imperfection, and has called us to Himself in love. This is my practice of adoration here at the start of 2022.