I have a theory that, at least to some extent, modern Christianity has recreated a Pharisaical-like structure, as the faith has become increasingly organized. In Jesus' time, the Jewish establishment, the Pharisees, had created an intricate and complex system of rules and requirements that had to be followed. Or, at least all those claiming to be good Jews had to follow them. They were the self-appointed gatekeepers to God. The rules included requirements like ritual washing and bathing, in order to be clean enough to enter the temple. And they included the giving of alms and other similar rule, which at least in theory, gave one a better chance at Heaven.
Jesus came along and challenged the system. He said that what was on people's hearts mattered much more than following rules. He said that it was most important to love God, and to love your fellow man. The Pharisees hated Jesus. They constantly tried to trip him up. The funny thing though, is that they never did. They had studied the Hebrew Bible since childhood, were from the best families and had gone to the best schools. Jesus was a carpenter from Galilee. And Galilee was sort of the Appalachia of the Middle East. Most civilized people thought that not much good could ever come from there.
In many of our Christian churches today, we've created similar systems. You have to know when to stand, when to kneel and whether it's "trespasses" or "debts." Some congregations prohibit musical instruments in worship. Others require baptism. And still others create new rules by throwing out all of the old ones. You can spot these groups because everyone wheres bermudas and flip flops to church. They've turned the rules on their end. But like the hippies of the '60s, eventually the societal majority emulates these "rebels" and they become mainstream. Think of the Beatles song "Revolution" as elevator Muzak.
In any of these cases, the issue is that there are insiders and outsiders. And the insiders want to stay insiders. It's not that they are necessarily trying to prevent outsiders from participating. It's simply more a case of they like things the way they are. They don't want anyone to change their "system." It's comfortable and they like comfort.
Which brings me to why I'm struggling right now. As I explained at the beginning of this post, I've recently finished the final draft of "The Reasonable Person." I've spent almost five years of my life working on it. I've written it while working in a very demanding in-house practice and being a husband and dad as well. The book has over 500 footnotes and I have painstakingly provided scriptural reference to every substantial assertion contained in the book. I wrote the book for one reason and ironically, it's for the same reason that I wrote my first book, "Law School Labyrinth- The Guide to Making the Most of Your Legal Education" (Kaplan Publishing, 2d Ed., May 3, 2012). I wrote Labyrinth to help struggling law students. I wrote The Reasonable Person" to help non-Christians who are struggling with finding meaning in their lives, and to help Christians who are struggling with their faith.
I've asked two preachers in Nashville mega-churches to take a look at the manuscript. I didn't ask them to review it. I didn't ask them to endorse it. I didn't even ask them to read the entire book. I asked them to take a look at it. I asked them to take a look at it for one reason. I wanted a doctrinal perspective on the book. In other words, I wanted them to look at the book and tell me whether the felt that it was built upon sound biblical doctrine. I'm a lawyer and not a theologian. The book is written from a lawyer's perspective. So, I wanted to make sure that someone with clergy credentials had "blessed" it (in the vernacular, and not as a pun).
The funny thing is, both had virtually the exact same response. It was almost as if they were responding from a script. Each of them said, "Thanks, but I've got too much on my plate right now."
And I struggle with that. I struggle with it because we've all got too much on our plates these days. The secret is to figure out what is important and invest your time in it. A person can run in hundreds of directions, chasing this and responding to that. But a person who has an impact knows how to decide what their life's purpose is and do all that they can to fulfill that purpose. I believe that God has a purpose for me, and I believe He has provided the Holy Spirit to help me accomplish it. So, I spend a lot of my quiet time doing all that I can to hear Him and try to discern His will. And I believe He wanted me to tell the story contained in "The Reasonable Person."
"The Reasonable Person" is intended to demystify Christianity. I feel that we have overcomplicated the subject, which really only deals with a couple of things. God loves me and He loves you. He sent His Son Jesus to live among us, teach us and provide an example for how He wants us to live. He became one of us. God was one of us. And when that part of Jesus' mission was completed, God allowed Jesus to be sacrificed as payment, once and for all, for the sins of every single person. It righted the cosmic scales forever. The blood of God outweighed the sum total of every sin that man could ever commit. He paid for my sins and He paid for your sins. It's what Christians call a "free gift." All you have to do is receive it through faith in Him. It's really not that mysterious.
I don't know, I suppose that there are people who would prefer that it remain mysterious. There certainly were those people, the Pharisees, in Jesus' time. The mystery preserved the status quo. And it meant job security for them. But God doesn't want gatekeepers. Jesus welcomed everyone- sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes, and I suppose even lawyers. God wants every single person to come to Him.
So, I suppose the book will have to go to print without being "blessed." But I'm okay with that. And somehow, I think He is as well.