Kingdom Perspectives – ‘Casual Christianity’ excluded

In by Roger Staub0 Comments

Kingdom Perspectives

 “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you . . .”   -John 6:27

John’s gospel, written as much as 40 to 50 years after Matthew, Mark, and Luke, is the most spiritual and reflective of the narratives about Jesus.  John is less concerned with the events (in most cases) and more concerned with the meaning.

One interesting difference is that John gives no record of the Lord’s Supper, only the amazing personal ministry to His disciples that took place “after supper.” (Jn. 13:2)  Rather, John’s setting for “the body and blood of the Lord” teaching was the grassy hills near Bethsaida, following a miraculous picnic attended by thousands.  (John 6)

After Jesus fed the multitude, they wanted to make Him their king!  He had to hastily retreat to a nearby mountain to escape the excited crowds.  The next day they found him on the other side of the sea, at Capernaum, and there he spoke these words to them, “You seek me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate . . .  . . .and were filled.  Do not labor . . ”

Jesus knew people and their priorities, just as he knows us and our priorities.  So, let’s review the very potent and probing question Isaiah asked God’s people in his time; “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy?” (Is 55:2)  How each of us would answer those questions is vitally important to our spiritual health moving forward.

In this brief story lies some of the most precious, and most demanding statements contained in the gospel.  It is difficult for modern Christians to comprehend, much less accept, what Jesus words in this chapter really mean.  Our American heritage of independent thought and action recoils from the implications.

“I am the bread of life” means that to neglect a continuing intake of His substance is to starve!  Our soul becomes emaciated, fragile, and staggering, regardless of how well we appear or function outwardly.  To be healthy and robust inwardly requires sustained nourishment from Jesus Himself.

But Jesus took the analogy even further.  In gripping language his hearers clearly understood, he cautioned, “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you . . . he who feeds on me will live because of me!” (vs. 53, 57)  (The Greek word translated “feeds on” embodies the idea of ‘gnawing or chewing; even a crunching sound.’  Strong language for this challenging message.)

Greek and Roman religion was filled with sacrificial rituals.  Part of the animal was burned on an altar, part went to the priests, and the rest to the worshiper for a feast for family and friends on the temple site. It was thought that during the feast the god actually entered the animal being consumed so that the worshipers were literally ‘eating’ the substance of their god.  They left with the conviction that they were now energized with the very life of their deity.  This was very real for them.

Consequently, Paul explained to the gentile Christians that these pagan offerings were actually made to demon spirits (1 Cor. 10:20), and was a subtle counterfeit of the gospel reality.  However, because the ancient peoples were so familiar with this practice, the command to eat the flesh of Jesus, and drink His blood carried with it very powerful implications for those believers sharing in ‘the living bread that comes down from heaven.’

These radical words of Jesus insist that every person lay himself open, fully and recklessly, to the deposit of God into his person, spirit and soul!  It imposes on his will, desires, and purpose; nothing in his personal construct is quarantined from God’s infusion of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:3, 4). It demands access to every darkness, dead area, dysfunction, prejudice, and rebellion in us, with an unrelenting agenda to overpower and dismantle it with the love of God.

Beyond doubt, John’s account of ‘body and blood’ closes the door on ‘casual Christianity!’  The 1970’s coined the phrase ‘casual sex’ to justify the promiscuity of the time.  The psychological, emotional, and marital damage which that generation has experienced reveals what a misnomer it was!

Nevertheless, millions of ‘casual’ Christians fill America’s churches, enjoying the fun and pleasurable parts but mostly opting out of the part involving faithfulness and hard core commitment; things that tamper with their freedoms and lusts.   Hundreds of millions of dollars pass out of the church’s hands in an effort to keep these folks comfortable, engaged, and entertained.

However, this is not the fault of the ‘casual’ believers; they’re simply living out the ‘gospel’ they’ve been taught!  Everyone loves to celebrate ‘this is my body, broken for you,’ but when the time comes to be broken for His sake, casual Christians holler ‘foul!’ and don’t want to stay in the game!

Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s account of the Lord’s Supper all emphasize what Jesus has done for us; and rightly so.  But John balances this by stressing the requirements of eating at the Lord’s Table and sharing in the very life of Christ.  John realized, after observing two generations of Christianity, there was a need to restate the Lord’s Supper material in the precise language of Jesus, and also to record the reaction of the fickle multitude that wanted to make Him king:

‘This is tough teaching; too tough to swallow!’  After this a lot of His disciples left.  They no longer wanted to be associated with Him.”  (John 6:60, 66 – The Message)

Beloved, read John 6 again, and let’s be certain we’re daily laboring for the real Bread that satisfies our deepest needs.  “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him.”  Jn. 6:29

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