Escapism vs. Love

First… let me start out by saying that this is not meant as a critique on the teachings of any specific church.  I don’t believe it is possible to both love God and undermine those who are seeking Him.  These are personal convictions culminating into conclusions to which I’ve arrived (and in some cases have yet to arrive) regarding the teachings of Jesus about evangelism… or, more accurately, bringing others into His kingdom (“Kingdom” meaning “way of living life”).

First, since it is used philosophically to define so many different ideologies, let me define what I mean by “escapism.”

To me, escapism is the idea of adherents to the Christian religion trying to convince unbelievers to join out of some kind of fear of what will happen if they don’t “get saved.”  For example, I’ve heard the following:

“If you don’t get saved you’ll miss the rapture.”

“If you don’t get saved you’ll go to hell.”

“If you get saved, all your wildest dreams will come true and you’ll be wealthy.”

Each of these philosophies can be readily accessed and most of us – if not all – have heard these methods in the past.  They offer the reward of what you’ll escape if you decide to follow Christianity… in one case: escape from difficult persecution, in another: paradise in heaven… in yet another case: paradise on earth.

Without getting too deeply involved in these unbiblical methods of “reaching” non-believers (I’d rather talk about the ways of Jesus), I’d just like to say… none are appropriate.  Changing outward actions simply to avoid earthly persecution makes no contextual sense, and working to avoid hell misses the idea of Jesus’ teachings. Likewise, following Jesus out of a greed for earthly possessions really drives you further from him and his kingdom (remember… “way of living life”).

There are many other examples that could be given of “escapist theology,” but, as I said… I’d rather not make this a rant.

So, for me to say that escapism is wrong… it would imply that I believe another way is right… after all, I think the 101 of following the teachings of Jesus results in “Sharing the Good News of Christ.”

The Way of Jesus, the Way of Love

“If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.”

-Luke 3:11

When John the Baptist was prophesying about “the One who is to come” he quotes an interesting bit of scripture from Isaiah:

“The valleys will be filled, and the mountains and hills made level.  The curves will be straightened and the rough places made smooth. And then all people will see the salvation sent from God.”

-Luke 3:5

So many times I read over that verse without tying it to the real-life application that was given immediately following.  It’s the same as if a teacher gives an analogy, then the student asks for its application.  The people listening to John asked “what does this prophecy mean?”

“If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.”

In the illustration of the mountains and valleys John is referring to the rich and poor.  He is saying “the wealthy and poor will be made equal.”  He is saying, “When Jesus comes, those who choose to live by His standards will be on level ground. There will be no need, because the excess of one fills the need of another.”

Then, John also gave examples of dealing fairly with all, using the illustration of “the curves will be straightened.”

The people who were listening to John’s teachings were probably already religious Jews, so the fact that he was “baptizing” them was causing quite a stir… baptism was a common practice for many ancient religions, it was symbolization of birth into a new practice/belief/lifestyle.  So, here comes John (a Jew) baptizing Jews… into… what?

A kingdom… a new way of living life… led by the “One who is to come”… Jesus.

What do the members of this kingdom do?

Well… two qualities we’ve covered… they give of their excess to those whose needs are not met and they deal honestly in their affairs… not just abiding by the common business practice of taking advantage of others for personal benefit.

Suddenly, many of Jesus’ other teachings began making more sense, once I understood the meaning behind the teachings in Luke 3.  I always struggled with the idea that it would be hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God (Luke 18:24, Matthew 19:24, Mark 10:25).  It became clear… the reason it would be so difficult… they would have to give up their wealth.  Everything they had worked so hard for on earth, prestige, big house, fancy cars, etc… would be given up in order to meet the needs of others… valleys filled, mountains leveled.

I could go on forever with countercultural qualities of the way Jesus called His followers to live, but you’d probably stop reading… and this is already taking a longer form than my stereotypical blog post… so, let me throw out a few other qualities mentioned by Jesus (you can research on your own).

Jesus’ also taught his followers to… love God and seek Him… and have a crazy love for others that is able to look beyond faults, lifestyle, class, religious doctrine, etc…, come to the aid of widows and orphans in their distress… and remember those in prison.

So….

  1. Love God and seek Him
  2. Reckless love for others
  3. Give excess to those without
  4. Deal fairly with others
  5. Care for widows
  6. Care for orphans
  7. Care for those in prison

Can you imagine the effect such a group could have on the earth?

So, back to “Escapism vs. Love”…

Would there be any need for the “good ole” religion of scaring people into changing their outside actions, without really having any effect on the inside… if we were living out these qualities?

Love is the way of Jesus… and that is also how He said you will know those who follow Him… not by inviting them to our fancy buildings, displaying a condescending attitude, wearing dress clothes, using religious jargon, beating them over the head with a Bible…

But by the love we have and the way we live it out.

What a challenge.

In a time full of business churches… this is a radically different way of thinking.  We like to pretend that to follow Jesus simply means that we add Him to whatever we’re doing… but there is so much more to it than that.

It’s time to move past the persona of an organization of individuals waiting to die, so we can experience some future ethereal “kingdom” in a spiritual realm… and start realizing that Jesus said the kingdom (His way of living life) is now.

We just have to choose to follow Him.

3 thoughts on “Escapism vs. Love

  1. Great post! I would love to hear some elaboration on this: “Would there be any need for the “good ole” religion of scaring people into changing their outside actions, without really having any effect on the inside… if we were living out these qualities?

    Love is the way of Jesus… and that is also how He said you will know those who follow Him… not by inviting them to our fancy buildings, displaying a condescending attitude, wearing dress clothes, using religious jargon, beating them over the head with a Bible…

    But by the love we have and the way we live it out.”

    What has God been showing you as the answer to your question at the top of the quote? What would it look like practically.

    On another note: Some would say that “lifestyle evangelism” is what you advocate at the end of the quote. Is “lifestyle evangelism” effective? Does it work where you’ve seen “good ole” fail? Curious…

  2. Thanks!

    Recent surveys show that a majority of Americans do not believe in a literal place called “hell.” So, the escapist method of evangelism (be it rapture or avoidance of hell) would be comparative to telling an adult “If you’re bad, Santa won’t bring you a present.” It holds no weight.

    I’m not advocating a certain type of “evangelism” as far as programs, styles, etc…

    I believe if the above lifestyle were being lead, “lifestyle evangelism” would be extremely effective… not advocating we should be passive in our expression to others… but living a life of holiness and this counter-cultural lifestyle would definitely bring up some interesting conversations.

    Personally, I can’t say what this looks like… there’s a small picture of it described in Acts… but, it’s where I hope to be headed.

  3. Iam in agreement with living the life of Christ. I want to add some scriptures to this. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hopitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in it various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.”

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