This past Sunday was bath time for my sweet pup, Crowder. Sometimes I can’t believe how dirty this dog, who spends most of his time in the house, can get. Even the floor mat beside my tub has brown spots from those dirty paws. Thankfully, Crowder loves to have a bath. I am not sure if it is because the water is just fun to splash or all the loves he gets as I rub him down with shampoo, but either way, he fully enjoys jumping into the experience.
I, on the other hand, end up getting dirty, then wet, then exhausted from trying to keep him contained so I can get this task completed before the whole bathroom needs fixing. As someone who has some limitations due to my chronic pain, I realize I have two choices. I can get rid of the dog, or I can drain the tub, clean up any mess and love the blessing this dog brings to my life. I have chosen the latter.
There is a phrase that says, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater,” which basically means don’t get rid of something valuable while disposing of something worthless. I learned the meaning of this phrase while on a tour of the Laura Ingalls Wilder site in Burr Oak, Iowa. This is a hotel that the Ingalls worked at during a time when a plague of grasshoppers destroyed their crops in Walnut Grove, Minnesota. In the tour, our host talked about how the guests, depending on what they paid, were able to decide their order in getting to use the bathtub. Since there was no running water the bathtub was filled up once per day, and the more you paid, the cleaner the water was that you used. Sadly, this often meant that the babies were last in the tub, in the dirtiest water.
With this in mind, I want to share some of the thoughts that have been floating around in this head of mine lately. In the news and even personally, I hear about people who are abandoning Christianity. They are throwing it out because, as I see it, it has gotten very dirty here in America.
It is amazing how dirty those who call themselves Christians, who spend a lot of their time in God’s house, can get.
Christianity has become known for its political agenda, judgmental-ism, and exclusiveness. Believe me when I say that I want to throw all of that out too. The church we hear of on the news and see lived out in many “Christians” is nothing like the one Jesus meant it to be. The Christianity that He said would be known by love. (John 13:35) I think even Jesus wants to throw this current Christianity out.
In the book of Revelation, there are letters written to seven churches representing different church movements in history. One specific church that seems to me to relate to the one we are in now is the Laodicean church found in Revelation 3:14–21. Here the Lord is describing this church as “lukewarm” because the material prosperity they lived in led them to a self-sufficient attitude that expressed itself by them claiming to know God but actually living as though He doesn’t exist.
Jesus finds their way of Christianity so distasteful that He tells them that He will “spit you out of my mouth” (verse 16). As a scholar put it, “The Laodiceans were neither cold nor hot in relation to God, just lukewarm. Hot water can cleanse and purify; cold water can refresh and enliven. But lukewarm water carries no similar value.” It is in verse 20 that we find the real reason the church got to this state. The picture is given of Jesus standing outside, knocking to come in and bring the fire the church needed in the form of His presence with them.
Truthfully, in our current world, there are good reasons people are throwing Christianity out of their lives. I can say I have been tempted on more than one occasion to do the same. The lukewarmness of not having the presence of Jesus as the source for this hurting world makes me want to throw up. I struggle a lot with the messy church, just like I really struggle when my puppy destroys something of value in my house. But when it comes right down to it, my relationship with Crowder means too much to get rid of him over the messiness. I love his presence so his messiness does not change my love for him. For that same reason I will not get rid of Jesus. I can honestly say that I love His presence and the messes that come with that do not stop my love for Him.
As I look back to scripture, there is a story that shares a similar heart response to my thoughts of throwing out my faith. In John 6 Jesus has just been sharing some hard truth about what it means to follow Him, and in verse 66 we learn that many people turned away and deserted Him. Jesus then turns to His closest followers and asks the question I believe He has asked of me in those hard to understand moments. He says, “Do you want to leave too?” My heart has eventually gotten to the same place those disciples were as Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.”(Verse 68)
Though I have been a Christian since I was 9, it took me a few dark times before I actually fully opened the door to the presence of Jesus being a part of my walk. Once I opened the door to Him His words have truly given me life. Jesus fills me with love through the Holy Spirit on a daily, moment by moment, basis. His mercy and grace flow into me for those who walk in my path. I long to get rid of the dirtiness of the Christianity that hurts and destroys and instead, become the light and salt we are called to be. I will drain the dirty water of this cultural, American Christianity as much as I can but I will not throw out Jesus. I can throw out the worthless and still keep the most valuable thing in my life.
Crowder is an amazing addition to my life. He gives me joy and love, laughter, and fun. Though he takes my energy and brings some messes into my life I find him worth all of it. I am officially a dog person. I will continue to drain the water from the tub, clean up the mess, but will keep this sweet puppy.
Jesus is also an amazing addition to my life. He gives me joy and love, laughter, and fun. There are those messy, hard to understand times as a result of my decision to invite His presence into the home of my soul but He has been and will be worth it all. I am officially a Jesus person.
So, as I start the process of draining cultural, American Christianity out of my life, I will keep my sweet Jesus forever.
I hope you consider doing that too! If you have any questions about this, let me know. I would love to have a conversation with you. Just remember that both Crowder and Jesus will be there doing what they do. Loving, challenging, and wanting you to see who they really are.