“Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand.” — Mark Twain
“If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” – John 4:10
A few years back, a popular Christian tee shirt compared Jesus to a soft drink. It said, “Jesus: He’s the real thing.” It was cute, as far as it goes. Not life changing, but cute.
Then I actually heard a minister compare the life-giving, pure water of Jesus to a can of Coke. He said Jesus was a pure relationship with God, while a Coke was a relationship with man-made additives. One was pure relationship and one was mostly religious. Well, he had my attention.
Water, as opposed to your favorite soft drink, is necessary for life. We must have water in order to live. We drink it and wash with it. Water is a lubricant, dispels heat and sustains life, supports digestion, makes things soft and aids in eliminating waste. All life on this planet needs water to live. Water is indispensable, and the need for water has been the force behind more than one war.
A soft drink, however, with all its fancy ingredients, is necessary for nothing. We cannot bathe in it, use it to brush our teeth or add it to our radiator to displace heat. You can’t water the lawn with it, and you certainly can’t use it wipe down a dirty table or wash your clothes. A soft drink is mostly water with various additives; and none of these additives is necessary for an efficient and effective life.
Here’s the part that bothers me. Instead of focusing my life on the pure, life-giving living water of Jesus, I’ve often focused too much of my time on the additives. And when we add stuff to Jesus, we limit His effectiveness.
There is nothing inherently wrong with stained glass, old hymns, eleven o’clock church services, voting for a new pastor, Sunday school, abstaining from wine, monthly potluck dinners, choirs or hiring a youth pastor, as long as those additives are directing us to Jesus. Sure, all those religious traditions may seem make our relationship with God better, but in large quantities it reduces the singular property of Jesus. We must be careful to worship the God who created structure, and not worship the structure created by God.
If we want to add “flavor” to the purity of Jesus, we must make sure we do not make the things we add equal with Jesus, thinking if we eliminate the flavor or tradition, we are somehow missing God. And yes, I have done just that. I’ve been so caught up in my own experiences and church traditions that I’ve judged any other way of “doing church” as not the right way, exchanging a worship of the Creator for a worship of the created. What a shame.
It has taken a few years, but I’m finally coming to the point where I can find the purity of Jesus in any Christian church I walk into. Yes, some churches necessitate I wade through a few more additives or push aside some unnecessary traditions in order to find Him, but the purity of Jesus can still be found among two or three who are gathered in His name.
You might think from reading this that I only drink water, but you would be wrong. I like the occasional soft drink. But I know what I’m drinking, and never make the mistake of trying to wash myself with the Coke of religion when only pure water of Jesus will make me clean.