I’m writing this for your welfare. Or should I say, for your reclamation.
I will play to the part of the ghost of your former partner, Jacob Marley. However, in this case, it wasn’t too late for me. And the good news, it’s not too late for you either.
It’s my sincere hope for you this Christmas that you would be haunted–not by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future–but by the Three-in-One Holy Ghost!
Okay, this analogy won’t be a perfect one, but I think it’s a pretty good one.
Like Charles Dicken’s Ebenezer Scrooge in his classic tale, “A Christmas Carol,” so many of us have given our life to Jesus but have lost our soul. I wrote about this and shared my own testimony of my reclamation from “Scrooge Christianity” in another post.
So, how are we like Scrooge, you ask? Well, let’s see…
Our “Scrooge” view of God and the world around us
Scrooge was afraid of the world and lived in fear. Aren’t many Christians preoccupied with fear of this world? We live in fear and focus on what’s wrong with the world because we haven’t been perfected in love. And fear is the opposite of love.
Like Scrooge, we grow up seeing the world around us as hard and cold, something we need to be protected from. So we build an impenetrable fortress around our heart, trading intimacy for do’s and don’ts, demonizing people and labeling them cults and heretics if they disagree with our dogma, pointing our judgmental finger at those we disapprove of, following after things that can never bring peace to our searching soul. All of this is based in fear.
We may become “right-wing conservative” Scrooges, fighting to keep our middle-class upscale aspirations alive, our chain store and latte way of life pure from the unsavory poor’s intrusions. “Spend my hard-earned money supporting those lazy good-for-nothings? What! Are there no prisons, are there no workhouses? And if they are to die, they’d better do so and decrease the surplus population!”
Then there are the Scrooge Christians obsessed with conspiracy theories, Armageddon doom, false prophets, false Christians, antichrist governments and insecurities about who’s falling away and who are the true believers. Again, fear-based.
Scrooge Christians know who Christ is, but they don’t know who they are in Him. They have no abiding joy and peace, only their suspicions, duty and obligation. They live disconnected from the Father’s love because, like Scrooge, they’ve never felt affirmed as an unconditionally beloved son or daughter of God. So their love has conditions. They don’t trust because trust comes from faith and love. So…they live disconnected in fear.
And I should know…I was a card-carrying member for 25 years of my Christian life!
Again, my role is Jacob Marley here… 🙂
Our Scrooge theology
Furthermore, it seems that many sincere believers see their heavenly Father a lot like young Mr. Scrooge’s father–an unapproving, vindictive patriarch who can barely look at him, sending him off to a lonely boarding school at an early age. A father who finally must be appeased by his sister, Fan, before poor Ebenezer can come home.
Fan represents Jesus in our Scrooge theology.
“Oh Ebby, father is so much better now! I’ve come to bring you home!” Of course, it turns out that young “Ebby” was only rescued from his lonely plight to be shipped off to the workhouse and not so he could actually go home to live with his father.
And this disillusionment only made Scrooge more hardened and justified in his jaundice-eyed view of the world, more judgmental, more fearful than ever.
But how different is this from our evangelical theology about the atonement? Don’t we have an angry distant Father who had to be appeased by amiable and approachable Jesus before He can even look at us? And even then, don’t we require that one must be sorry enough, start doing enough and stop doing enough, start saying the right things and stop saying the wrong things and, of course, look the part, before we’re actually accepted?
And we only get to go “home” when we die. Whoosh!
No wonder so many born-again believers have trouble being intimate with God. No wonder going deeper with Him is such a low priority. Would you want to be intimate with “Scrooge’s father?” I think not!
Legalism or intimacy with God…pick ONE
We’ve been taught a version of the atonement of Christ that I believe greatly hinders our relationship with our heavenly Father. It’s a Roman Jurisprudence-based legalistic view of why Christ came–to appease an angry Father before He will love us. Jesus pleads our case in front of stern, exacting Judge and has us worthless rabble acquitted…that is, as long as Father keeps His “Jesus glasses” on.
Not that a legal presentation of Christ’s atonement for our sin is not technically true, but that it misses the whole point. God is more a lover than a lawyer.
And it actually teaches something very untrue about God.
As C. Baxter Kruger has pointed out, this legalistic evangelical understanding of Christ’s atonement, which basically teaches that His love is conditional, and that the Trinity is schizophrenic (angry Father, graceful and loving Jesus), is at the root of why so many have trouble being intimate with God.
This schizophrenic view of God inevitably leads to an orphan relationship with Jesus while remaining disconnected from a Father that we don’t trust at a deep heart level.
But this not a stern Father who sent Jesus because He couldn’t look at us in His distain. It was so that He could finally live with us because of His unfathomable love! This was in His heart from before the foundation of the world.
He runs out to meet to us and says, “You are mine! You are home now…forever!” For God is the father with the two orphan-hearted sons in Luke 15:11-32. He’s a lot more like “old Fezzywig” than Scrooge’s father.
Finally, as we know, Scrooge’s story has a happy ending…so there’s hope for all of us too!
May we be all be haunted by the love of God this Christmas!
So, I’m praying for your reclamation this Christmas. But it will take a real haunting from God for this love transformation to take place.
For how did this hardened, miserable and lonely old Scrooge get transformed from a fearful old miser into a loving uncle and “father” of the whole city in this tale? Was it not after having a life-changing encounter with the “Spirit of Christmas?”
And for us, when we truly encounter the Father’s love for ourselves, we cannot be left as religious orphans–we will also be transformed from fear to love. Everything changes! All of a sudden, we actually have an unending supply of grace and love in our hearts for people, even those we used to despise.
We get our soul back! Our heart has been awakened! We’re no longer reacting in fear like an orphan but living affirmed in His love as a son! We’re truly alive again!
It’s my prayer and hope that, like Scrooge, you would be haunted by the Holy Spirit this Christmas. That you would be renewed with hope and find the JOY you were meant to have in Christ. After all, “gospel” means “news that brings GREAT JOY!”
I will end by including the closing video clip from the 1951 classic rendition of “A Christmas Carol” starring Alastair Sim. Sit back and watch how Scrooge is transformed, and what it might look like when we’re full of joy that comes living in the Father’s embrace.
And how do you think the world that Jesus is trying to reach through you would respond if we actually starting loving them this way?
Hey, it worked for Scrooge. It’s bound to work for us too. Just a thought…
“And it was always said that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us…all of us. And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless us…everyone.”
“Scrooge shows us what it looks like to be transformed by love”
YouTube video provided by Kris Kringle