Are we too familiar with Jesus?
Easter weekend is one of the most highly attended weekends for churches. Most churches are full of their normal attendees and have a high percentage of visitors or people who stop by for the main Christian holidays.
My husband wanted to invite some people who don't normal go to church to come with us. Admittedly, I felt awkward about it. Obviously they know what Easter is all about and know what we're trying to do.
Then I sat down to write this post, and couldn't shake the fact that I felt like I had to write about Easter but really didn't want to. Again, the message feels too familiar to me.
I had the same problem with writing an Easter blog post and with inviting friends to church; familiarity.
Carey Nieuwhof put it this way:
"the reality is that some churches will be more effective at retaining unchurched people because they’ve figured out what the greatest challenge with major Christian holidays is: It’s familiarity. Unchurched people know the Easter (and Christmas and Good Friday) story. They just don’t care."
The reason why I feel like Easter doesn't need to be covered on my blog, and why it feels funny to ask friends to go and hear about Easter, is because it's so familiar.
We all know the story of Jesus' death and resurrection whether we grew up in the church or not. In some cases, I think being familiar with God and with His Word is incredibly important. We are told to hide the Word of God in our hearts (Psalm 119:11) and this is why vacation Bible school is full of little kiddos memorizing God's Word.
But there's a danger there too.
When we become so familiar with a message it can start to feel like it's just falling on deaf ears and not really impacting us (Acts 28: 26). We are forgiven, God's grace is incredible, yada yada yada...
Our familiarity tempts us to hear a message packed with power as if it's just a familiar Bible story that we could recite the main details of back with to someone else with ease. But the Bible is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). Familiarity tells us to walk into this week unchanged.
When the Bible becomes too familiar to us, we go to it with assumptions about what it says and we lose our sense of curiosity.
In this post from Desiring God, here are a few things you might think are in the Bible if you're familiar with it, but actually aren't:
Adam and Eve regularly walked and talked with God in the Garden of Eden.
Jesus’s ministry lasted 3 years.
Jesus died at the age of 33.
Jesus walked through walls after his resurrection.
God commands Christians to pray before every meal.
Money is the root of all evil.
(Read the full post here if you're interested in seeing what the Bible actually says...)
If you're like me, you probably thought at least a few of those bullet points were in the Bible. With Easter Sunday, unchurched (and churched!) people come in and approach the Easter message the same way.
We all have assumptions we bring based on our familiarity. And in our familiarity, we miss out on an opportunity to really meet God.
Experts are familiar with their subject matter, but Jesus never said to approach the Kingdom of God like an expert. He said to come to it like a child (Matthew 18:3). Children are curious and full of questions, but most importantly; eager to listen and learn.
When Jesus went to His own hometown, the response He got was,
"isn't this Mary's son?"
People were familiar with Him. They already knew who He was and assumed they didn't need to learn anything new about Him. I wonder if we are starting to approach Him in this same way.
We can read that passage and think we would never be that way, but I think this is the reason why so many visitors went to church yesterday and left unchanged.
And it's the same reason why this morning, we could start today as if it's any other day.
Jesus? We know Him. We're familiar. But I can't help but wonder if we're missing out on miracles because of our familiarity.
The invitation is to approach God with less familiarity and more curiosity. To seek Him in a childlike spirit that lays down our assumptions and invites Him to reveal more of Himself to us, instead of saying, "isn't this Mary's son?"
Then we can experience the power of God in new ways, His mercy is new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-24), and like Job we can say,
"My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you" (Job 42:5).