Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I Count It All S@*&

But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them S@*& that I may know Christ. Philippians 3:8.(NIV)

What? Your Bible doesn’t say that? Well, let’s look at that verse more closely.

Christians are really good at bragging about their spiritual pedigree. I’ve been to retreats and conferences where the mere introduction of a speaker leaves me feeling vastly inferior. They go something like this: “Bob Smith comes from a long line of spiritual giants. His great, great, great grandfather was the first pastor of the first church in the first incorporated city in the first county in the state of Kansas. His granddaddy built the first Christian college west of the Mississippi and his mother led an active Christian Mommy and Me playgroup which grew to be the largest Christian women’s organization in My Town, U.S.A.”

The speaker is then brought to the podium, met with thunderous applause and a healthy smattering of standing ovations. We’re not worthy, O Great One. Teach us your ways.

A woman from the mega church we used to attend started a class called “Leaving a Spiritual Legacy”. She taught parents to raise kids with the right spiritual pedigree. She pointed out that each time her children left the home she reminded them, “You carry the family name, and it’s your job to let people know what we are. Let it always be said that the Anderson kids are children of the Lord Most High.”

It reminds me of the Westminster Dog Show, or the Kentucky Derby. The prized pooches and ponies come to the games with impressive pedigrees. They often hail from a long line of winners, and they are the frontrunners from the starting gate.

Paul the apostle came to the pulpit with all the right papers—a well-respected pedigree. He lays his credentials out in Philippians 3:4-6. He came from a Jewish family who did it all right and took the idea of leaving a legacy very seriously. Paul was circumcised on the 8th day after his birth. He belonged to the people of Israel, and even more importantly, he belonged to the prestigious Tribe of Benjamin. He was a zealous legalist who followed all the laws without error. He was “righteous” and “faultless”.

But wait, in verse 8 Paul tells the Philippians that he considers all that stuff—all that spiritual pedigree nonsense—“rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in Him”. Righteousness, says Paul, doesn’t come from doing all the right things, but rather from knowing Christ.

The Greek word used in the passage for “rubbish” is skubalon. In the KJV this word is translated, “dung”. It’s the only time the word is used in the Bible, and I’m sure it shocked Paul’s audience to hear it spoken by him. Literally translated today, the word would be “shit”. Paul was telling the Philippians that his spiritual pedigree was nothing but shit that should be buried along with the rest of the camel dung. The only thing that matters is knowing—really knowing—Jesus Christ.

Look, I’m not saying that being proud of the multiple generations of preachers in one’s family is a bad thing, and I’m certainly not saying that raising up a child with a sense of Christian heritage and legacy is anything other than noble. What I am saying is that your pedigree won’t save you and Jesus doesn’t really care about it.

I’ve known many 3rd and 4th generation believers who know very little about the character of God. They’ve not seen His unconditional love in the wake of selfishness and lawlessness. They’ve not experienced the free and complete forgiveness that comes from the very heart of God—forgiveness that will NEVER come from the world (or The Church). These people brag about their Christian heritage and their prestigious lineage, but they don’t know Jesus.

I know recovering alcoholics and addicts who’ve come from long lines of sin and debauchery. Many of them only know their daddies and granddaddies from the ugly stories told to them by the pregnant women the men left behind. Some of these people have never known their moms outside of prison walls. They don’t have the Christian family Coat of Arms to hang above the fireplace mantle. But they’ve got something more valuable—they KNOW Jesus.

I don’t care what you know. I want to know how you learned it and whom you met along the way.

To all of you out there who are on search committees looking for your next inspirational speaker for your retreat or conference, I challenge you. Go out of your way and get off the beaten path. Look not for someone with all the “right” papers and credentials, but rather look for someone who has come to know—really know Jesus Christ. Let them tell their story. Let them tell you how doing all the right things is but shit when compared to feeling the warmth of God’s unconditional forgiveness wrapped around you.

Now get off the pew and look at God’s kids through the eyes of Jesus. Come on, you can do it. Just get off the pew!


  1. what does a spiritual pedigree mean?

    1. In this case, I'm using this term to describe people who come from a long family line of Christian "giants". People whose parents, grandparents, etc... are pastors, teachers, church planters, and the like.

      I think many people hang their salvation on the hem of their family garments. Some assume they are saved because of all the good works being done by their family.

      That is my experience