The Gospel According to Saint Google


The world’s most popular search engine is a marvel of mathematics and algorithms.  Type just about anything into the search box on Google and the system will start providing type ahead options for what it thinks you are about to ask.  These options are based on the millions of searches that have been performed previously on the system and are there to help you refine what you are looking for and save you a few key strokes along the way.

When it comes to researching social stereotypes and societal perceptions nothing is more accurate that the Google search engine.  That’s why this article in Christianity Today was so interesting to me as a Christ-Follower.

“Church Stereotypes According To Google”

The number of times negative impressions of various Christian denominations came up is both sad and not surprising to me.  The terms “wrong”, “judgmental” and “cult” keep coming up time and time again.  I venture to say that it’s not just the atheists and agnostics that are driving these searches.  In fact I doubt it quite strongly.  I am willing to bet that the driving force behind most of these negative stereotypes is actually coming from competing Christian churches.  It’s a far cry from what John wrote would be the mark of Christians that’s for sure.

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. [John 13:35]

In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed for the unity of the church that would follow.  When Christians search out other denominations with questions like “Why are Anglicans so wrong” it grieves out savior and gives a black mark to us all.

20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. [John 17:20-23]

Dr. Greg Boyd of Woodland Hills Church in Saint Paul Minnesota and the author of several best-selling books including “Myth of a Christian Nation” and “The Benefit of the Doubt” said it best in a sermon not too long ago.  “The only opinion we are allowed to have about our fellow human beings is that God considers them valuable enough to die for.”

When so called Christians portray a contrary attitude is it any wonder that the church is struggling for relevance today?  David Kinnamen president of the research firm Barna Group put it this way in this book “unChristian; What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity and Why it Matters”

When outsiders claim that we are unChrisitian, it is a reflection of this jumbled (and predominantly negative) set of perceptions.  When they see Christians not acting like Jesus, they quickly conclude that the group deserves an unchristian label.  Like a corrupted computer file or a bad photocopy, Christianity, they say, is no longer in pure form, and so they reject it.

Just for fun I tested the Google algorithm by typing “they will know we are Christians by our love”.  I got 12 characters in before Google completed the phrase for me.  At least people are searching the right things, or maybe it’s because that’s the title of a popular hymn.  Who knows?

 What is Love?

Anyone who has hung around here for any length of time, and read my book knows that I talk a lot about Love.  More specifically I talk about living life with a Love Based Mentality.  So I figured it was high time I took a few minutes here to define what exactly I mean by that.

I’m obviously not talking about romance or sex or any other emotional response our culture might mistakenly equate with love.  I’m talking about something a lot less emotional and a lot more practical.  I’m talking about behaviour, not a feeling.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. [1 John 3:16]

Dr. Greg Boyd, author of the bestselling book “Myth of a Christian Nation” and lead pastor of Woodland Hills Community Church in St. Paul Minnesota once said that 1 John 3:16 is the ultimate definition of orthodoxy.   You see if God is Love, as we are told in 1 John 4:8 then in order to be orthodox we must manifest His love.  And how do we do that? By laying down our lives for our brothers and sisters, that’s how.

Now a lot of people balk at that definition and to be honest I don’t blame them.  I don’t blame them because when someone says that you must be prepared to “lay down your life” people automatically think that they have to be prepared to physically die.  And while in some extreme circumstances that may be true most of us in the west will never be put in a position where we have to make a choice between our own physical life and someone else’s.  No, more likely, and more practically in our modern culture the act of laying down our lives for someone is much more subtle.  But just because it’s subtle doesn’t make it any less impactful.

I call this blog The Meekonomics Project because being meek and laying down your life is one and the same thing.  In today’s vernacular “Blessed are the Meek” could be just as powerfully stated as “blessed are those who submit their power to others”.  Or “blessed are those who lay down their lives in service.”  Do you see the connection?

Now here’s where this gets hard, and I contend harder even than physically dying.  Laying down your life or releasing your grip on personal power is a recurring lifestyle choice.  Our culture tells us to get after it, self promote, reach for the top, go, go, go.  We are bombarded with messages from the media and surrounding culture that laying down our lives is foolish [Romans 1:22, 1 Corinthians 3:19].

But as Paul put it, we must become “living sacrifices”.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. [Romans 12:1-2]

When we live that way we begin to manifest a Christ-like Love.  We may never get it exactly right, we are a fallen people after all, but perfect love always looks like Jesus hanging on a cross.  Jesus was so committed to this kind of love that he not only laid down his life and was meek while he lived, in the end he wasn’t afraid to lay down his physical life as well.  And that, as John tells us is how we know what love is.