Cracking the Da Vinci Code

Virtual Reality
by Jonathan Wilson

Separating the Church's mistakes from the knowledge of God.

As a church pastor, I hear from many people who have been hurt by Christians or Christian churches. Sometimes the issues are minor, and have more to do with the individual's own ego. Often the issues are enormous, and concern abuses of trust and authority.

It is hard to separate the person of God in Jesus Christ from the people who believe in him. When a pastor presents himself as a spokesman for God, our trust in his authority is implied. If that pastor proves himself false in some way, our disappointment can reach far beyond the pastor. We might feel betrayed by God!

If you had experience in a strict religious school, where your individuality was suppressed by the need to conform, and failure to conform meant painful punishment, you might carry with you an image that God is mean and the Church is a painful place to be. These kinds of failures and abuses carry across the full spectrum of the Christian faith. Dan Brown finds a convenient target in the Roman Catholic Church, because it is so large and has touched so many lives, and out of the many a few have been hurt.

Jesus Christ is the image of God perfectly rendered for our understanding. From God to Christ there is no failure to show or to practice God's will for the world. Christ then established the Church to be a community of believers who proclaim the good news of the forgiveness of sins to the world. By choosing the Church, Christ chose imperfect people, sinful people, people who, even after coming to a relationship with Christ, struggle with the old nature of sin that all of us carry around. This old nature is the body that moves inexorably towards death. In Christ, that death is the gateway to a new life. Until we pass through that gate, the old nature hounds us to the appetites for sin: pride, envy, greed, lust. It is just as true for Christians as for anyone else.

In so many ways, I as a Christian have failed to be the person that God desires me to be. I allowed my own pride and ego to get in the way of the efforts of others to find God. As a teenager I was more concerned about the romantic soap operas in the Youth Group than I was about sharing Christ, even when those soap operas drove my friends away from the church. Too many people in my life have seen in me the evidence that "Christians are all hypocrites anyway."

I apologize to you, whom I might have hurt. I apologize to you who expected me to be like Jesus in order to show you how. I am embarrassed. Many times I have repented to God in prayer. There have even been some with whom I attempted to express my regrets in order to reconcile.

Christians are sinners. That is true before and after our decision to receive Christ. We are not perfect models of God's will. The best that we can do, in our humility, as we repent and seek God's forgiveness and your own, is to point to the one person who IS the perfect model. That person is not the Pope, not the Virgin: there is one perfect model alone, and that is Jesus Christ.

I hope that you will be able to separate the reality of God in Christ from the virtual reality presented by the Church. If Dan Brown has motivated you to seek answers, to find a Holy Grail, I hope that you discover the truth of the matter. That is my prayer for the millions of readers of the "Da Vinci Code." May a shaft of light shine through the curiosity that the book inspires. May its readers be challenged to think, and in their searching discover that even as Christians fail, Christ is everything he claimed to be.

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