The media is full of eyebrow raising commentary on what is generically labeled as “Christian” behavior and beliefs. We see it on the news and now it is daily fodder in the wild and wooly world of cyber journalism known as Facebook. Much of the material presented points to fanatical and sometimes outrageous behavior demonstrated by individuals who claim to be Christians. At a core level there is confusion as to what the term Christian even means. Those who claim to be Christians are often the only thing that skeptics see and as a result they are never introduced to the actual teachings of Christ and the inspired words of God which can only be found in Scripture.
Contrary to popular rumor, Christians are not called to point fingers, judge and pronounce sentence upon those who they find to be deficient or contradictory in their beliefs and behaviors. True Christians are called to follow Christ.
Just this week the news was filled with stories about a Baptist Pastor in North Carolina who told his congregation that Gays and Lesbians should be confined with electrified cages in isolated areas and simply given food like prisoners until they died out. The story sparked outrage and indeed it should. A man standing in the pulpit of a facility that is supposed to be a sanctuary for worship of God delivered a message which is not only contrary to Scripture but verges on illegality as it encouraged conspiracy to do things which are clearly illegal and harmful.
The story put the secular world in an uproar and gave the news media a field day of controversy where the wayward acts of an individual were used as a measuring stick for the validity and purpose of the gospel. I am surprised that there was not more upheaval in the Christian community over this incident. The man should have been immediately removed from his position and probably referred for psychological evaluation. The congregation of this church not only listened and absorbed this message but came back again the next week. Reinforcements from other states journeyed to the church to take part in a confrontation with protesters the following week. The whole scene looked more like a feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys rather than a winsome example of the gospel as preached and demonstrated by Christ.
To those that read or hear about people who claim to be Christians behaving in a hateful and judgmental way such as the church previously noted I offer an apology as these actions are not sponsored or endorsed by God and do not in any way reflect Jesus Christ. Sadly many congregations allow this to happen simply because the congregants are functionally ignorant of what Scripture actually teaches. They have a plethora of excuses for their ignorance but the real reason that they don’t know is because it hasn’t been important enough for them to take the time necessary to read and subsequently study the Scriptures. Many will argue that they don’t have time but G. Campbell Morgan demonstrated more than 100 years ago that the Bible can be read out loud in just 96 hours. In a given year many people spend much more than 96 hours watching TV or now just surfing the internet and hanging out on social media sites. People magically find time for the things they value and how they spend their time is an excellent indication of what their true values are.
When it comes to the area of judging others, Jesus actually offers an admonition which is quite contrary to the ones often attributed to Christians by the media and secular observers. Consider the following statement by Jesus as documented in Matthew, Chapter 7:
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged: and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” – Matthew 7:1-5
Christians are called first to examine themselves. They are to deal with their own shortcomings and are not called to focus on others except in the area of love and service. To illustrate this idea I have drafted a letter for your consideration. It is offered as an example of the response someone might get if they sent a job inquiry letter to Heaven in hopes of being appointed as a judge. This letter, admittedly written with tongue slightly in cheek might read as follows:
Thank you for your recent inquiry regarding employment opportunities for judges. We received your resume and letter. We appreciate your interest in the position of Judge but regret to inform you that there we have only one position for a judge and that position has been permanently filled.
We have noted your extensive experience in the area of judgment and judging. Unfortunately we will have no further need for applicants with that skill set. We are, however, currently recruiting individuals for the following positions: lovers, encouragers, and servants. We offer extensive training in those fields and would be happy to consider your application in the event that you would be open to a new career path. We forsee an ongoing need for these positions worldwide and can guarantee that the positions are easily transferable in the event of a need for relocation. We also offer an exceptional benefits program which has already been fully employer funded in perpetuity.
Sr. Human Resources Advisor
I hope that some who get caught up in the fun of finger pointing will take a moment to ponder my fantasy letter from Heaven. Those within the true church are called to evaluate themselves daily (a subject for another day) and to encourage each other in their walk with God. That walk is to be primarily characterized by love. There are disciplinary procedures outlined in Scripture for handling church issues but they are all aimed at reconciliation and not judgment and punishment. The goal of discipline is always restoration – again that is a subject for another day.
To those who may read these words and be critical and skeptical of what they see from the cumulative behavior of the group labeled as the Christian church I can sympathize with some of your skepticism but encourage you to look at what Jesus did and said rather than the actions of misguided individuals claiming to act in His name. I remember seeing a T- Shirt with the following imprint: “I love Jesus, it’s His fan club that I can’t stand.” I can, again, relate to that sentiment and might even consider ordering a shirt like that for my collection as I am often embarrassed by the actions which are illegitimately and rampantly performed in association with the name of Christ.
What did Jesus really do? He came to give His life as a ransom for many. He came to be a servant and set an example for those who received His message. He came as the living embodiment of perfect love – love without any blemish. Shortly before his crucifixion Jesus said:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35
Christianity is about love. It’s about the perfect love of a perfect God for His wayward people. Any message that goes forth and does not have at it’s root the seeds of love is not a message from God. For those that are believers who may read this I encourage you to remember the commandment given in John 13. We are told that no matter what religious works we do they are all nothing in the absence of love. That isn’t opinion, it’s what the Bible says. To those who have been completely turned away from Christianity by what they have observed in “the church” I invite you to consider taking what you see there with a grain of salt and acquainting yourself, instead, with the inspired word of God which can only be found in the Bible. It’s a love story. It’s a true story. It’s the greatest love story ever told. Who knows, it might change your mind. It might change your life. It might change your eternity. It changed mine and I will be forever thankful for not only the message but the love that God poured upon me through grace and grace alone.