This is a blog post that I have been working on for…well…weeks. I keep coming back to it, deleting sections, adding more, pouring over my words tediously examining my intent. Needless to say, this has been a labor of love. Love. Love. Love. (you’ll get it in a minute)
Do you hear loving, forgiving, caring, nurturing, compassionate? I bet you don’t.
I don’t want to be labeled a Christian. Society has me pegged as one. I carry all the trademarks. I believe in God. I believe he sent his only son to be my savior. I attend church, I volunteer with the youth, I pray, I cling fast to the teachings of Jesus Christ.
But I don’t want that term on me anymore. I am disappointed and disillusioned with the term “Christian”. What does it really mean anyway? Do Christians believe and practice Christianity? Or do they follow Christ?
But wait! Aren’t they the same? Well, you would think so. And here’s where the story takes a twist…
When talking to people who don’t go to church, it usually has nothing to do with Jesus. In fact, the majority view Jesus as a well-intentioned teacher with a beautiful message of love and grace. No, what people don’t like is church and the “Christians” who go there. Christians have ruined the church. But you already know this. Chances are you’ve been to several churches and have experienced Christians first hand.
I’ve followed Jesus for almost 8 years now. Of course I didn’t get it at first. I say “Great! I’m saved! I’ve been Baptized. Now what?”. Thankfully, I’ve been blessed with fantastic mentors. The more I have learned, the more I have read, the more I dive into Jesus’ teachings…the more I understand what it is all about. And quite honestly, in my quest to follow Jesus more closely, I have been led OUT of the church because I am not finding Jesus there. I am finding Him elsewhere: In the living rooms of fellow believers who desire to know Him more (Matt 18:20). In the car, on the drive to work. In quiet moments of contemplation (Psalms 46:10). Read the Bible and you’ll find that Jesus did his work outside of the church. Giving prayer, love, and healing to those who we would all deem unworthy. He challenged the so called “religious” people and shook the very foundation of what they held dear by saying God is available to everyone. So naturally, we publicly humiliated him, tortured him, and nailed him to a cross to die a slow and painful death. And it was the religious leaders (the church) who led the charge! If Jesus came back tomorrow, what would his reception be?
I just don’t get it. Why and how the message got so lost along the way? I am a literal and logical person and when I study the teachings of Jesus, they are profound yet mind-numbingly simple to grasp.
That was pretty much the gist of it all. Love.
Love God, love each other, love strangers, love your enemies, love your family, your friends, etc. Just…love. So how in the WORLD have we turned that message into one of judgment, contempt, elitism, gossip, and betrayal? God sent his son to die for us, out of love. Jesus spent 3 years travelling, ministering, healing, praying, and spreading a message of love and acceptance. And over the years we have twisted his words to suit our lifestyles. Making ourselves a God that is convenient for us to stuff in our back pocket when we feel like we need Him and condemn others when our pride needs a boost.
As a Christ-follower, I am light years from perfect. I will never be perfect. But I can strive to be a little more like Jesus each day. I can do my best to take my thoughts captive, to think before I speak, to learn to forgive, to try and love everyone the best I know how. That’s all Jesus asked of us. Do your best, and do it with honest intentions.
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know you are my disciples. (John 13:34-35)
I read that over, and over, and over (in multiple versions and translations) and I wonder…what else does it mean? The words are simple. Don’t concern yourself with what they do, what law they have broken, what sin they have committed…just love and accept them. Gay? Love them. Adulterer? Love them. Liar? Thief? Love them. Hate the sin…but love and forgive the sinner. And by that practice, that attitude, people will see Jesus at work. We don’t recognize Christians anymore because they don’t act like Jesus. If we aren’t acting it, then how will others know? In my small group we are studying Forgotten God by Francis Chan and he plainly talks about how we can’t see the differences in people who have been saved versus those that haven’t. This is what Christianity has become…not really following Christ. Stings doesn’t it? Many Christians are modern day Pharisees. And that my friends, is not where we would want to be. Sadly, we don’t even know we’re in that state.
We are all broken. We are ALL sinners. Every single one of us. And we must recognize this daily. We didn’t deserve a savior, but we got one. Jesus loved everyone with reckless abandon and his message was pretty clear for us to do the same.
It’s not that hard of a concept. Hard to execute? Absolutely. But being a Christ follower means giving an honest effort. And I find that being a “Christ-follower” is nothing like being a “Christian”.
Thanks for reading.