It's been quite a while since my last post. I could use excuses about being busy with various things, but the fact of the matter is I write so much for a living that when I get home I just typically don't feel like writing anything else. My brain gets tired!
Recently, however, I've read some things that have prompted me to share my thoughts. Please understand the following opinions are my own, and a direct reflection of my beliefs as a Christ-following Christian. (Using "Christ follower" and "Christian" together may seem redundant, but for the purpose of this post the meaning is exactly what I want to convey.)
Social media is a strange animal. I am the social media director at my place of business, so I am constantly monitoring not only the pages devoted to my business, but also the pages of our peer businesses, general news feeds, blogs and any other web-based networks that may have up-to-date information about the ever-changing world of social media. In doing this I am also bombarded with irrelevant advertorial messages and the thoughts of those who happen to frequent my own personal news feeds. It is there that I have seen vicious rants about religion as a whole, and Christianity in particular. As someone who loves my Lord, it is, of course, offensive to me as a Christian, just as it would offend me if someone spoke harmfully about my husband or my daughter or even about me. But it also saddens me, because most of what has been written is due to an ignorance regarding Christianity - the people hating on my Jesus have never even read the Bible, and certainly have never studied it - and their hatred of Christianity as a whole is based on the words and actions of people who claim to be Christians but are doing it all wrong.
It may come as a surprise to some, but there are people who call themselves Christians who don't have any idea what the Bible says or the message that Jesus delivered. They may go to church every Sunday, participate in the pot-lucks, go to Sunday school, sing in the choir, wear a cross around their necks, and still not have a clue. To them, "being a Christian" is no different than being a member of a bowling league... it's a place to go and socialize. This is sad, but it's the absolute truth.
And the worst of these people are giving Christians a bad name.
See, here's the thing: It's about love. If you spew hate, then you don't know the Gospel. If you think that you can buy your way to Heaven, or hurt, or kill, or lie, or step on other people to get there, then your idea of Christianity is all wrong. IF YOU HATE, YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG. Jesus taught, He preached, He spent time with sinners, He wept... but He did not hate. His message was one of love.
The group of people that Jesus gave the sternest warnings to were the Pharisees, who were the religious leaders of His day. They wore only the finest clothes, expected the best seats in the house, saw themselves as better than others, followed all of the "legal" religious protocols... and yet, Jesus was constantly telling them they were doing it wrong. (For reference, read Matthew 23.)
When asked which of the commandments was the most important, Jesus said:
"You must love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments." Matt 22: 37-40 NLT, also found in Mark 12:29-31
In the Sermon on the Mount, which begins in Matthew 5 with The Beatitudes, Jesus preached that "God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the Children of God." (Matt 5:9) He said we shouldn't stay angry, and that we should reconcile ourselves with those we are feuding with. (Matt 5:24) He said we should love and pray for those who persecute us. (Matt 5:44) He said we should give to the needy, that we cannot serve both God and money, and that we should not condemn others. And He preached the Golden Rule. One of the most convicting lessons of this sermon for me is Matthew 6:14-15, which says that we must forgive others or we are in danger of not being forgiven ourselves.
In both Luke and John the story of Jesus clearing the temple can be found, which teaches us that religion is not to be used for profit and prestige. Jesus was not okay with people being exploited or harmed in the name of religion. We shouldn't be okay with it, either.
The Apostle Paul penned in his letter to the Galatians that when we are living a Christ-like life, we will display the "fruits of the Spirit," which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These qualities define who Jesus was, and if we are living a life that follows His teaching then we will display these qualities, as well. Even when trying to teach others in the faith, we should do it gently and with kindness, never with hatred and malice. If you call yourself a Christian and you spew hate, then you are doing it wrong.
The unfortunate part of the Christian church is that it is run by and filled with human beings, who are in their nature, imperfect. I am not perfect. I am a sinner. And I sit on the pew next to other sinners every Sunday. I mess up every day just like everybody else does, But I understand that if I love my Lord and ask for His forgiveness, and if necessary, the forgiveness of any person I may have hurt, then my Lord will forgive me. I understand that I am called to love others. Hate in my heart hurts no one but me in the end, and violence is hate in physical form. I understand that there are times when fighting is necessary, particularly when it's a battle between good and evil, and there is a lot of evil in the world today. But a battle due to pride or ego or the hate of something you don't understand is wrong. It's Just. Plain. Wrong.
So when I read the ranting opinions of someone who hates Christianity and denigrates those who follow its teachings, it saddens me tremendously. Typically, those who hate us don't really understand what we're about. They've only been exposed to or become the victims of the people who are doing it wrong.
I remind my daughter often to think of the consequences before making a decision or doing or saying something that could hurt her witness, and I try to do this myself. It's so important, because not only are we judged as individuals, we are also representing Jesus Christ. And we should never do anything to hurt or embarrass Him. We should always try our best, as imperfect human beings, to do it right.