Dear Fellow Christians,
After giving it much thought, I think the message of the Good News is being threatened.
Many people are leaving churches and turning their backs on Christianity. Why? Because people who speak on behalf of Jesus the Christ are dismissing the most important part of Christ’s message: Love.
About twenty years ago, I was rejecting Christianity myself. When I was in college, I had experiences that led me to believe that Christianity was the religion of hypocrisy. In the name of Christ, some were misusing their power to control and manipulate others. When visiting churches, people were more concerned about their dress or hobnobbing with friends than greeting others with Christ’s love.
I could not see the presence of God in church or surrounding many Christians.
Fortunately, by my mid-twenties, I began to find the light in the Body of Christ. I found my way back to church and began to see the presence of God in new and exciting ways. There were times I still found doubt in the goodness of Christianity, especially when my beliefs weren’t “good enough” for people. But I knew that spreading the message of Christ’s radical love was more important for me to focus on than negative remarks heading my way.
But not everyone is there.
Many people think that Christianity is the religion of rules and perfect morality. People think we care more about getting into heaven instead of making heaven here on earth. The message of Christ’s radical, enduring love has fallen short because Christians misuse the name of Jesus the Christ to correct and control other people.
And why not? Mahatma Gandhi once stated “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” This is a perfect example of the reputation Christianity now has in the world.
Thinking back to 2012, I remember stories like the exclusion of my friend’s church from a softball league because he identified as bisexual. Rev. James Darnell Semmelroth was the pastor of the church but did not participate in the games. Even though the pastor wasn’t playing, some churches didn’t want to associate with the church in any capacity.
While I am a straight ally, I understand that not everyone is at the place where they agree with gay marriage, ordination, etc. But for the love of LOVE, can’t we put aside our theological differences and eat together, laugh together, even play softball together? Love means crossing boundaries to embrace a person as a child of God, whether or not you agree with them. Jesus ate and associated with all people. He set “rules” aside as he healed people on the Sabbath. To Jesus, love and relationships trump dogmas and fears. By associating with people unlike ourselves, we hear personal narratives and learn to understand each other deeply.
We hear how Westboro Baptist Church wants to protest all sorts of funerals because we’re such a sin-ridden country. In 2012, we heard various clergy blaming LGBT persons/allies for Hurricane Sandy and atheists for the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Do they realize how their hateful words ripples into our world? Do they realize their loud voices are drowning so many voices of love and compassion? Do they really think this is the message of the all-inclusive Christ?
Yes, maybe I’m being judgmental. But I’ll be honest… stories like these may be why many people are turning their back on Christianity. Many of the messages linked to Christianity are not ones of love. The Good News can not be heard. Because of this, many people find no use for Christianity anymore. And I can understand why they’ve reached that conclusion.
So for 2013, I challenge all of us Christians to break the boundaries of love. Let us love radically. If there is someone who you feel like judging, try to talk with them and understand their story. If there is someone who you fear, pray and understand why you may fear them. You do not have to agree with them. But in your love and escaping your comfort zone, you are being a witness to the greatest love of all time: the unconditional love of God that we Christians see in Christ. Let our voices be louder than those of judgment and hate.
I realize that no matter how hard I try, this doesn’t mean I’m not going to mess up or misrepresent Christ now and again. I wouldn’t try to misrepresent Christ’s love on purpose, but I think as humans we all tend to make errors now and again. Sometimes these errors come out of misunderstanding or fear. As a person of the Christian faith, my goal is to continuously find ways to focus on the radical love of Christ. Allowing this steadfast love to trample any fears and to clear misunderstandings will bring us closer as humans.
All I can do as a Christian is keep on trying.
If Jesus, the one who knew God greater than any of us, was able to love outside of the box, then maybe we should give it a try. Because if we call ourselves Christians and do not love, what kind of witness are we to our faith?
Instead of hearing messages of judgment and hate, what if people saw Christians feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, advocating for the voiceless? What if we told people who have been discriminated against, bullied, beaten, blamed and shamed that God loves you just as you are? What if we started a campaign to bring the louder voice of loving Christianity to the world? What if people realized that this is the true Good News of Christianity worth sharing? The worst that can happen is that by January 1, 2014, people will see Christianity being the religion of Christ’s radical love more clearly. If you have any ideas, post below. Let’s go for it!