Monday, August 6, 2012

For all Christians - Stop It

This post is strictly for Christians (of all denominations) and those who subscribe to the teachings of Jesus.  Not that I am trying to exclude in any way people of other faiths, and you are welcome to continue reading, but this is simply not aimed at you and I wanted to be up front with that.

(If you are not in the mood for a good rant, please leave this page and come back at a time when you are in a better mood.)

Still reading?  Just remember you have been warned.


If you disagree with someone fine, no problem to have differing opinions.  If you disagree with a brother or sister in Christ fine, but remember it is not up to you to determine which of is you "more right" or who is Jesus' favorite.  This has come out in a way that is ugly and belittling, not to mention self-aggrandizing.  Stop it.  Just because one person may feel one way about an issue and another may feel another way does not mean one of them is less Christian than the other.  Really.  If you disagree with someone of another faith or belief - fine, but don't try to force your beliefs and practices on them.  Stop it.  They are not required to adhere to your Christian principles, and that is not the same as making disciples, it is bullying.

I have listened over the past couple of weeks people talk about chicken sandwiches, whether to eat them or not, why we should or shouldn't, and quite frankly I am fairly convinced that Jesus is weeping.  Stop it.  There are Christians (yes Christians believe it or not) on both sides of very controversial social issues.  Both sides have formulated their cases and backed it up with what they feel is biblical authority.  Because everyone does not see it your way should not in any shape, form or fashion nullify your convictions if you are sincere in them.  Stop the bickering! 

And it should be convictions based from your own actual relationship with God, not from what you think you are supposed to think or believe, or what prejudices you have developed over the years and have attached a religious label to.  I've seen people who have not graced the doors of a church or cracked the spine of the Bible, let alone spend time with God in prayer and listening, take to task people who have devoted their lives to serving God, study of scripture, prayer and meditation and call them more or less 'un-Christian.'  That folks is hypocrisy.  Both sides are entitled to their convictions.  I just prefer the ones-on both sides-that are actual convictions based on a deep faith and belief, not just because it is the fashionable thing to do right now.

Jesus last words to the disciples is that we would be recognized by the love we have for one another.  Wow!  It seems so simple doesn't it.  Yet throughout the years Christianity has fought - everyone.  They have fought each other, the Jews, the Muslims, each other, each other, each other, and to what end.  Christianity in the US is declining at such a rapid rate, not because we don't have great programs or a band on Sunday morning, but because we have such a bad rap-people think we hate everyone, which is EXACTLY the opposite message Jesus was bringing.

There have been Christians who have consistently tried put things back the way the Pharisees had it that Jesus spoke out against and died for.  It isn't about division and it isn't about right or wrong.  We can all pull up scriptures to support our sides.  Can't we just agree that we see things differently, and maybe it is okay.  Perhaps this may be part of the diversity that God intended, perhaps?

I have seen people (non-Christians, marginal Christians and no-longer-wish-to-be-associated Christians) so completely and thoroughly disgusted with all the hate-mongering, bickering, and truthfully non-Christlike behavior that we will never convince them that God desires to be in relationship with them and loves them.  Never.  They are done.  Shame on us.  This isn't the commission we are to be carrying out.  Quite frankly the behavior I have seen recently is nothing short of self-idolization and placing limited understanding as the golden calf to which is worshiped instead of God. 

Jesus never said, go make sure that the laws of the land match your particular theology and everyone else is wrong.  Jesus never said that it would be easy peasy and a smooth ride, so that our convictions were simply adhering to civil law.  Jesus said, take up your cross, and there will be those who will be your enemy, pray for them.  Why would we rather pray to the laws of the land than to God?  Perhaps it is good for your faith if something you totally disagree with is okay for civil law, so you can stand firm in your convictions with love for those who are completely and totally different from you.

In the same time frame that people were waging a war on chicken or against chicken I am confused now, there have been those who would love to have a chicken sandwich, or any food at all for that matter.  Feed them.  There are those who we might look down our long and spiteful noses at for the shape of the clothing that they have, or don't.  Clothe them.  We were never commissioned - ever - to make everyone believe the same way.  We were commissioned to make disciples, and looking back over the course of Christian history, that looks different from people to people, time to time, and place to place.

And just in case you would like to say that we should teach them Christian principles, fine.  Teach them that the Kingdom of God is in the here and now, to do what Jesus did which was heal the sick, feed the hungry and eat with sinners.  Never did Jesus condemn anyone except those who were the religious elite, those who thought they could speak for God and keep some people out.  Those were who Jesus condemned, the goats.  The rest were brought into the fold loved, healed, forgiven, embraced, the sheep.

Jesus said the most important commandments were to love God with all you are and to love your neighbor as yourself.  Period.  Your neighbor, in case any of you want to argue this point as did the one trying to trick Jesus, was demonstrated in the story of the Samaritan.  The one who was despised, rejected, outcast, considered to be unclean and not included in the covenant - that was the one who demonstrated the commandment the best.  Think of who all you determine to be "other," not included, sinful, unclean, they will see the Kingdom of heaven before those who are judgmental, hateful, and jump on the bandwagon of discrimination. 

Just so we are all on the same page "freedom of speech" means the government can't kill you or imprison you because you make a statement such as you do not like the President or any member of government.  This seems to be very fortunate for many people I have been seeing post on the internet.  Freedom of Speech does not mean you can say whatever you want and other people have to agree with you or keep silent if they don't.  You can say whatever you want but if it is controversial, unkind, or just plain stupid expect someone to call you on it.  I think some people have not read the Constitution or the amendments that are attached in the Bill of Rights that they keep quoting, but of course it isn’t too dissimilar to quoting a Bible that you haven’t read in context either. 

So the next time someone who you disagree with entirely with your entire being is speaking as to how they feel take a moment to look into their eyes and see the image of God in them.  Take a moment to welcome the Spirit of God into your heart, bite your tongue as to your own opinions, lend an ear, and love with the heart of Christ.  Please.  I believe the Kingdom depends on it.

So, if this pinched your toes, so be it.  I feel a need to tell Christians to stop behaving in such a way that it embarrassing to God and gives Jesus a bad name simply because they want to feel right-er than the next person. If you are reading this and you feel the same way, pray fervently for those who call themselves Christians to actually begin behaving like Jesus who didn't die because he had a political agenda of moral rights and wrongs, but who died because he didn't.  Amen.

I'll climb back down off my soapbox now.