As a Christian I’ve longed to be identified by what I am for versus what I am against. I move from rage to shame when I see public figures identify themselves as Christians while they defend hateful actions or words. I sigh deeply when I see not so public figures express their opinions in not so Christian ways on social media. Why oh why, I bemoan, do there have to be liberal and conservative Christians? I’m so turned off by it all that when I filled out my “religious views” on Facebook I felt compelled to define Christian as “Trusting the Father, walking with Jesus and depending on the Holy Spirit”. I realize it’s a really lame, incomplete definition of what it is to be a Christian.
Over the last few years I’ve come to realize my desire to be identified by what I am for versus what I am against is also a lame and incomplete definition of a Christian too. Bummer. I’m not too fond of conflict.
In an opinion piece published by Times and Patheos, entitled, “I Want My Christianity Back –Without the Ugly Baggage”, the author, Mark Sandlin, bemoaned, “Truthfully, I don’t blame people who assume that if you’re Christian you’re anti-LGBT, anti-abortion, anti-real equality, anti-other religions and pretty much anti-anything else that one small but loud subset of Christians find offensive or threatening.” I get what he’s saying…kind of. But that quote in itself is full of the potential for misinterpretation.
Among other things, it’s that darn “anti” prefix. Jesus was and is “for” all people. Let’s face it, the people who ticked him off the most were the religious folks. But Jesus is no door matt or “live and let live” God. He has standards – the highest of standards. It’s called holiness. (Holiness is another grossly misunderstood word).* When Jesus was asked what THE greatest commandment is he said it is to love God with all your heart, soul and mind; and the second greatest is to love your neighbor as yourself. He went on to say that everything else hangs on these two commandments.
Christianity is all about love. Jesus’ teachings are about defining love. And I think we’re all familiar with the concept that sometimes the truest love is tough love. Just like our love for our children means we teach them that doing whatever they want isn’t good for them, Jesus and therefore Christianity teaches doing whatever we want isn’t good for us.
So back to that prefix “anti”. If Sandlin was defining anti as hatred toward people he’s spot on. But if he’s defining anti-whatever as believing certain beliefs are not God’s best for us, I got to go out on a limb and say he’s got a pretty wimpy version of Jesus.
In the last couple of years I’ve been forced to take a stand on a very unpopular position. It just about killed me. I vacillated and struggled and wrestled with God. “But Jesus, I want to be know by what I’m for, not what I’m against!” “But Carrie, if it’s all about love, sometimes love is tough, not butterflies and rainbows. Also, do you trust I know what is best?” Okay, maybe He didn’t use those exact words. But after seven long months of struggling, I surrendered to His way as it was spelled out in the Bible and as I believe it was to be lived out in my personal walk with Jesus. (I also accepted the reality that I was going to be misunderstood.)
Maybe, that’s the heart issue those loud conservative and liberal Christians need to bring before God –- surrendering to His way. They all come off sanctimonious because they think their way is His way. I think the obnoxious conservative and liberal Christian politicians aren’t taking the entire Bible into account. I think their picking and choosing. That goes for the obnoxious common man on Facebook and email chains. I think they’re defining Christianity their way. But doesn’t being a Christian mean you’re a follower of Christ? He’s the Lord. He’s the Savior. We’re not.
Bottom line. Where’s all the love? Jesus is the very definition of love. I think we all need to get to know him better and read the Bible in context.** I think we need to make love the priority.
“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:13,14
“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:8
*Good reads on Holiness: “The Pursuit of Holiness” by Jerry Bridges and “Free to Live, The Utter Relief of Holiness” by John Eldredge
**Good reads on Jesus: Obviously, the Bible. I also suggest reading “Beautiful Outlaw” by John Eldredge