Bringing Jesus Back

Want to know something that ASTOUNDS me?  (Heads-up, you’re about to find out anyway.)  People “of faith” (they would say) who find some sort of sick pleasure in delivering criticism that is in no way constructive or even remotely useful.  It’s like self-righteousness on steroids.  And no one is off limits as targets (which they’ll call “concern for you” or “the truth in love” – minus the love), including believers who are doing their best to walk with Christ, unbelievers who have had zero exposure to Christ, believers who blew it and bravely came back to Him (or still seek a reason to),  and pretty much anyone else who doesn’t fit with the subculture that feels tidy and safe.  The truth is, no one is safe in an environment of self-righteousness.  It’s about self-preservation.  And that kind of atmosphere just doesn’t square with the Jesus I believe in.

A well-known artist who routinely performs for both secular and Christian audiences recently told me that the Christian audiences have consistently been more harsh and unkind than all his secular audiences combined.  I was mortified… but not surprised.  Suddenly I’m singing the Bon Jovi song that always comes to mind when I’m faced with the self-righteous critics of the world… “Shot through the heart and you’re to blame… you give Love a bad name.”  (When I sing it, Love has a capital “L”. )  I sound angry.  I guess I am a little.  But mostly, I am sad.

I was hesitant to state my “religious affiliation” on Facebook when I signed up.  (Feel free to look at my page.  You still won’t see it there.)  If you find that fact appalling, I’m truly sorry.  But I took that risk because I do not want to be identified with a homespun, hateful version of Christianity to which I do not subscribe.   I know the whole claim to “stand for something”  is supposed to make it okay to ream a fellow-traveler for not having the right road map; I just don’t agree.  I am very proud of Jesus.  Just not the faction of small mindedness who claim to be speaking on His behalf when they degrade people and withhold acceptance like a carrot dangling in front of a starving rabbit.

For those of you out there struggling with your sin nature (which, according to the Bible, includes 100% of you) I want to apologize for the unkindness of people who thought it sounded spiritual to condemn you and make you feel unworthy of love.   If Jesus was here, he would invite you in for a drink and would be completely delighted when you accepted. And once you came, he wouldn’t back you into a corner and pounce upon your weaknesses and questions.  He would much more likely assure you that there is nothing you could do to make Him love you less… and nothing you could do to make Him love you more.  He would probably speak to your woundedness, but not with the purpose of making you feel small.  Rather, he would offer perspective, understanding and hope; and he would definitely pour his healing words all over your hurting heart.  That is His nature.

Self-righteousness is a brutal enemy of the Gospel.  Maybe it originates with fear… or ignorance.  Maybe it even starts with noble motives.  But the real Gospel of Christ is about a love so penetrating and real that we can trust it with the worst sin imaginable.  If only we could get out of the way and do what He has asked us to do… love Him with all our being and love our neighbors as ourselves.

No one has a corner on the mind of God.   I sure don’t.  But we were given Jesus to show us how love is supposed to work.  In Him, we can be transparent, loving people who let Him meet us at the heart of our issues.  Love conquers all things. So let’s not continually try to chop it off at the knees with our desire to look spiritual.  If we really believe that Jesus has conquered sin and death with His Love, we can have every confidence that in that same Love to transform hearts far more effectively than any of our tinny self-righteous platforms.

What is my reason for challenging the line of thinking that Christians have carte blanche permission to criticize everyone for any reason?   So glad you asked.  I’m looking for people who are with me.  Am I the only one who hesitated when Facebook asked me to identify my religious affiliation?!  I’m looking for people (and I know some of you)  who trust Christ enough to stake everything we believe – even our pristine reputation for being SO righteous – on a Love that does not break down when messiness enters the picture (and it always does).  The religions of the world focus on behavior.  If that’s all Christianity is, then it is no more powerful than the list of rules at your local public pool.  But that’s NOT all it is.  We get Jesus!

There have been so many times when I wondered if we would even recognize Jesus if he walked into the middle of our lives or even our churches.  Who knows… maybe He has!  What if we blew Him off because He was more unconventional than we expected, or because His authenticity made us squirm, or He didn’t hold people at an arms length… or *gasp* he didn’t speak Christianese.

Jesus was about eternal, sacrificial love that didn’t buckle under the weight of the world.  So inviting His line of thinking into our safe little world is going to stretch us and test our resolve.    Love is patient and kind. Love isn’t cruel or self-seeking.  It keeps no record of wrongs… (It’s all there in I Corinthians 13.)  Nowhere does the Word say, “Love tells people off for not thinking like the masses,” or “Love makes people feels small when they do something that feels uncomfortable or overly-authentic.”

Jesus was about powerful, healing, selfless love that has not lost a bit of its potency in more than 2000 years.  THAT is the kind of credibility that Christianity needs.  It’s going to mean that we stop trying to figure out whose right or wrong; because when our faith is centered on the carnal desire to be “righter” than the next person… it’s all wrong.

So who’s with me?  Who wants to bring Jesus back as the numero uno consideraton when we’re deciding how to respond to one another?

14 thoughts on “Bringing Jesus Back

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  1. I like it. Reminds me of this:
    False zeal is against the sins of others, while men have no zeal against their own sins. But he that has true zeal, exercises it chiefly against his own sins. – J Edwards

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  2. Thanks for this reminder, Emily! Even though I wouldn’t classify myself as a critical person, I do sometimes catch myself with a “condescending” sort of attitude. 😛 Not exactly Christ-like!!

    Oh, and yes–I also hesitated when Facebook asked for my “religious affiliation”. I ended up putting in a favorite John Newton quote: “I am a great sinner, and Christ is a great Savior.” Since then, I’ve seen several friends who have posted similar things for their “religious views” rather than trying to classify their Christianity.

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  3. I can’t say that I hesitated on the whole Facebook religious affiliation thing. I guess I’m more of a mind that I know my faith is genuine, not in a condescending way, but in a “I’m not going to let other people ruin it for me” kind of way.

    While I think you’re correct that many Christians have an overly critical attitude, I also think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with Christians speaking out on what is happening in their culture (something I’ve done on my own blog from time to time). For instance, is it wrong to speak out on certain social issues (gay marriage, abortion, etc.) and say if you believe these things are wrong or do we just suck it up and say nothing for fear of being considered judgmental?

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  4. Christians tend to find ways to exclude people.
    Jesus was an includer (made up that word) when He declared “Come unto Me.”

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  5. Emily – you need to put this article on Gaithernet!! : ) I’m with you 1000% on this one. You’ve have expressed the point beautifully. God bless! Nancy

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  6. you know Emily once again you are dead on-the one thing that frustrates me beyond belief is the harshness of the judgements poured out by Christians. Jesus was not that way in any form-he did not criticize the woman at the well, he didn’t criticize the tax collectors who no one else wanted to accept…..He simply loved….just loved and accepted and then showed people his message with love not with condemnation. I still feel like it’s not up to me to harshly judge someone but for the Grace of God I could be simply like them….I have never walked a mile in those peoples shoes or lived a day in their life and to judge without cause means that I too shall be judged by God with the strictest intentions without accepting my circumstances because the standard by which I judge I too will be judged.

    I did however post my religious affiliation on facebook simply because I wanted too-I can understand not wanting to be identified with the small minded people who also claim that title-but for me….well I hope my life speaks for itself enough to show people that I do indeed stand for what I speak of.

    Nothing like a Christian to knock down a fallen person though-that i totally agree with-it really makes my blood boil-someone who is seeking so hard to find out what they should do and the church beats em down……its really heartbreaking-I for one would love to see a wave of people who are diligently wanting to bring Jesus back with a wave of love and less judgement.

    great post chica-I love ya 🙂

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  7. David, I think the secret of standing for our beliefs lies in HOW we communicate, remembering that the lifestyles we oppose are led by broken people who will never be exposed to Christ’s unconditional love except through us. Opposition is just noise unless our ultimate goal is to bring honor to Christ and the love to which he has called us.

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  8. You know, if the churches could eliminate the hypocrits, back-stabbers and holier-than-thou’ers, I’d consider going back.

    And instead of creating diversity over “religion”, wouldn’t it be great if the focus were on the “personal walk”?

    With great bitterness and shattered respect for those in positions of power, I left the church 30 years ago because of the types of people mentioned above and haven’t been back since. However, being raised Pentecostal instilled in me a deep love of Gospel music, and that’s why I’m still an avid follower today.

    Who knows, as a result of watching the Gaither Gospel Hour every week, reading the bi-monthly Homecoming magazine, buying CDs of various Homecoming artists, attending every concert that comes within a 5 hour radius, and reading the blogs and comments of what I believe to be sincere Christians, maybe I’ll eventually find my way back.

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  9. I was thinking about this post earlier and the following song came to mind…”It Could’ve Been Me” by Phil Keaggy.

    I heard the news today
    That another soldier tumbled,
    A fragile warrior slipped and fell from grace.
    The vultures swooped to tear his heart
    And pin him to the ground,
    And from the shadows someone took his place.

    Today we talk amongst ourselves,
    We never bought his words.
    We say we’ve seen the madness in his eyes.
    Tomorrow he’s forgotten as
    We’ve scrubbed him from our hearts,
    And as he bleeds we slowly turn our eyes.

    But it could’ve been me,
    I could’ve been the one to lose my grip and fall.
    It could’ve been me,
    The one who’s always standing tall.
    For unless you hold me tightly, Lord,
    And I can hold on too,
    Then tomorrow in the news
    It could be me, it could be me.

    And in our hearts we fear the ones
    Whose lives are like our own,
    Whose shadows dance like
    Demons in our minds.
    We think to push them far away,
    We exercise our souls,
    We make them play the tune for all mankind.

    Today we talk amongst ourselves,
    We never bought their words.
    We say we’ve seen the madness in their eyes.
    Tomorrow they’re forgotten as
    We’ve scrubbed them from our hearts,
    And as they bleed we slowly turn our eyes.

    But it could’ve been me,
    I could’ve been the one to lose my grip and fall.
    It could’ve been me,
    The one who’s always standing tall.
    For unless you hold me tightly, Lord,
    And I can hold on too,
    Then tomorrow in the news
    It could be me, it could be me.

    But I believe there is a place
    Where we can run and hide,
    When we know that we can’t stand
    For one more day,
    And I believe You’re waiting, Lord,
    To hold me very close
    For You know without Your love I’d lose my way.

    But it could’ve been me,
    I could’ve been the one to lose my grip and fall.
    It could’ve been me,
    The one who’s always standing tall.
    For unless you hold me tightly, Lord,
    And I can hold on too,
    Then tomorrow in the news
    It could be me, it could be me.

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  10. Em, the point you make is right on. I wish I had the gift to put my thoughts in writing but I don’ ; but I am going to enjoy the gifts God did give me as well as the opportunity to be a beneficiary of those; like you; that God has so blessed.

    I couldnt agree with you more. As I read various blogs and especially those on Gaither.net, I sometimes have to log off and log back on to make sure what site I am on. It is so hard for me to understand how folks can even think, much less say some of the things they say.

    Certainly, as believers, we have to stand for God’s word and make no mistake, if He says its wrong, it is wrong. But, as you said, it is not how we oppose something but how we verbalize that opposition. I am from the old school I guess (and no wise cracks about my age) but I believe in hating the sin, loving the sinner. Also, the Bible I read certainly tells me that we are to left up our brothers, pray for them and LOVE them.

    I guess the easiest way for me to handle all of this is not to put a “title” on my faith. I am often asked; “are you a Christian” or “are you religious”; and I have come to understand that if I respond (which is the only way I respond now) by saying “no I am not, I am simply a sinner saved by Grace”; then I realize I have no room to be critical of anyone else. When we are mindful of where we came from, it kind of makes it difficult to point that finger of self righteousness at anyone else.

    Love in Christ!
    Ken

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  11. Emily, You said everything that I have felt. I will definitely join in with you. I too get so tired of the pious and wish that everyone would just love like Jesus loved.

    Jerri Ward

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  12. I have been a Christian since 1975; I am now 45 years old.
    I used to be a self righteous Christian before God let me see I have sinned and will continue to sin till he takes me out of here.
    I am no different than the worst sinner on earth, the only difference is I have accepted Christ as my savior and now my sins past, present and future are covered by his perfect sacrifice. (LORD thanks for the lessons learned)
    Therefore, I try to remove the toothpick out of my eye before I cast out………NOT. (you thought I was going to finish that verse didn’t ya?) I leave other folks toothpicks, beams and splinters to God for removal, because I am unfit to judge.
    Now I try to live my life as a Godly example of someone that God has changed. I am not perfect, and I never will be.
    I have noticed, Christians who throw stones usually end up with a boulder in their lap. And I believe the reason for this is because, God is a worthy and a perfect judge and he doesn’t need our help!
    Thanks Emily, this is a super blog.

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  13. Ms. Sutherland:
    I just read your blog and for what it’s worth, I think that not listing your religious affiliation is like not putting your last name on a public document because your family has a bad reputation in the community. We can’t choose our relatives (smile) – and since we ALL belong to the family of Christ, we can’t choose our fellow “HOLIER-THAN-THOU” Christian brothers and sisters either. The only thing we can do is pray for them and love them ANYWAY!

    Showing the world that we’re capable of loving the most irritating people on the planet – will truly BRING JESUS BACK!!!

    Thank-you and God Bless!

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