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?