February 16, 2011 by Andrew
I think that this will be an ongoing series in this blog so I will just leave it as that. These will be about a significant moment where I realized that I was different from whom I used to be. I am not sure that these will be written in order either, it will just be as they come to mind.
There are lies that we believe as we grow up every culture, family or organized structure has them. They are put there often to protect from perceived harm, prevent the members from straying and to preserve the values that have served that community well. It does not matter the size of the community these things stay the same. As a person who has identified himself as a Christian and a church-goer, I adapted the person who I was to be who was accepted within the bigger community of the Christian faith. I knew the words to say and the way to behave. Even when I did not agree with what was happening, I towed the company line to preserve the peace. I want to share a bit of truth that has changed who I am in relation not only to my faith, to the church and to the world.
Some important points of reference to understand what I am getting at.
1. Stereotypical Christianity
There are unfortunately 3 main types of stereotypes of Christians and I will use a sandbox metaphor to illustrate these.
- Head in the Sand – AKA the Abstainer
- Person sticks head in the sand and ignores the evil of the world, because if you ignore it than you will not be tainted by it.
- My Sandbox My Rules – AKA the Soapbox
- Everybody must play in the sandbox by the person’s understanding of the rules. If you don’t play by these rules, you will be punished by the person, not the actual owner of the sandbox.
- I’ll Help You with That – AKA the I Told You So
- Under the thinly veiled disguise of wanting to help, there is this underlying thing of they are better than the helper and that somehow they are a better person for helping the fallen or lost person.
These do little to inform a person of what it means to be a person who follows the teachings found in the Bible. I have found myself many a time in situations where church culture and traditions has dictated the response instead of the actual words found in Scripture. Let me say that there is nothing in scripture that supports these stereotypes as God’s desired intention for those who claim to follow him.
2. For God so loved the world…
When I realized the truth about this statement and the implications for my life and that it was being missed by so many, it broke my heart. I am sure that this point I am about to write will upset many people who say they are believers. Throughout scripture there are countless points of reference that talks about God’s love for the world. Yet they are conveniently skipped over or at the very least creatively danced around to support whatever cultural stance that is supported or held to.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” – Jhn 3:16-21 NIV
This truth absolutely CRUSHED me, you see there are people in churches all over the world who raise their hands to praise God and tell them how much they LOVE him but yet have no love for the world.
TO BE CLEAR this is the thought that got the ball rolling…
If God Loves the World and I Love God should I not Love what he Loves…
and did the ball ever roll…and roll…
- I began to notice the excuses that we allow to condone our behavior.
- I began to notice how easily we walk away.
- I began to notice the way that we avoid and covers up.
- I began to notice just how unloving we are.
So these thoughts started to permeate other areas of my life…
- The things we do to avoid pain
- The way we ignore our needs
- The way we indulge our needs
- The way we deal with guilt and shame
I then realized how much life would change if we could just actually start to love others and ourselves with the same kind of love demonstrated and taught to us by God.
It all comes down to this simple fact…
If you love God then you must love people and that truth is exponential, the more you love God then the more you love people. Now for the really hard part, if you say you Love God but don’t love people than you do not love God.
Now just so we are clear, this is where God’s grace comes into play, we have been forgiven and freed to love others and ourselves. This is a process that for many will take years to learn how to love, however God gives us the space to discover this for ourselves and to integrate it into our lives. Remember he did not send his Son to condemn he came to save it.
The moment that this became real to me is the moment that I realized that my heart had changed.
I was sitting with a fellow believer a few years back someone who I respected, who I sometimes do not see eye to eye with but for some reason always enjoyed spending time with. We sat talking about ministry and life, when they shared an personal aspect of their life which I did not know. In that moment shared that this fellow partner in minstry was gay.
Now something that you need to know about me is that I used to be someone who jumped to management of the situation and making sure that protocol was being followed. I would have normally said before that does your superior know and tried to make sure that the person would have to step down. In my heart of hearts that would have been my response had God not been chipping away at that space in my life.
My response was “tell me about it, how did you get here?” essentially I want to know your story and as those words came out of my lips they felt foreign as if they should not be there. I realized it was because I was not used to saying them and that my heart had changed. It was not my job to condemn because that is not what He came to do, my job is to love and in that process seek to understand.
Gone is the desire to live separate from the things that culture would dictate but to learn about them not to absorb but to share what I am learning in the process. I would much rather have a friendship with an atheist who was open to discussing life and faith in a dialogue of respect and love than to have a friendship with a christian who has no regards to really what others think and believe. Look I know that may seem to be harsh, but I simply don’t want to play games anymore, this is not something to be played with or sterilized. Hanging out with sinners didnt make Jesus a sinner although the religious people certainly challenged the thought that it might be. I am a sinner, a person who makes mistakes, I just want to be around people who are honest and real about it. I think that God loves those who come to him and understand what is required in return.
Love God and Love others as you would Love yourself…
I have been chewing on this for sometime… look forward to the responses from this one.