Act out the Gospel, not a Battle.

“I have come into the world as a light,  so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.  If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.”  (John 12: 46-47)

I once heard someone say that anyone who lives in the United States and does not follow Christ’s teaching has chosen a life of sin over God’s love with no excuse, because no one who lives in this fair country could possibly have missed hearing the Gospel.  I wonder at that kind of attitude.  For one, the Bible is clear that it is nobody’s business judging those outside of the church, they are subject only to the laws of man and should not be judged by God’s law.  Second, the simple fact that they live in this country does not mean they ever experienced God’s extravagant love at the hands of one of His children.  The “gospel” that they’ve been exposed to is likely the sort of contemptful attitude that birthed the judgment now being heaped over them.  No thank you, ma’am!  If that were my primary knowledge of God I’d be an atheist, too.  Third, do you think that God has ever stopped loving them and desiring to express His love to them?  Do you think that God Himself has judged them as unworthy?  Do you think God takes their rejection of the consumerist, judgmental, and self-involved face of American Christianity personally?  Honestly, most of the time when I speak with people who have rejected the American church I hear their words not as an offense against God but as a pretty righteous condemnation of all of the behaviors which the Bible itself warns against.  Should we have church leaders with private jets while there aren’t enough shelters to take in the homeless?  Should we be picketing gay rights?  Should we be judgmental of single mothers, of the poor?  Should we be glossing over the pain that humanity experiences with hyperbolic praise songs?  Should the music we put out in God’s name be so homogenized, bland, and stripped of multi-cultural influences?  Should we be so uninterested in protecting our planet, which we claim God gave to us as a good gift?  And on, and on.

As Christians, we should hear the argument against the church not as an attack by enemy combatants who need to be neutralized immediately by any means necessary, but as an opportunity to learn and grow.  Too often we label anyone who reacts with skepticism as an “enemy of the faith”, sometimes going as far as to name them as an agent of Satan.  Who benefits from this?  The Bible does not command us to destroy our enemies with words, but instead:

Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.  (2 Timothy 2:25-26)

Even if you do believe that anyone who speaks against your beliefs is an agent of the devil, the Bible still doesn’t justify the kind of hateful rhetoric that colors Christian debates.  (Especially debates with non-Christians.)  We are commanded to gentleness and love, and prayerful consideration.  Always.  We are to lead people to a place where God grants them repentance, not to hammer it into their faces with the Bible.

I am frankly appalled at the tone of some of the discussions going on in the church.  Gay people, poor people, and people of different ethnicities are metaphorically strung up as if they were terrorists who need to be tortured into submission before a metaphorical bomb explodes and destroys our society.  What is the defense for this?  Are they not also Gods children?  Are they not also people who are capable of recieving God’s conviction?  Are they not also desired and loved?  This is the Gospel, not warfare.

It is to be spread through love, not with fists.

 

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Atheism: God’s gift to Christianity

Every once in a while I peruse atheist sites just to bone up on what’s going on around me.  If people are going to explain to me why I’m an idiot for believing in God, I want to take advantage of that.  (And read that last sentence without an ounce of sarcasm.  I really want to understand- especially when it’s a former Christian making the explanation.)

I am always horrified at the amount of time meant making the philosophical explanation as compared to the amount of time devoted to explaining what major narcissistic assholes Christians are.  There will be long articles about simple concepts such as “if the Bible is true and it’s words are true and as 1 John 4 explains “God is love”, then does it make sense for his worshippers to be such unholy JERKS?”  Often these articles display a fair amount of bitterness, and are generally accompanied by numerous personal stories of being treated like crap by Christians.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that I read such diatribes with a fair amount of pain and embarrassment.  Years of listening closely have taught me that many Atheist’s principle argument against Christianity is, well, Christians.  I wish more Christians would look past themselves long enough to read what’s written between the lines.

Atheists aren’t our enemies.

They, and their harsh critique of our religion, are a gift.  While the philosophical critique of our faith is (hopefully) one we’ve all examined and overcome, their sometimes-slightly-venomous critique of our behavior as a people is a necessary one.  They ask questions such as; “If Jesus’ clearest commandment was to love our neighbor, how can Christians justify their political beliefs/offensive evangelism/lack of donations to neighborhood associations”; or “If Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery despite the law than how can Christians justify condemning homosexuals under the law”; or “how can anyone be so self involved as to think that God really cares that they lost their keys or spilled coffee on their shirt?”

I think that all Christians should both hear and prepare themselves to respond to such questions.  And when those questions bring a pill of conviction, we ought to take it.  I think we OUGHT to be ashamed that more Christian groups don’t donate to neighborhood associations.  (Or refuse to donate if said association doesn’t stock Christian evangelism materials.  Or to demand that associations block young womens access to pro-choice groups as a contingency to donation.)  I think there IS a great deal of confusion about how much time in the New Testament is devoted to our freedom from under the law and the fact that we so desperately seek to keep a set of laws to govern our behavior.  I think that there is a GREAT deal of narcissism in Christianity and not enough focus spent on, well, loving our neighbors.

But, most of all, I think that a Christian who is assured of their salvation need not fear hearing the voices from across the aisle.

Atheists aren’t our enemies.

And the more we treat them like it, the more we fill their forums.