“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.