Friday, September 24, 2010

What is our Claim to Fame?

It's a question that has been on my mind quite a bit recently. As Christians, what are we known for in the world? The Salvation Army is known for helping the poor. The NRA is known for lobbying on behalf of American gun owners. What is the church known for?
A friend and I had a talk with a local man the other day. He was asking about the crusades, and all the other wars that Christians have advocated for over the years. I explained that none of that reflects the actual teachings of Jesus. I told him how beautiful those teaching are, how he unequivocally demands we love our enemies and bless those who curse us. How we are to forgive even when wronged 70 by 7 times.
He looked confused for a moment, and asked "but who actually does that?"
Now, I recognize that all over the world and throughout all of history faithful men and and women have followed the words of Jesus with their whole heart. Yet his question has some truth in it- the reality is that whether you ask Muslims, Hindus, Jews, or modern secular westerners, what defines the church, you will probably not get a pretty answer. It was the great Hindu leader Ghandi who said that he loved our Christ, but was surprised how different Jesus was than his modern followers.
I was listening to a teaching by Danny Silk from Bethel Church this week, and he said something that brought this train of thought back to the forefront. He said "The church is supposed to be famous for loving, but we are actually famous for judging." And that hits the nail on the head. The American church has, without invitation, taken up the role as America's moral police force. If you want to find the harshest, coldest statements about Muslims, gays, democrats or even other church leaders, look no further. We have publicly called our enemies evil and demonic, while no one else in society would dare use such terms. We have cornered the market on criticism.
Now, take a step back. Picture yourself in the days of Jesus. You have grown up in a poor family, you were never religiously educated, and you never felt worthy to go to the synagogue to pray. Besides, those religious people wear nice robes you can't afford, and the big words they use just make you feel dumb. So instead you do what your friends do. You steal sometimes, you get drunk sometimes, you sleep around sometimes. Then you hear about Jesus. An old friend you know who was a tax collector tells you that Jesus hangs out with people like you, and that he talks about a God who is near to you. That even the prostitutes like to be around them, and he treats them with respect. Soon, you hear that he is coming to your village, and all you want to do is to see him. Then he comes, the crowds around him, and he looks at you, YOU, of all people, and he smiles. And he says "The Kingdom of God is with the poor in spirit," and though you aren't sure fully what he meant, you feel poor in spirit, and are pretty sure he was talking directly to you...
Now, as this first century young man or woman, where would you go if you wanted to be criticized, judged, and told how bad you are? Where would you go to find God?
The reality is the Church for some reason feels that if we don't scream about how wrong everyone else is, then no one will ever know. The reality is, when we define ourselves as being against sin, we have already joined the wrong team. We have joined the dark side. We have set ourselves against our Christ, who, according to his own words, judges no one.
I love the church. I have faith that she will step into her calling; the calling to serve, to bless, to love and show mercy, to heal and to deliver. And that she will one day be known by those who talk about her the way Jesus wanted her to be known- "By this they will know that you are my disciples, by your love one for another." Imagine a people in the earth famous for loving, for loving EVERYONE with kindness and grace. That would a people that bore some resemblance to Jesus.


Blogger Gerardo said...

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11:13 AM  
Blogger Gerardo said...

I absolutely agree. But at the same time, can we blame those judging? Well, I don't want to say that they are completely blameless, they themselves worked through the logic that brought them to that judgmental state, but the point that I am trying to make is that the church has stood on the bible as "THE WORD OF GOD" forever, and it is difficult to be all those things that Jesus want us to be without ignoring lots of parts of the Bible. I guess we could just truncate all of the evil text that seem to give us the right to judge others as the chosen of God, but how do you do that when you are truncating the words that came out of God's mouth? In my experience I found it impossible to view the bible as most Christians do, and still be able to simply follow Jesus. I believe that a first step for the church to be what it was meant to be is to revise its perception of what the bible really is.

11:15 AM  
Blogger Saint said...

Well put, Drew.

1:56 AM  

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