Immersion Staff UPDATE: 2.27.08

I don't get why anyone would not like Jesus, but I can understand why people don't like Christians.

In the past few months, I think God has led me into experiences that have allowed me to see what non-Christians see. Whether it's money or judgmentalism or fundamentalism or bigotry (or worse), I can see the lineage of stereotypes that plague Christians and the Christian church.

I was at a concert that was put on by Christians that had significantly less people in attendance than the promoters had bargained for. Less people = less money. I found my jaw on the floor when one of the promoters interrupted the concert to take them mic and ask the audience, "what would Jesus want you to do? We need $150,000 to break even at this concert and we want you to pray about giving sacrificially in order to help us get out of the hole financially." Then he ended in prayer. I was appalled. Jesus reserved the harshest of reprimands for religious leaders who use guilt to meet their own personal needs. (Luke 20:45-47, 21:1-4)

I was in a conversation with an agnostic and another Christian. The Christian insisted on calling the agnostic a "heathen", even after the agnostic asked him not to. What was worse was the Christian had no idea that what he was saying was highly offensive to the agnostic (and to me, nonetheless). God says that human beings - all human beings - are created in his image. In the image of God he created us. (Genesis 1:27)

I hear multiple stories of how people left the church of their youth because they were constantly threatened with the fires of hell and damnation - essentially petrified to step foot in the church ever again for fear of being struck down by lightning. Their image of God is not a loving Father, but a detached, crotchety, old miser who desires nothing more than to smite them and send them packing to the lake of fire and burning sulfur. God is not willing that any should die in their sins, but that everyone would come to a saving knowledge of who he is (2 Peter 3:2). Guilt and fear are not God's primary motivator (1 John 4:18), but it is his kindness that leads people to follow him through a relationship with Jesus Christ (Romans 2:4).

All that to say this: Jesus is good. God is good. The Holy Spirit is good. We, as the Church, sometimes really screw it up.

There, I said it.

In the pages of Scripture, I have met a Jesus who loves sinners - who loves to be with those who have no pretense about them. He loves to meet people and change their lives - it's what he's really, really good at.

As a pastor, it's my job to try and introduce people to Jesus while scooping the piles of religious elephant poop out of the way to give them a place to do so. If you have struggled with some of the poo-filled scenarios I listed above - or worse - know that Christians (most all of them) really do have the best intentions at heart. But, as they say, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions."

If you've been burned one too many times by the Church or by religious people, will you take one more chance to believe? Believe that Jesus is all that he says he is and none of what well-intentioned-but-destructive Christians sometimes make him out to be?

Peace to you this day...

Justin

1 Comment:

  1. paulstewart said...
    Great thoughts Justin!

    I think one of the major problems is that many Christians don't realize that we live in a post-Christian society. They think we can still label people as"heathens" or "backsliders" assuming they just need to get back to church. They still think we should lobby to legislate morality in our country and somehow that would turn things around.

    Many Christians think that the primary reason unbelievers have rejected Christ is that they cannot handle the rigorous standards of following Christ. This allows Christians to feel like they're better than other people, more capable of being holy.

    The truth is that most unbelievers have never had the opportunity to really hear the gospel message from a trusted friend or a loved one - or they have heard but have been repelled by hypocritical and insensitive Christians.

    On the other hand, when Christians live out what the Bible teaches, we have an influence on our culture (Matt 5:13 - 16). We have been given a mission to share the gospel and transform culture, but in order to do that we have to reverse our current image and become dynamic, genuine, and real.

    We need more genuine followers of Christ, who have been transformed by their faith. Christians who cultivate genuine relationships with unbelievers and work in humble and respectful ways to transform the culture.

    The apostle Paul puts it this way, "This should be your ambition: to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we commanded before. As a result, people who are not Christians will respect the way you live" (1 Thess 4:11-12).

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