In America we Christians, fairly or not, have collectively become known to our culture to be like Pharisees. All of us, Catholics and Protestants alike, need to hear and learn from Jesus here:
“Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’Matt 9:13
For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Jesus calls to sinners. He doesn’t convict them. He gives hope, healing, and mercy to anyone. He loves furiously and he offers good news to bad people. And the sinners flocked to him by the thousands.
They still do today, by the billions.
Meanwhile, the respectable, righteous religious people couldn’t accept him because he wouldn’t take a “stand against sin”. He wouldn’t sign their petitions to “preserve morality”. He actually seemed to enjoy partying with corrupt bureaucrats, alcoholics, and hookers.
When someone first learns that you’re a Christian, which of these 2 camps do you believe they automatically think you fall into?
That’s what I thought.
How do we get rid of this stain on our character?
In many ways I believe it’s an unfair stereotype of Christians, which may surprise you in light of what I just wrote yesterday. But I say this because for every bad Christian out there, there are a hundred, a thousand, faithful ones, full of integrity, quietly doing the work of God, being a light unto the world and loving their neighbors. The problem is that these saints are not drawn to the spotlight, have no interest in being a television personality or celebrity preacher. They’re too busy feeding the hungry, praying for their neighbors, and loving their kids to bother with anything so shallow as love of the spotlight. Unfortunately, it’s the bombastic and narcissistic among us who crave, and often obtain, these large microphones (not all of them are like this, of course).
And then you’ve got the Internet. Even the gentlest among us can make a stupid comment that’s seen by dozens or hundreds of others. I know I have. You can do a hundred loving things every day, but that one stupid Facebook post is what will tend to be remembered.
Poor words can be remedied, though, with an apology. Our true fault begins when we allow modern-day judgmental, hypocritical Pharisees to keep their position and continue to speak for us by following them, giving them money, and repeating their teachings to the world in Facebook comments, in tweets, protests, “stands against sin”, and around the family dinner table.
Christians, we need to stop this. Instead of taking stands on Facebook against liberals, against homosexuality, against Muslims, against atheists, try taking a stand for grace, for peace, for justice. For sinners.
Jesus was called the FRIEND of sinners, for god’s sake! The religious right meant it as a condemnation but He wore that title as a badge of honor! This is what angered Jesus more passionately than anything else—seeing the people who were supposed to be the light and salt of the world hoarding his blessings and using them to curse the darkness.
How have we screwed this up so badly? How have we allowed ourselves to become known as the same blind guides who filled him with a truly righteous fury?
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. If anyone boasts, “I love God,” and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.1 John 4 (emphasis mine)
Now, none of us are Jesus of course. Every single one of us is wrong and misguided in some way when it comes to spiritual matters. And every one of us, me included, have said something stupid and unloving in the hearing of those who don’t follow him.
But everyone’s got to follow someone. Even if you scoff at Christian beliefs, you still follow someone or something. You allow your thoughts to be shaped by him, her, or it. And as a Christian, you’ve got to place your trust in some fellow, flawed human being to be your teacher in the way of Jesus.
So the question naturally becomes: from among the multitudes of imperfect teachers and leaders out there, how can we choose who to learn from and represent what we believe?
The best answer I have is that you’ll know them by their fruit. If someone’s teaching causes you to feel morally superior, to detest others, to feel fearful, to feel contempt toward sinners (usually defined as “someone who sins differently than you do”), then they have the spirit of the Pharisees and are offering you rotten apples, no matter how correct their theology may be. Stop following them. Don’t buy ‘dem apples.
However, if one of these teachers helps you become more merciful, more just, more forgiving, more gracious to “sinners” and more heartbroken over your own sin, more joyful, more peaceful, more kind, more gentle, more understanding, more faithful, more in love with God…
Well I’d say that’s some pretty good fruit.
Truth poorly defended loses not its truthfulness;
Falsehood aptly defended loses not it’s falsity.
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