Many times the loudest and most vocal voices that identify themselves as Christians are those who really do not represent or embody the way, life, and teachings of Jesus. This is unfortunate because these judgmental and condemning voices become the face of the Christian in the community and the larger world, leaving many who do not know anything about Jesus with a bad taste in their mouths and a deep contempt for Christianity in general. I have the same bad taste in my mouth, because this is not a true representation of Jesus in the world.
So many times these voices are quick to say that they are the “defenders of the faith,” or the “protectors of our Christians heritage.” Yet one wonders if it is appropriate to compromise the way of Jesus…as long as it is done in the name of Jesus. Yet one wonders again if Jesus would even be spending his time isolating and targeting special “sin groups” or trying to defend his positions through arguing and debating. I do not think so.
The way of Jesus does not have to be defended; it must be demonstrated. It never moves out in judgment; it moves out in love. It never extends in condemnation to the world; it extends in grace and mercy. The ways of arguing, defending, judging, and condemning always build up walls and embitter those in the world who are on the receiving end.
How is it that one can be so eager to accept the grace of God, yet be so unwilling to extend it? How is it that one can be so eager to accept the love of God, yet be so unwilling to demonstrate it? How is it that one can be so eager to accept the mercy of God, yet be so unwilling to give it?
How is it that when Jesus did not come into the world to condemn it, we believe that it is our responsibility to condemn it? How is it that when Jesus said he did not come into the world to judge it, we believe it is our responsibility to judge it? How is it that when Jesus told his followers to “judge not,” that we have decided to judge anyway? And how is it that when Paul asked the Church, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the Church?” we have instead decided that we should be the judges of the world?
I am not the official spokesman for Christianity in Columbus, or even Christianity in the United States, but to any or all of you who have been on the receiving end of judgment, condemnation, or abuse from those who label themselves as Christians, I personally apologize. We have not represented the love, grace, mercy, and heart of Jesus very well…and we desperately need your forgiveness.
To the atheist, agnostic, Jew and Muslim, we ask for your forgiveness. To any minority that we have judged and oppressed in the past, we ask for your forgiveness. To the poor, enslaved, or victim of injustice and abuse, we ask for your forgiveness for judging you and turning a blind eye. And to every single person who has experienced anything less than the unconditional love of Christ from the Christian, we ask for your forgiveness.
And to the Christian…let us lose our need to argue, defend, judge, and condemn. Instead, when the world hits you, do not retaliate, but give the other cheek. When the world is weighing you down with heavy requests, don’t just go one mile with the request but go two miles. When the world takes everything you have, even the coat off of your back, don’t just give your coat but go even further by offering your shirt. When the way of the world harbors anger and holds grudges, be one who forgives your friends and your enemies alike. And, don’t just forgive once, but forgive and forgive and forgive.
When the world is quick to respond and rip a person to shreds, be one who controls your anger and the words that come from your mouth. When the world devalues relationships and marriages, be one who looks to the interest of others, honors commitments, and always remains selfless. When the world looks out for and protects its own pursuits and interests to the detriment of others, be one who treats others as you would want to be treated yourself. When the world is ready to cast the stone of judgment at the sinner, be one who loves and stands beside every single person without judgment. When the world shuns the outcast and pushes him to the edges of society, be one who befriends the outcast and welcomes him back into loving community.
When the world lords over you with mighty power and authority, be one who is humble and comes from the bottom-up to serve everyone. When the world takes the seat of honor so it can be seen and noticed by everyone, be one who takes the seat of low-position in the back of the room. When the world puts on a show of being pure and good but is corrupt at the very core, be one who is pure from the inside and let it work out through your life. When the world continues in the ways of injustice and is merciless to the least in society, be one who stands for the least and for those who cannot defend themselves by demanding justice and mercy.
When the world fights and wars, be one who always stands on the side of peace no matter the situation and no matter the circumstance. When the world insults, ridicules, and curses you, be one who blesses in return. When the evil of the world assaults you, be the one who does not resist the evil. And when the world beats you, spits upon you, and is preparing to crucify you, continue on the way of forgiveness and self-sacrificial love.
This is the way of Jesus and the way of the follower of Jesus in the world.