Perhaps there are atheists because there are Christians. Perhaps people walk away from their belief in Jesus because there are Christians. Perhaps people walk away from the church because of Christians.
Have you ever been hurt by the church or by Christians? Probably so. I have. We who claim we are Christians are poor representation of who Jesus has called us to be. Christians are essentially Christ Followers, yet we selectively choose what we follow of Christ. We say we represent Jesus, rather we represent everything of the world but Jesus. Rather than do as we were called to do, we hurt and wound those around us. The Great Commission has shifted to selective commission.
The two greatest commandments is to love God and love people. We say we love God but our actions lack that reality as we fail to love people. We shun others because they are different than us. We talk negatively about our fellow Christ-followers and those who are outside of the “faith.” We look at people and treat them as scums of the earth.
The issue is, we look at others’ shortcomings and unknowingly (or maybe knowingly), view their shortcomings as planks that are too heavy for Jesus to forgive. We look at others negating to see that we too have logs we are carrying around. Far from perfect are we. Perhaps if we took a hard look at ourselves we would see that we are imperfect human beings. We need grace, compassion and love. Same as those who we view as “different.”
Let’s see what the Bible says. Leviticus 19:34 reads,
You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
The self-righteous says, “Let’s create cliques; you don’t belong; you’re too different; if you don’t believe what I believe you’re not apart; your sin is too big; let’s hold a grudge and malice.” Man have we lost it. Jesus didn’t do that. Jesus is inclusive and cradles those who didn’t think like he did or lived as He did. He bridged the gap and created the opportunity for connectivity and communication.
In the New Testament we see Jesus loved big and His love was and is relentless. There is always a seat at Jesus’ table. He ate with the tax collectors and sinners. They followed and they eventually turned to faith. They eventually became Christ-followers. What did it require, an openness to see people through the eyes of Christ? Welcoming without standards and requirements. That is not to say you agree with sin, but you love others despite their sin. You eat with them and talk in love, grace, and compassion.
Throughout my 26 years, I have seen many hurt by the church. People who were ridiculed for how they dressed, because of their economic status, having too strong personalities or too shy personalities. I’ve seen people shunned because of pregnancy bearing and choosing to terminate a child. I’ve seen people judged because they didn’t know the Bible enough and for knowing too much. I’ve also seen major sins covered up in the church with no acknowledgment. I’ve seen leaders and pastors take the pulpit preaching redemption and salvation knowing the gravity of sin committed and actively living in it.
I’ve seen quite a bit. Maybe one of those resonated with you. Perhaps you’ve been hurt by the church and have found it difficult to forgive people who say they love God but only do so by word and show no fruit of that. Perhaps you’ve held on to hurt from being hurt by the church or by a Christian. Can I share something with you? Even Jesus was hurt by his own people. His own people took Him to the cross. His own people mocked and ridiculed Him. Jesus endured all that for you and me. And we should live in His example. While the hurt is understandable and maybe even justifiable, what isn’t is giving up on Jesus and giving up on the Church.
The devil will do whatever it takes to get you and me from being in communion with the body of Christ. He will stir contention and strife within the body of Christ to keep as many out as possible. For those of you who are hurt, it’s time to humble ourselves and seek Christs strength to forgive and become an example of humility and hope to others who have been hurt. For those who have done the hurting, it’s time to humble yourself and admit your wrong and seek reconciliation. Both sides require humility in order to heal. Humility allows Jesus to invade and heal hearts that are broken and calloused.
The house of God is a place of refuge. We’ve lost it though. The house of God has become a place of show and tell, cliques, flashing our economic status and knowledge. Sounds a lot like the rest of the world, doesn’t it? In Romans 12:2, the apostle Paul writes that we should not conform to this world, rather we should be transformed by renewing our minds in God’s word. Simply put, Christianity is not like looking and acting like everyone else. It is living out the gospel message of loving the difficult, forgiving the difficult and remembering we are just as difficult. We are not to look like the world. We are a place of refuge for those in need, in open arms loving without condition.
Perhaps, the church would be a place of refuge if we did what Jesus did – loved people.