If you have been injured by Christians or the Church in the name of God, I would like to apologize to you. I know that I have been guilty of this in the past and can only credit my own immaturity fueled by zeal and lack of compassion. Before you write off God or church or Christianity, please consider this: you aren’t signing up to be like other Christians when you decide to follow Jesus…you are signing up to be slowly transformed to be more like Jesus. Jesus is loving, gracious, compassionate, self-sacrificing, gentle, strong, wise, patient, understanding, tender, and merciful. He spoke against the religious elite who sat in smug judgement of “sinners” and then he died among sinners.
Jesus didn’t come to judge people, he came here in a breakable form to love well…not spew hate. He never ostracized…he brought in the marginalized people from society and gave them a sense of belonging and healing. The people that were most damaged by the “In-crowd” were the people that he gravitated toward and to which he opened his arms. Although Christians most definitely get it wrong much of the time, we represent (however poorly sometimes) a Jesus who never got it wrong. We are just in the process of refinement. We will screw up. You will too. Because every single one of us needs that grace that Jesus shows. And honestly, how are we to become more like Jesus if everyone around us is to act perfectly? I’m stealing and paraphrasing this question from a video that I listened to with Paul Washer, John Piper, and Voddie Baucham: “When are you more like Jesus? When your loved ones are perfect or when you are forced to forgive just like the God you serve?” (paraphrase…take a listen…it’s really good! http://youtu.be/ZACkRe_W4Gg) Of course, every time I act like a beast now, I tell Stan that I am just helping him to be more Christ-like. 😉
I think we need to be discerning of what we do in the name of God but we also need to be discerning of the actions of others. I have seen Christians use scripture to brutalize others, to bully others, to elevate themselves, and to exclude others. None of that is the work of God. Any words can be taken out of context and turned into something that it was never meant to be. So before writing off God or Christianity, please ask yourself if the offense that you have encountered truly represents Jesus. If it doesn’t, then my guess is that work is being done in that individual too. Refinement is a painful process and sometimes we don’t handle that pain properly. Instead of bearing under it gracefully, we want to focus on someone else’s “shortcomings” so that we are distracted from our own. Please forgive us.