It’s been a rough week on social media. I’ve watched in shock and awe as people I know and love have posted, shared, and commented opinion after opinion with little to no regard as to how their words come across or how others might be receiving their message. At this point, I suppose it shouldn’t shock or amaze me, but it does. The most stunning messages have come from my Christian friends.
How did we get to a place where we are no longer capable of viewing the world through someone else’s eyes? When did being a Christian become all about pointing out the wrong in the world and shouting in outrage because people who don’t even claim to follow Jesus don’t adhere to our treasured standards, standards which arguably quite often aren’t even a good respresentation of what the Bible actually says?
Questions: Is the Super Bowl a Christian event? Do we really expect the halftime show to be done in the name of Jesus? Who is really shocked by what they saw Sunday evening? How much of our outrage is false because our default has now become righteous anger over the world not conforming to our religious point of view?
You will find nowhere in Scripture where God commands the world to become like His people. You will also find no mention of God telling His people to verbally shout their beliefs at those who don’t agree with them. In fact, God’s chief concern with His people is that they represent His character to the world by the way they live, particularly in the way they treat others.
“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,” (Romans 12:1, ESV). In other words, be far more concerned about becoming who YOU are supposed to be in Christ. There’s nothing there about expecting the world to conform to the way of Jesus. It’s foolish to harbor any expectation that the world is going to be interested in Christianity because we argue and shout and belittle everytime we see something that offends us.
There’s a wonderful story in Mark 10 where a rich man approaches Jesus to ask Him how he can obtain eternal life. In the end, the rich man is unable to accept the way of Jesus and walks away sad. Rather than become angry with the man and lecture him about how wrong he is, this is what Jesus does: “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him,” (Mark 10:21).
There’s another wonderful story in John 8 where a woman is dragged into the temple, having been caught in the act of adultery. By the way, she was likely naked in what was, at that time, considered one of the most holy places on earth by the Jewish people. Here is a woman who has been caught in the act of sin, who is exposed, and what does Jesus do? “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her…Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? Neither do I condemn you,” (John 8:7, 10, 11).
Huh, so Jesus didn’t condemn her? Nope. Jesus didn’t have harsh words for her behavior? Nope. Jesus didn’t label her as a harlot? Nope. Jesus wasn’t appalled by her actions? Nope, not even that. You see, Jesus didn’t come into the world to condemn the world, (John 3:17). Why? Because the world is condemned already, (John 3:18). Sin and shame are tearing us to shreds and have been since the Fall. The world doesn’t need an angry Savior ready to pounce on its brokenness and drive it further into sin and shame. The world needs a Savior full of love and compassion, and that is exactly what Jesus came to give.
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest,’” (Matthew 9:36-38).
When was the last time you went out of your way to get to know someone different than you, to seek out the last, lost, and least who live right next door to you? When was the last time, you put down your way of seeing the world and humbly and lovingly chose to listen and see the world through someone else’s eyes? If the people who claim to follow Jesus aren’t actively going out of their way to practice this behavior toward our fellow humans, can we really claim to be followers of Jesus? Can we really say we have the ability to show empathy and compassion for the lostness and brokenness in the world?
Our highest calling as disciples of Jesus is to love God, love others as we love ourselves, and to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, (see Matthew 7:12, 22:37-40). Jesus said these statements are the Law and the Prophets, meaning the entire Old Testament, the entire way of life of someone who claims to love God and follow Jesus, is summed up by how well we love others. Why? Well, a lot of people can claim to love God. We can hide out in our church buildings with people who think like us and believe like us and ignore those who are hurting all around us whom we encounter everyday, all while claiming to love God as we do this. The real test of our love, obedience, and devotion to God is found in how we treat our fellow man.
Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven,” (Matthew 7:21). If those words don’t frighten you and cause you to take a good, hard look at the way you are currently living your life, then you likely don’t understand the force of Jesus’ words here. You see, He really meant it. Jesus really intended for us to love our enemies, to seek reconciliation at all cost to self, to have compassion and love for those who do not yet know Him. If that doesn’t describe your faith, then Jesus’ brother James would say you’re faith is no better than a demon’s.
Some of Jesus’ harshest words in Scripture were aimed at religious folks, those who appeared to have it all together spiritually but were really dead inside. “‘Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.’ One of the lawyers (meaning teachers of the Bible) answered him, ‘Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also.’ And he said, ‘Woe to you teachers of the Bible also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers,'” (Luke 11:44-46, editorial remarks by me).
We grieve the heart of God when we tear down other people in His Name. I think Jesus wishes we would just bite our tongues, move on, and go about our lives loving people as lavishly as He loves us. That way of life, the way Jesus commanded, would go a lot farther in changing the world than our shouting and arguing.
“Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil,” (2 Timothy 2:23-24).