It’s a really hard time to be a Christian. If I were to simplify things, and things are never simple, there appear to be two camps of Christians right now. Sadly, most of the division is along political lines. Stoked by social media and perpetuated by vastly different interpretations of the news. These camps couldn’t be more at odds and yet, there is this love for Christ that should ultimately bind us.
I could sit here and argue for “my side” because I believe my views are correct. And I trust that you’ve carefully considered what you believe and have come to your own conclusions. But there is so much arguing and information out there to consume, and I don’t know how often it actually changes anyone’s minds. In the words of Paul Simon “All I suggest, is a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest”.
The best of us hope to be teachable, but even so, we can only learn so much. Everyone needs to hang their hat on some kinds of absolutes just to get through the day. We often go on social media to be “informed”. But it’s not an ideal place to learn from others. We all know that, but it’s addicting to have access to so many views at once. I go on facebook to check in with those that share my opinions and often to let my anger burn at those who don’t. I still follow those that disagree with me in hopes that they will post something that will teach me something new about the other side, but that rarely changes my outlook.
What changes my outlook is spending actual, face to face time with people on both sides. I can’t burn with rage at the only friend that made time for me during a bitter time in my life even though she voted for the wrong candidate. I can’t hate the woman that fed me when I felt homeless and continues to invite me to her table even though she doesn’t understand the immigration crisis the same way I do. There are people that I see unintentionally choosing unkindess to others, that have shown great kindness to me. I can’t unsee the kindness and disregard the person behind the beliefs I think are wrong. We aren’t good and bad people. We are flawed humans that have good and bad thoughts and actions. And we’re all trying to figure out which ones are which and how to do more of one or the other. We don’t have it all figured out. You can find good people within any argument. There are very few people that are 100% evil. Even ISIS fighters have mothers that love them. And Jesus died for everyone, regardless of evil deeds and political allies. Who are we to write people off if Jesus won’t?
Here’s the thing, I genuinely love people on both sides of the argument. But I don’t expect either camp to lay down their banners anytime soon. The Christians I love, love fiercely and they will die for their causes. And Christians have been killing each other for centuries over disagreements about how to apply the Bible, why should now be any different? We thought we had gotten better? We thought we had evolved maybe? But we’re still Protestants and Catholics burning each other at the stake.
Oh how this must grieve the Jesus that I love. The bride of Christ torn in two, again and again.
What I am trying to learn is how to see the truth and yet, choose love. Love for those that don’t see things the way I do. Love for people that feel it’s ok to write others off, on both sides. Christians, you can “wrestle” with the truth all you want. At the end of the day, who’s right? I believe in Biblical truth, I really do. But I also believe we’re human. And I’ve heard Bible based arguments on both sides that sound good to me. Who decides which interpretation is correct? God does. How do you know which one God favors? You pray about it and hope you get it right.
We all have hills we choose to die on. I have mine, you have yours. Should my hills be yours? Maybe, maybe not. I think more likely God has placed a passion in you for your particular soap box and given me something else because both are important. Is there real evil in the world? Absolutely. And sometimes I participate in it, and sometimes you do too. Does that make it ok? No. But all we can do is do better, to read the Bible more and work it out the best we can. To emulate Jesus more. Because as Christians, that’s what it’s about.
Jesus not only died for our sins, He took the time to live with us. To show us how it’s done. Did He mingle with sinners? You bet. So we probably should too. Did He get frustrated with His friends when they didn’t get it? Yup. So, we probably will too. And ultimately, when things got scary and he was facing death, did he get scared? Yes, it’s pretty clear He wasn’t looking forward to dying for all of humanity. But He did it anyway. He died for the ones that get it right and the ones that get it wrong. We may be fortunate enough to not have to take a bullet for someone that we believe is “getting it wrong”, but we should be willing to. And Jesus spent the majority of His short life helping people, regardless of where they came from and who they were. That doesn’t mean you have to help literally everyone you meet. You’re not Jesus. But find some people to love and take action. And stop judging other people for helping the “wrong people”.
There’s a lot of deconstruction going on right now in the church. The truth is, there has always been “deconstruction”. But now we have a fancy word for it and social media so that those going through it can share the news with everyone. As a Christian, it’s disheartening to hear about people walking away from Christ, largely because Christians have let them down. Christians didn’t have answers for them anymore. Christians didn’t love them as well as non-christians did. The Bible wasn’t cohesive enough or didn’t feel relevant anymore. I get all that. I’ve deconstructed many times in my life. I’ve been deeply wounded by fellow Christians that hurt me in their pursuit of doing things “the right way”. And I got fed up and angry trying to please a God that felt so distant and disinterested.
If you’re tempted to walk away from the church right now, I totally understand. Truth is, I am too. And I have at times. But I always come back. I come back to the Jesus I believe in. He might look different than the Jesus you were taught to love. Because I see Him the way God has allowed me to see Him. He created me to have the experiences I’ve had, the culture I’m in, and be influenced by a specific series of people and events. They shape how I interpret Him.
The Jesus I love is powerful, yet humble, strong, yet meek, fiery, and peaceful, compassionate and just. He loves mercy and grace. He fights for those despised and He dies for those he loves. He loves everyone. No other religion offers that. A leader of an upside down kingdom. A leader that guides us to live in ways that are so counter-intuitive to our human instincts. A leader that hid from power while His followers tried to thrust it on Him. The physical representation of the God of the Universe in the form of a Jewish man.
And I can’t walk away from Him.
Even when Christians suck and we’re all “getting it wrong” and righteous anger burns within us. As we watch our fellow believers do horrible things in the name of our precious Savior, He is still precious. He is still more valuable than all the world can offer. And in the chaos of the failing church, I need Him more than ever.