Recently, during one of my YouTube binges I came across a video where a man on the street asked people what they thought of Jesus and then asked the same people what they thought of Christians. The responses were completely different. Some of the answers towards Jesus may not have been theologically correct but everyone answered in the affirmative. Positive remarks for the Savior of the World. The gave only negative responses to Christians. Some people were so irritated with the thought of Christians they’d rather walk away than answers. I struggled with that video when I first watched it. There is this division of how people view Jesus and how people view Christianity. They should be so similar. We are broken, God help us.
Sometimes, I want to scream working for a church. I was out with some people I know and they had other friends with them. Doesn’t matter to me, I like to think I am a friendly person and can talk about anything. But the conversation always comes up with new people. What do you do? I almost dread that question from the moment I meet new people. I am not afraid or ashamed of God. But when I answer “I am a pastor,” or “I work for a church,” the atmosphere of the conversation almost always turns. People get quiet or try to fumble something to say. I wish they would just talk to me, I am a person with feelings and we have common interests. Yet, people often associated christians with something negative (hate, intolerance, prejudices). That’s not how Christians should be, that is not the Jesus want to be known. Jesus calls us “the light of the world,” we’ve been living in the dark.
I struggle with being a Christian sometimes. I struggle with hearing bashing of my faith on the news and how it changes peoples view of the God I follow. I struggle with stupid people saying stupid things about topics they don’t know anything about. I struggle with people making comments about God and religion who have no idea what these things mean. I struggle with people who proclaim to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior and they don’t act like it. I struggle with believers that forget they too have sin and the person they are talking to is a human being. Seek to understand before being understood. Listen to peoples stories, you will discover so much more.
I think now, in our culture, in our society it isn’t easy being a Christian. It is nowhere near the oppression faced by Christians in other countries and places around the world. But, it is getting more difficult to proclaim you are a Christian without having a stigma brought about it.
How then are we as followers of Jesus supposed to response to a shifting culture and society? We do what Jesus did. We seek out the lost, we give people hope again, we speak life where there is death, we become the voice for the voiceless, we become the light in the dark, we become more like Jesus.
There have been a lot of different situations that have come up the past few weeks and months that have blown up on social media. From the gender identification to race issues. How we talk about and look at these issues says a lot about faith and what we believe. Do we believe that God is only for some people or is He for everyone? Do we believe that Jesus can redeem all people or just a chosen few? Do we believe that we must be the moral compass of our society or should Jesus do that?
These issues in our society are hard to talk about. I will not shy away from them. I think our job as followers of Jesus is to be peacekeepers, have compassionate hearts, be the voice for the oppressed, the defenders of the weak. That is the God I serve.
I don’t have too much advice on this issue. I can’t tell you the apologetics of gender re-identification. There is no bible story that shows us how Jesus dealt with some of these things. I see too many holes in everyone’s arguments. And it probably doesn’t help that I always think I’m right.
Here is what I put my faith on, this is my anchor. That Jesus died for me, while I was in the worst of my sin, that His love for me motivates me. It motivates me to love those people who no one else wants. It challenges me to look past social stigmas, cultural norms, and look at human beings as people created in the image of God. I believe that Jesus loves all people, because they are created in the image of God. I believe that God is working in peoples lives to bring about their salvation. I believe that we can be used by God to do that. I believe that there is always light in the dark, that good always defeats evil, that love always wins and I believe the Buffalo Bills will win the Super Bowl. Lets look at some scripture and look at how we should confront these different situations that come up.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
The fruit of the Spirit… we believe that when you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior that the Holy Spirit dwells within us. Guides us, convicts us, motivates us, speaks through us, inspires us. Does your faith and what you believe produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control? From where I stand and what is often publicized it is the exact opposite. We must fight the things that do not produce that. The bible says to put away envy and strife. How are you bringing about these fruits in how you speak, in how you act, in how you treat others. This will show people your God. Does your life point to Jesus? Does your life reflect the character of God?
Love People Without Having an Agenda
We have an agenda to a lot of things in life. You sit next to that girl in a bible study so you try to get her to like you. You wait until the Chipotle guy puts a full spoon of meat on your burrito bowl then ask him for double meat in order to maximize the meat to burrito ratio. When you love people do you have an agenda? Do you listen to what they have to say or are you jumping at them to tell them they are sinners? Are you merely looking to chalk up a convert or are you genuinely caring for the lost. If we love with an agenda I am not sure that is real love. Real love is genuine, caring, deep, it endures hard conversations and tough things. Real love says I love you for who you are today, not who I want you to be. As the song goes, “real love is not afraid to bleed.”
Jesus says this,
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Love. Loving one another not only as fellow believers in Christ but also how we love other people. Pointing out shortcomings of people first is not love. Love people, for who you are, where they are. Show up for them when no one else will. We as people are flaky. Are time is crunched with a million different things. Life is hard. There are things people are going through that would crush others. Are you showing up for people in those things or are you going to bail. Will you walk away in difficulty, hardship, trials or will you stand firm?
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony
Kindness, Humility, Patience, Compassion, bearing with one another and forgiving one another. Does your faith look like that?
You’re life should look radically different. There should be joy and excitement. There should be a faith that is tough through the trials. You should be unafraid and fearless. Stand up for others, work hard, respect others. Be Kind, Be Generous.
Win the Right to Be Heard
When these things occur then you can WIN THE RIGHT TO BE HEARD. You can speak into peoples lives and share Jesus with them when you love people for who they are, where they are. You win the right to be heard when you take the time in a relationship to hear other people speak. The people in your life that you want to know Jesus, how are you winning the right to speak to them about Him. Are you loving them without an agenda, are you showing up for them, are you living a life that is different? God help us be better.