Friday, May 29, 2009

The Finger

No not THAT finger, I am referring to the one we Christians might use to point out what’s wrong with the world and pass judgment on the behavior of others. It’s the one we use when we yell “murderer” to the woman walking into the abortion clinic or to point out our distaste at the drunk laying in the gutter or when we are whispering about the couple in the church that just filed for divorce. I am not saying that any of those things are OK, but in our fervor to pass judgment on the actions of others we often overlook the fact we are pointing at people who are really no different than we are. They are often faced with circumstances that have completely shaken up the world they knew. They are placed in situations, not always by choice, they see no way out of and every choice they are presented with looks no better than the other.

Yet it seems that many Christians when given the blessed opportunity to minister to the needs of a hurting person instead choose to act as if they have some sort of moral imperative to point out their failures and to tell them, in their view, just what God thinks about it. Where is the love of God in that? Where is the love and grace from them that Jesus showed the woman who was caught in adultery? Instead of condemning her as the Law required and the self-righteous demanded; Jesus chose instead to give her the one thing she really needed and desired, love and acceptance. Not acceptance of her sin, but He loved HER and he accepted HER just the way she was.

The longer I am a Christian the more I am convinced that people can’t come to Christ simply to avoid eternal punishment, to get a “get out of hell free pass.” Yet that seems to be the message that I have heard preached in most of the churches I have been part of in the past. It is summed up in the phrase “turn or burn.” I simply don’t believe someone can be saved with a message like that. I think it leads to many false conversions. I know it did in my case many years ago when a preacher scared me down to the front of the church to say a prayer and get dunked.

No, people come to Christ by being convinced in their hearts of His love and acceptance and forgiveness for them and to be joined to the One who can give them, eternally, His life and hope and love. That is the good news that Christ died for. But people will not come to Christ unless the love and acceptance of Jesus is made real to them in the way we Christians live out our lives. Unless they see the love of Jesus in us, they will walk the other way. That love isn’t best expressed by trying to change their behavior. A change of behavior isn’t what they need the most. What they need is Jesus and to see His love expressed in us.

5 comments:

Joel B. said...

Yep indeed, many churches are trying to scare the hell out of people but have very little to say about the love and grace of the God who wants them to come into His life and experience His Kingdom.

Jamie said...

WOW!!
What a marvelous, grace-filled post! If only the world really did know Christians by their love...

Thanks, Gary. :)

Gary Kirkham said...

Hi Joel and Jamie, thanks for your comments. I heard my pastor say one time that even if there wasn't a heaven, even if physical death was the end of our existance, he would still choose Christ. Amen

That's the way to come to Christ, to strip away all the layers of stuff religion has added that cajole or distract, so it's just you and Christ loving and accepting the other for who they are just as they are.

Gary

Bino M. said...

Gary - Great post!

I still struggle to accept some people as they are. But I think I am far better than the time I was super religious. So may be its a journey. Sometimes I judge people based on their looks etc and I hate to do that.

Gary Kirkham said...

Bino,

Thanks for commenting. I am right there with you. I still have a tendency to judge a book by its cover, so to speak. I think it is burned deep in our minds due to a lifetime of experience. Like you, I think God has done a work in me to change the way I view people. He still has plenty of work to do :)

It has been my observation that legalistic Christians I have known are some of the most bigoted people on the planet. There was a time I would throw myself in there as well. When I came to know the grace of God I began to see people in a different way. I am no longer a hateful prejudiced person.

Yet there are times when something happens and those old stereotypes are the first thing that comes to mind. They are less frequent than they were, but I suspect that they will never completely vanish in this lifetime. Not as long as Satan is around to remind me. When they come to mind, I just remind myself of the source and let the grace of God rule in my heart. Sounds easy when I say it like that...

Like you say, it's a journey.

Gary