Where is the Love?

Christians, as a mass of people, have forgotten how to love. We have become Pharisees. We judge, everyone, by how they look, act or make us feel when we see them. We do not approach the needy or the downtrodden. We do not help the widow or the orphan, and oh my!, not the prostitute or the drunkard. Why do people look elsewhere for help? Because the church has decided to implement an entrance exam; if you have any “undesirable traits”, you are automatically disqualified from entry. Oh you may get to sit and listen, but on the back row, in the shadows, hidden and easily dismissed. So the dismissed go back to their drugs, sex, alcohol and self-hate, trying to find some kind of peace, some kind of healing in all of the things that have made them broken in the first place. The problem is that they are finding more acceptance, more love and caring from the community of destitutes around them than from those that darken the doors of the church down the street each week.

Christ’s message has always been simple: Love God and love everyone else. But somehow we have gotten so hung up on the darkness in each soul that we have forgotten that we were called to bring them the light. It’s almost as if we are afraid that the darkness of another will cause our light to go out! Or perhaps we are reminded of our own sin and failures and would rather not go there.

The example of the American church has become so devoid of Christ that no one can see Him in us anymore. The American gospel says that if you go to church on Sunday, and, most importantly, look really good and speak really good and act really good while there, you will leave believing you are good. You will hear the gospel of self-help, self-prospering, God-loves-you-and-wants-you-to-be-happy; sing songs of self-worship and a human-centered God; then go about your week, never even opening your Bible or considering the Truth of the Gospel of Christ.

Because we have allowed the Truth of Christ’s gospel to fall to the wayside, the lie of “self-savior” has permeated the world. The broken and wounded world no longer looks to us to see what Truth and Love are because we look no different than they do. The lie of bigotry, hatred, self-reliance and self-love; the “we are better than you” mentality that has consumed every racial, political, religious, and dare I say, human group has poisoned us against each other. We no longer view someone of a different mindset or belief as another person. A living, breathing, image-bearer of God. Whether they even believe in God or not-each person on this earth is an image-bearer of the Creator of the universe! And we stand by while evil men treat children like property.

I am thankful that there are hundreds of individual churches across the US that do not hold to the American Dream of Christianity. I am thankful that there are still men of God who hold their Bibles in their hands as they preach from it and make the Gospel of Christ a priority. And in that priority, they challenge themselves, their families and their flock to be disciples and disciple-makers. I am thankful that they are striving to be always obedient, in the small things and in the big ones; and that their congregations follow their lead with gracious and loving hearts.

If we want to call ourselves Christians- literally “followers of Christ”-we need to take a hard look at the Christ we are claiming to follow.

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Let’s Talk About This

When people talk about sins, there’s always varying degrees of the severity of the sin. Like murder or theft are worse than lying or disobeying your parents. Anything to do with sex is automatically terrible and taboo and we don’t talk about it. The world is too broken, so confused about what is up and down, right and wrong. We, as the church, have the instruction manual on how to navigate the craziness and we refuse to have real conversations about life and death and what God has for His children. We feel so backward and scared about what people will do or say or think that we don’t even bother to care what God thinks. We don’t even consider that His cost is higher than anything the world would ask of us, and His cost is so much more worth it! His burden is so easy and His yoke is so light. But we forget our responsibility to His kingdom, the call on our lives, the demand the cross makes of us. We forget the cost He paid to get us back, to bring us out of the pit.

And so we walk around with our label makers, slapping every single person in our path with what we can see on the outside, what we esteem them as, while we sit on our high pedestal of “better than you’s” and “at least I’m not like her” self sufficiency. We cannot even fathom how much we have destroyed our own trustworthiness and validity by attempting to decide who is “worthy” of Christ. No one is!! Who the hell are we to think that we get to decide who can fall at the feet of the Savior?

I used to think I was somehow the worst Christian ever because I was still attracted to women. I couldn’t help it. I tried not to be, I am married to a man I adore and even have children with him. But I still had the desires and attraction to other women. Then one day my pastor shared a video of a pastor, a pastor, sharing his same struggle. He explained that, same-sex attraction was just like any other sinful desire. We cannot control the desires but we can fight them. We can choose not to partake. We can overcome. That was the moment that I knew I needed to admit my struggle and begin to fight against it. And I also began to realize that I had a unique opportunity to help other people who struggle with the same desires, to fight against them. I have a powerful story, but only because Christ has made it so.

The Church is full of redeemed sinners, just people, all with struggles and hangups, striving to honor Christ. At least that is what it is supposed to be. There are many churches that are anything but. They don’t talk about the sin, the struggles, they just talk about the love of God, the great plans He has to prosper you and make life happy. But Christ, Himself, told us we would have struggles, and being imperfect people, we are gonna screw things up at least a couple of times a minute. The awesome thing about admitting that you have struggles is that you are free from judgment. Not judgement from other people, necessarily, but freedom from casting judgement on others. You are free to look at another person with love and compassion in your heart because, you know, they are just as broken as you are. That is the power of Christ’s grace and forgiveness. When we can accept it for ourselves, we can’t help but share it with others.

I don’t know where you are as you read this. You may have deep hurts that you aren’t ready to let go of. You may have been struggling with your particular struggle for so long, you can’t possibly imagine being free from it. Maybe you know you are living in a manner opposite of what God has called you to, but you just don’t know how to get out of it, and worse, you don’t know how to own up to it without fear of rejection and ridicule.

The Bible gives us an account in John, chapter 8 verses 1 through 11, of a woman. We don’t know much about her, other than that she was caught in the act of adultery. She was brought to the temple courts where Jesus was teaching, by Pharisees, who wished to test Jesus. We don’t know if this was something she did often or if it was a one time occurrence. I think it must have been a recurring sin for her, how else did the Pharisees catch her in the act? There is no indication that she wished for forgiveness. I am sure she fully expected to be stoned to death, as the law required. But Jesus knew the hearts of the Pharisees, and He passed judgement like only He could.

“If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”

The Bible says they left, one by one, the older ones leaving first, until they were all gone and it was just her and Jesus. He asked her where her accusers had gone, if anyone had condemned her. She answered that there was no one.

“Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Any one of us could stand in her place. Each and every sin is worthy of death and each and every one of us has sinned. But our story doesn’t end with accusation and condemnation, it ends with forgiveness and a command. We don’t know what happened to the woman, if she did indeed leave her life of sin. But we do know what our lives look like. We know our deepest struggle and we try to put on our best face, even though it hurts like hell. We also have a choice. We can choose to keep walking in the direction we are, and keep falling into the sinkholes along the way. Or we can choose to turn around and walk with Jesus. Walk with those who know our struggles and still love us because they know the love of Jesus and have to share it.

I invite you to walk with me. Let’s have a conversation, and keep having it. Let’s talk about the things we struggle with that no one wants to talk about, without fear. You are loved and welcome. And you don’t have to walk alone.