Fellow Christians: we’re doing it wrong. And by “it,” I mean Christianity as a whole. We’re just doing it wrong. That isn’t to say that there aren’t those of us who are still pursuing Christ in the best way possible, but for some reason those people never seem to make headlines. That in and of itself is a sad truth, one that we desperately need to change. We’ve spent too long doing idiotic things that portray us in the wrong light, and then hiding behind our Bibles as justification for doing those things. This isn’t a new practice, but it has nevertheless gone on long enough. People say all the time that this country is “moving away from Christian principles,” but did it ever occur to anyone that we’re pushing them away?
The problem is not that our convictions are wrong. Believing in one true God and his only son who died for our sins is what keeps us going every day. It is our motivation, and Christ is our rock. And we must never give that up. But we must stop using our faith as an excuse to take the wrong approach in defending our stance on an issue. I still maintain that this is one of our greatest weaknesses: that we play the victim card all too often, and unnecessarily more often than not. This is creating a false image, in which Christians are seen as power-grabbing bigots, who are unable to defend themselves when things get tough. This is not who we are, and we should not be giving others the ammunition to make this image seem credible.
So what exactly are we doing that’s causing this to happen? The list goes on and on for days, but close to the top is the attitude (that we exemplify in our actions and reactions) that we as Christians can’t stand to be in the same room as a sinner or another person who does not share our beliefs (i.e. a gay person, a Muslim, an Atheist, etc). We see this in politics constantly. We see it in laws like the one that was almost passed in the Kansas State Senate, which would have given business owners the right to refuse service to a customer because they are gay. This is not the kind of response that we need to be generating. If we preach love and acceptance, we cannot follow it up with laws that ban gay people from eating at the same coffee shop.
Why? Because it’s not consistent with our message, and certainly not with the message that Jesus Christ was crucified for sharing. I laugh at the suggestion that being “subjected” to the presence of a gay person, or an atheist, is somehow religious persecution of Christians. It’s insanity. Even as a Christian, I see that it’s ludicrous. For one thing, it’s incredibly intolerant of us to say that we’re offended because we have to sit next to a homosexual person. For another, it’s essentially the exact opposite of what Jesus did while he was on this Earth. If we’re casting out nonbelievers, sinners, atheists, gay people, etc, we’re failing to uphold the true Christian doctrine: to love thy neighbor no matter who they are or what they have done.
Don’t forget, when an adulteress was brought before Jesus in John 8:7,
“He lifted up himself, and said unto them: He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”
Notice how he says “He that is without sin among you,” because he knows that none among them is without sin. And that’s still true today. It’s what drives us as Christians: we know that we’re sinners. We know that we’re not perfect. But as my favorite Christian author Jefferson Bethke writes,
“We don’t have to hide the fact that we are messy, because God doesn’t hide the fact that that’s exactly the kind of people he came to save.”
We’re all lost in a storm of sin, no matter who we are. Christians, atheists, Muslims, gay, straight, men, women, blacks, whites, all of us. That’s what unifies us under God: that he sent Christ to die for every single one of us, knowing that there would still be those who opposed Him. I am no better than the gay man that walks into the coffee shop and orders that latte. I’m trying my hardest to be the best that I can be in the eyes of God, but that doesn’t make me better than any of my brothers and sisters. That’s what Jesus showed us when he cried out for God to forgive the men who stoned him and sold his clothing as he hung on a cross.
We pray before our meals and go to church, but it does not give us the right to say that we are more righteous than those who do not, and we as Christians have lost sight of that. Christianity is not a country club. We do not push away those who disagree with us; we embrace them, open our doors to them, and offer them some coffee. That’s what we’re supposed to be doing, but it isn’t what’s practiced in the majority of Christian communities today. The sad thing is, we hear people of faith in politics say that we must be “more aggressive,” and that we “must not back down from our convictions.” Don’t get me wrong, I agree that we have to hold firm to our beliefs. But our ultimate mission is to show others the love that Christ has for them, as it was shown to us. We’re not doing that by telling someone that they aren’t good enough to eat at this restaurant or shop at this store because they’re sinning. That is quite literally the opposite of what Jesus did, and it is getting us nowhere. In fact, I would argue that it’s hindering our cause greatly.
We have to distance ourselves from religious rules and ideology, and move closer to Jesus. If we use the Bible as a definite set of laws, and then treat anyone who doesn’t follow those laws as second-class citizens, we’re missing the point. We’re missing the reason for which nails were driven through His hands. We’re missing the part where Jesus was a nonviolent pacifist who told his disciples that if someone struck them, they are to turn and offer the other cheek to be struck. I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but treating every single man, woman, and child with love and respect was pretty much trademarked by Christ. And if we attempt to recreate that love by making it legal to turn people away because they sin differently than we do, we’re no better than the religious men who called Jesus a glutton and a drunkard. We’re spitting in His face by asserting that we know how to best bring people to Him, after He has explicitly given us a playbook.
Laws like those recently proposed in Kansas are wrong, period. We shouldn’t legalize discrimination, because it makes Christian business owners seem even more self-righteous and arrogant. If anything, we as Christians should be the most welcoming people in that entire coffee shop. We should hold the door open for that gay man, or that atheist. We should invite them to sit with us, and befriend them. That’s what Jesus came here to do, because love is a more powerful weapon than anything else. Christ has given us more love than we could have ever imagined. We just have to use it.