Real talk time, folks. This post is highly personal since it’s something I struggle with. If my writing occasionally sounds gritty or harsh, a lot of it is frustration with my own failure and how that failure has contributed to the Angry Christian label we all carry to some extent. I’m human, of course, so I know I will never be perfect. At the same time, though, I know I can be better.
Before going further, I would like to invite you to either listen to this song by Casting Crowns or at least read the lyrics:
Jesus, friend of sinners, we have strayed so far away
We cut down people in your name but the sword was never ours to swing
Jesus, friend of sinners, the truth’s become so hard to see
The world is on their way to You, but they’re tripping over me
Always looking around but never looking up, I’m so double-minded
A plank-eyed saint with dirty hands and a heart divided
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours
Jesus, friend of sinners, the one who’s writing in the sand
Made the righteous turn away and the stones fall from their hands
Help us to remember we are all the least of these
Let the memory of Your mercy bring Your people to their knees
Nobody knows what we’re for only what we’re against when we judge the wounded
What if we put down our signs crossed over the lines and loved like You did
I love this song. Anyone who listens to K-Love probably hears it umpteen times a day, but all the better, I say. The convicting lyrics should strike each of us to our innermost thoughts or at least remind us how the outside world sees us. This song also perfectly sums up my failure: I’m so busy making sure everyone knows what I’m against, it’s hard to show people the love and joy that I’m for.
After listening to this song today, I went to Google and typed in “Why are Christians so”…
Any guesses as to what the first autofill was? Not caring, not loving, not charitable, not lovable.
Why are Christians so mean. That was the first autofill.
When I typed in “Why are Christians so loving,” the fifth hit was still an article titled “Why Are Christians So Judgmental?” Ouch.
If you simply search “Christians are,” the results vary a bit more. “Christians are…furious.” “Christians are…hypocrites.” “Christians are…delusional.” “Christians are…strict.” Still, Christians are so…mean?
Good heavens, we have to be better. We must be better. We are called to love. If the outside doesn’t get to see that, why would they be interested in what we have to say?
Now granted, I know that to some extent we will never get completely away from this. We have most definitely been called to live to a standard that is not easy. Jesus Himself said we would have a tough life, and anyone who says otherwise (coughJoelOsteencough) is building his literal mansion on Earth. Sin is real, right and wrong exist, and within the church, we should keep each other accountable in love. From the outside, that will probably always seem strict.
Here is the biggie, though: we are to keep other Christians accountable, and we are to do it gently, privately, and out of genuine concern and care – not self-righteous smugness. Plus, we are not called to nitpick at non-believers or (worse) belittle them, embarrass them, and (worst of all) kick them when they are down. We are not called to police the internet with all caps. We are not called to flood social media with memes snarkily denouncing things we don’t like or don’t approve of.
If we look to the book of Matthew, we can visualize Jesus’ model for how He loved and shared the Gospel: meet the physical, tangible needs first, and build on that foundation of love with the Gospel. Truth be told, it doesn’t mirror most of my behavior or the general gist of what we see on social media or on TV. In chapter 4, Jesus begins ministry very humbly: by teaching and healing the sick. It’s perfect, though—loving His people in both word and deed. I’ll be honest, I’m pretty good at spewing fancy words. Words are easy. Sounding magnanimous and socially aware is a little cherry on my perfectly crafted sundae image. Living out those words in love, though, that’s a little harder…that’s when the sundae splats on the sidewalk outside Dairy Queen. Tangible ways to show even complete strangers that we care? Asking God to curb our knee-jerk judgmental tongues and hearts? Showing kindness to “enemies”? (Piffle…we’re such cowards, afraid of everything different from us.) I’ll let our refusal to aid refugees be the proof of that one (btw…Lev. 19:34; 1 John 3:17-18; 1 Cor. 12:13).
Feel my tension rising? This morning, I angrily replied to some random thread on Facebook, demonstrating how “loving” I am. Two weeks ago, I picked up a brochure explaining how to easily sponsor food and education for a Syrian refugee child, but I forgot about the brochure and it’s still on my kitchen table—under a catalog for Cheryl’s cookies and an ad for lawn care. After I’m done writing this, I’m going to go buy a dress that will probably cost me $70ish dollars when I’m sure that within a city block or two of me, there is someone who doesn’t even have shoes that keep their feet warm in the winter. I’ve already snapped at the radio about some political issue I didn’t agree with, and if I drive anywhere today, I will probably be grumbling to myself about “no one else knows how to drive but me…clearly.”
I struggle to love. I’m wrapped up in my own little world. That’s not how I should be, though, and I think many of us can join in together with the challenge to love others in word as well as actions. Let’s live out the model Jesus gave: love people first. Meet their physical needs first. When someone knows they are truly loved, then they can hear about why Jesus loves them and why it matters.
Sometime today, maybe when you’re reading this, take a moment to pray for how we show the world we love. And let’s make the choice together to show it!
And of course, while you’re at it, don’t forget to keep exploring our beautiful planet 🙂