I guess you could say that Florida is in the Bible belt. And for sure you could say that I am in the middle of a Christian retirement community, as I am travelling with my parents. (And they are attending a Christian conference at a mid-sized Christian conference and Resort Center here in north-western Florida.) So I guess you could say that nothing really should surprise me. I AM in the Bible belt, right? What you see is what you get.
But something did surprise me today. And it just about took the wind out from beneath my sails.
I had set out for a mid-morning walk around the grounds. Actually, I was on my way to the pool. And I decided to take the scenic route through the residential area in which we are staying. The houses were small and quaint and most had palm trees out front, which I admired. There were some pretty flowers, and I guess you could say I was in la-la land for the most part. Brain on cruise control. (I am on vacay, peeps!) So, I was coming up to some houses, one of which had a fairly large sign affixed to the front, which made me mildly curious. And I turned to read the sign. And here’s what I read:
“…be sure your sin will find you out.”
That’s right. Be sure your sin will find you out. (And….’have a nice day why don’tcha, while you’re at it’.)
I am going to have to apologize in advance for this post. Because I am so very, very wrought with feeling and emotion right now. And I feel COMPELLED to write the deepest, most secret feelings I have within my being. About God. About church. About Christians. About Christianity.
Because like it or lump it. Christians have failed me. Have failed US. The church…the body of believers that represent the Bible and Christ and Christianity…have failed. And miserably.
And I want to start this essay with an apology:
For anyone who has ever read a sign such as I did this morning, I want to offer you love for hate, healing for disappointment and hope for despair. Because the Jesus I know would never let those words be the first impression He would leave with you. The Jesus I know is not like that.
For anyone who has ever been hurt by the spiteful, angry words of an ill-meaning Christian, I apologize. I offer up my own heart to truly say, from its very depths, that that is not what a Christian is meant to be.
For anyone who has ever thought that Christianity is about rules over freedom, hate over love, disappointment over joy, turmoil over peace, negativity over positivity. I offer myself as the FACE of that apology. I am sorry for what other Christians have done to you in the name of the Bible. In the name of Jesus.
For we have been a disgrace to the beauty of Jesus’ precious name. And I am truly sorry for the hurt, the pain, the misery that has been heaped upon you in the name of what is RIGHT and TRUE.
For. And this is a BIGGIE. There go I, but for the GRACE, and the MERCY, and the COMPASSION, and the FORGIVENESS, and the endless, limitless LOVE of God. There go I. Pointing fingers. There go I. Calling names. There go I. Pointing out faults. There go I. Thinking I am better. There go I. Thinking I am worthy because of my faith. There go I. Thinking that anything I could EVER do on my own would ever be enough. There go I. Telling you what an awful, horrible sinner you are. There go I. But for the grace of God. And it is His grace that has shown me that this is NOT what my job as a Christian is. To point out the faults of others. I’ve got enough on my plate, thank-you very much, to be worried about you and all you’ve got going on. My life is far from perfect. But that’s okay. Because I am a beautiful, messy work in process. And God never asked me to be my fellow brother or sister’s keeper.
Pointing fingers at others is not the job of a Christian, people. I have four pointing back at me, and that’s enough to keep me pretty, darn busy.
So again, I’ll say it. From my heart and soul, I am sorry if I have ever hurt you with ill-advised words of counsel. I want to be a different kind of Christian than all that jazz. That crazy stuff is not for me.
And this much more…I know what it feels like to be hurt by the church. I know what it feels like to resent the church. I know what it is to feel wounded by the church. To be hurt by that body of believers who call themselves the Church. And, but for the Love of God, His Compassion and Mercy, I would still be in that miserable mess of thinking I am not enough. Not worthy.
That is not Christianity, folks. And if it is, then it is a gigantic FAIL.
Because the Jesus I know cannot often be recognized in the face of our present-day Church. How very sad. Because we cannot truly understand who we are until we understand who Jesus is, for our encounter with him, this “faceless” figure, defines what it means to be human.(excerpt from Has Christianity Failed You?, Ravi Zacharias)
This, my friend is Jesus:
No one was half so compassionate…, yet no one spoke such red-hot, scorching words….A bruised reed he would not break. His whole life was LOVE, yet on one occasion he demanded of the Pharisees how they ever expected to escape the damnation of hell. He was a dreamer of dreams and a seer of visions, yet for sheer stark realism he has all of our self-styled realists soundly beaten. He was a servant of all, washing the disciples’ feet, yet masterfully he strode into the temple, and the hucksters and moneychangers fell over one another from the mad rush and the fire they saw blazing in his eyes.
He saved others, yet at the last, himself he did not save. There is nothing in history like the union of contrasts that confront us in the gospels. The mystery of Jesus is the mystery of divine personality. (excerpt from “Has Christianity Failed You?”, Ravi Zacharias)
And yet. In all of this, the Jesus I know, that same Jesus intimately knows just what a breaking heart needs, knows what hurt and pain can do to a soul. Knows what a mess we all are in without the endless, limitless LOVE of the Father.
And Jesus’ message was one of LOVE. Love trumps everything. EVERYTHING!!!! Love wins, folks. Period.
For God is love. And if we cannot feel the love of the Father, the Son and the Spirit, what compels us to faith? To grace? What is the point? Why believe? There are better things out there, better institutions, better clubs to which one can cling or join than the alternative, those that spout messages of condemnation and hate.
But for God’s love, for His healing touch, the balm that soothes the soul after sorrow upon sorrow. And believe you me, I have had my fair share of hurt and pain at the hand of those who call themselves Christ followers, I again say it:
Forgive us. I pray we know not what we do. And in the name of Jesus, let this humble, messed-up example of a Christian, let ME…with the grace of God and through His mercy and tender love, show you. There is another kind of Christian out there than what you’ve known. Than what you’ve experienced.
And for now. Indeed, for always. Abide for me and for you, these three: FAITH, HOPE and LOVE. And as God has loved me, so do I with God’s grace, want to deeply love others too. And to ever let my life song sing this song of hope and love. From the depth of my being.