I would call myself a Christian. But there have been seasons of my life where those words have felt weighted by the need for a disclaimer.
I’ve wanted to stamp a SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING on my backpack: I’m not like those Christians. I do not always vote republican, I deeply care about our environment and I don’t think your sexuality defines who you are or what rights you have.
I don’t get think that Jesus would be too happy with my need to qualify what it means to be a Christian. He seemed to be above all of that stuff.
A New Church
G and I have been attending a new church near Guatemala City. Being in someone’s home, with a community of people who are willing to be challenged and committed to keep asking good questions, makes the 45-minute drive on a rainy, Sunday afternoon worth it. The messages are video-casted in from a church in Atlanta, called North Point. And this week Andy Stanley’s message was not only challenging, but also a bit controversial. Maybe that’s why I respect him and the church community we’re part of.
He called it what it is.
Christians- we, myself, people in the church- are sometimes the biggest hypocrites.
Crowded together on wooden benches and white plastic chairs last night we sat and listened.
Andy talked about how Christians have used the bible to justify horrible things in our history- the enslavement of fellow human beings, the persecution and genocide of Jews, the abuse and subordination of women, the right to wealth and power, and I could go on and on. The thing is we can use theology to justify anything. People have done it for years and it’s quite scary, really because we still do it.
The Danger of The One Verse
Every side of every issue has a verse. Just ask them. It’s easy to pull a single verse out of the bible to prove your point.
I realized in some ways we all do this.
The truth is if you call yourself a follower of Christ or a Christian, you too have chosen parts of the bible to ignore. We do this pick-and-chose-dance based on context, and theology or what your church tradition and current culture tells us is acceptable. Last time I checked I didn’t know any women in modern evangelical churches who have their heads covered or any men walking around with their right eye gouged out from lusting after a woman. And as far as I know, most us have not sold all of our possessions and given them to the poor.
In someway or another most of us ask ourselves what was the intent of the commander, not just what was the commandment.
One of the things I love about Jesus, is that he knew we would do this. The Pharisees did it back then. They asked things like, “Well, how close can I get to breaking the law, without actually breaking it?” Or they’d question Jesus like a bossy older sibling, “How come your disciples don’t follow the rules and wash their hands before they eat?” (Matthew 15)
A New Commandment
But Jesus responds. And not with rules and laws, but with a new commandment. A new commandment that encompasses all the rest of them. A commandment that Jesus lives out to the fullest, and I believe has so much potential for good when we can learn to do the same.
Love one another. In the same way I have loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples- when they see the LOVE you have for EACH OTHER
(John13:34, The message- italics added for emphasis)
Wouldn’t it be cool if one day someone said… hey, I know they’re Christians because of they love that they have for each other?
I don’t think this implies that we will all agree or come to some universal mutual understanding and vote for the same political party. I think being a follower of Christ leaves room for diversity and difference of opinion, but there is no question that if I chose to call myself a Christian than I have a responsibility to ask myself daily: What does love require of me?
What does love require of me?
What does love require of me each morning, each day, while I wash dishes or wait in line at the bank?
What does love require of me when I read facebook posts that I whole-heartily disagree with? Or when I see an old man with a beard and a bible clenched under his arm proselytizing in the park?
What does love require of me when I watch news broadcasts with Christians holding up hate posters against gays and lesbians? Or when Christians with very good intentions would rather hand out candies and t-shirts in the name of Jesus, instead of learning about development and empowerment?
What does love require of me when I want to control a situation in order to get my own way? Or when I want to be generous only when it benefits me? What does love require of me when I chose to ignore someone else’s needs because of my power or position?
What does love require of me?
I think I know the answer. But sometimes it’s a lot harder to live out, than it is to write about.
How do I chose to act differently? To speak differently? And to not do exactly what makes me so frustrated in the first place? Respond in anger, or disgust, or with excuses and judgement?
Whether you call yourself a Christian or not…
Will you join me in asking this question…What does love require of me? How do we live it out every day?
P.S. you can watch Andy Stanley message or the full series online at: http://www.northpoint.org/messages/christian