Monday, August 20, 2012

A Message from God?

Let me make one thing clear, right at the start – I didn't want to write this.  I am by nature an introvert.  I hate politics. I hate public controversy. I don't want to publicly step into the middle of any of it.  And yet, I find myself unable to do otherwise.

While I'm sure it is nothing new, I have been noticing of late that it seems like every time I log onto Facebook, I see much bashing of people and viewpoints.  Regardless of who I think is right, on any particular issue, I am appalled by the behavior I see.  I will not name names, or sides, in most cases.  The group I feel the need to address today is the one composed of my Christian brothers and sisters.

As Amos said, “I am not a prophet, nor am I the son of a prophet” (Amos 7:14).  I have read the Bible through completely at least half a dozen times, and have read many sections many more times than that, but I am not a biblical scholar.  I am not an ordained minister.  I'm not even close to claiming that I have everything right. I am flawed, imperfect – just as we all are, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”(Romans 3:23)  I am not claiming for one minute that I am somehow supremely qualified to say what I have to say.  I only know that I must say it.

The message is basically this: Those of you who have been hatemongering and bashing others, I beg you, in the name of Our Lord, to stop.

I am not intending to address the specific issues, here.  There are many.  I know that many of you have reason (either good reason, or not so good) to believe that certain others have something in their life that is just plain sinful. In some cases, I agree with you, and in some, I do not, but that isn't my point.   My point is that Jesus was pretty adamant about His command that we love our neighbors, and there is no finagling out of that by trying to define “neighbors” as being only those we want them to be. (Luke 10)  My question is: How do you treat someone who sins, if you love them?

The Bible says a lot about sin. I understand that there are lots of things it mentions about what to do with those who sin.  But again, remember that that is ALL of us, and His command to love still stands. It does not say, “Do not allow a sinner to work for a living”.  It does not say, “Refuse to heal a sinner”.   It does not say, “Do not feed a sinner.”  In fact, Jesus Himself ate with the sinners and tax collectors.  It does not say, “Ridicule and deride the sinners, because that's sure to convince them to change their ways.”  It DOES say, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”(Romans 12:18)

This does not mean that you can't tell your brother when you think he's doing something wrong.  In fact, I dare say you should.  But, there is a WORLD of difference between sitting your brother down and saying, “Look, I'm worried about you, because of <X>”, and standing on a street corner holding sign saying that God hates him.  Before you speak, you must establish the relationship of a brother, rather than speaking to him as a stranger.  Speak the truth, as you understand it, in love.  Address your brother with respect.  Yes, your brother may be offended, even if you gently admonish, but if someone is to be offended, at LEAST let it be the content, not the packaging, of the message that is his sticking point.

Jesus came for the lost.  He welcomed with open arms the ones who admitted they were lost.  His words of condemnation were not for the everyday person who struggled with what is right and what is not.  His words of condemnation were reserved for those who were convinced they had it all figured out – the religious leaders of the day.

“The foremost is; 'Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.' The second is this,'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is NO OTHER COMMANDMENT GREATER THAN THESE.” (Mark 12:29-31, emphasis mine)

Consider, then: How are you showing love for God, if you despise those He has commanded you to love?  “If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20).

Think about it.  Pray about it.  Please.