Not long ago I had a coworker say to me, “if more people were like you, Brie, I might still go to church.”
Sharing this comment is in no way a tooting of my own horn. I am certainly God’s continuous work in progress, as I’m fond of saying, but what my friend said does lend credit to a problem I’m seeing more and more. It seems like Christians are killing the church. Or rather, religion is a thwarting relationship. Either way, it’s a travesty.
Nothing has brought this more to the forefront of my mind than recent events in society. I’ve discovered a whole lot of people who can quote scripture, but not near as many who actually live out scripture. In other words, people can recite, “the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and the second to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39), yet when it comes to walking out this love, we lack.
I have been utterly heartbroken for weeks now, but not about the things you might think. Yes, the violence is devastating and the injustice catastrophic, but it wasn’t the police brutality that broke me. It wasn’t the looting and rioting that made me mad. In the end, the absolute worst thing I’ve seen come out of society after the murder of George Floyd was the response from a large majority of the Christian community.
Even now, as some people read these words, their quills will rise and the claws will come out. They will buck up defensively and begin justifying their behavior without even trying to absorb the rest of my thoughts. It makes me think of my nine-year-old when I try to lovingly correct her to teach her something I’ve learned the hard way, through trial and effort. She typically gets mad, sullen, and pouts that I would dare say such a meany thing. But she’s nine. I think one of the biggest marks of personal growth is the ability to accept correction, check your heart, and move forward in change as necessary. Sadly, that is also lacking.
Individuals who claim to be children of God have shared some of the cruelest, insensitive posts on social media that I have ever seen. It. Blows. My. Mind. They try to justify their ugliness by saying, “this society has become one that gets offended by everything,” but I don’t think that’s it. I think we are a growing society that realizes change is necessary, that kindness is a good quality, that human worth isn’t based on our opinion. So, you can call it being offended if that helps you sleep at night. I call it being a decent human being. We should all try it sometime.
Somewhere along the way the church has backtracked to pre-Jesus time. The Pharisees are still here, is what I’m saying; they just disguise themselves as followers of Jesus. But to follow Jesus, you have to follow His example. Somehow we missed that part.
We’ve fallen back on the law, forgetting about grace. We’ve appointed ourselves as judges, but the craziest part of that is only some sins are an offense to the law of man. For example, in the court of the church, not all sins are equal. The sins you can keep hidden are okay. Don’t steal, unless it’s cheating on your taxes. After all, the government is run by left-leaning liberals who just want to give money to people who don’t want to work! See how we can justify our sins?
You can get a divorce if you don’t love your spouse anymore. You can commit adultery, sexually harass your secretary, or get slobbering drunk each night, but don’t dare enter a homosexual relationship. I know, you’ll argue that you don’t hold one sin higher than the other, but is that really true? Do you post memes about adultery and drunkenness ruining our country? Do you make fun of, whisper about, or treat the divorcee different when they try to walk up and talk to you? Do you bar them from your congregation? Do you ignore the envy in your own heart or carry a haughty spirit with a smile? Why is it that we as a Christian society get to decide what sins get us really worked up, but others we can just give a pass on?
I will pause to say a few things here because I have to for some folks before they bring it up first. One, I follow the Bible for what is and what isn’t approving in God’s eyes. No denying Scripture, okay? This isn’t about defining sin; it’s about rating sin. In this instance, I’m referring to the fact that some churches, areas of the country, or groups of Christians feel it’s their responsibility to place sin on a scale of one to ten. I don’t think that’s necessary, and it’s certainly not impacting the world in a positive way.
Two, I am using the term “church” in this post, and I don’t want that to be taken in a derogatory sense. It’s like I tell my children, “if I’m not talking about you, then it’s not about you.” Read that again, please. In other words, I love the church in a sense of believers gathering to help one another grow and mature in Christ. I personally love my church. I do not approve of the “church” when it tries to take the role of God, and in essence, pushes people away from the Lord.
Three, I have to say this now because I am about to go into the subject. I am pro-life. This is a big deal to me. Huge. I find the sanctity of life hugely important. It’s a top priority. My problem comes with other people who oppose abortion like me, but treat other human beings like they are not worthy of life. All human interaction should be about the sanctity of life, but for some reason, it’s not.
Hey, I’ve been guilty. I have based my political vote on the issue of abortion, letting that stance sway my vote, but I can see now that life as a Christian isn’t that easy. I thought with an issue like abortion, the choice is black or white (something I still believe), but if I’m using that one gauge to test my candidate, I’m missing the fact that he/she may not value the life of minorities, immigrants, or women. That makes sanctity of life a gray issue, sadly, and we have to ask ourselves what Jesus would do. I’ve heard people say that a politician doesn’t have to be a good person, but just good at their role. I think of my nursing job. If I was rude and did not have compassion for my patients, but I had great clinical skills, would folks still say I was a good nurse?
Another consideration, you will never change anyone’s heart by pointing out their sin when you first meet. In other words, unless you’ve developed a relationship with someone, you cannot get them to see what you think you can so clearly see. In Scripture, Jesus didn’t go up to prostitutes and tell them to quit being a ho. He sat down to dinner with them. I hear a lot the reciting of the part of the verse where Jesus says to the adulterous woman, “go and sin no more.” People use this as an excuse for their behavior when calling out the sins of strangers as if the stranger’s sin is worse than their own. You know, because they miss the whole beginning part of the verse about needing to be sinless before you throw a stone. But let’s just let that part go for the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say it’s ok for the sinful to throw stones at the more sinful. Looking back at Jesus, He didn’t just walk up to someone on Facebook and say, “don’t sin anymore.” Y’all, He had just saved her life. He stood up for her, putting His own reputation and life at risk. He formed a relationship with her in these actions, and that’s why she listened when He encouraged her to leave her life of sin.
Followers of Jesus, back in His day, changed their life because of their love for Him. He didn’t demand it of them. He didn’t try to scare or guilt them into it. He loved them into it. He was honest but loving. And that’s mostly the way life should work now. The hypocritical, religious will try and beat sinners with their Bibles. As a sinner, I know. In my past, sinful life of drunkenness and promiscuity, I had some horrible things said to me by so-called Christians. It is only the immense love of God that drew me in despite their behavior. I look at how we’ve treated the black community, founding our country on laws that made it okay to treat them less, and I know it was the Lord’s great love that called them into His arms. Certainly not the example of early, White Christianity.
In times when people are hurting, the church should be the first to say, “I’m sorry this hurts you. What can I do?”
Instead, we’re too busy grumbling about pancake syrup.
In times when people are a slave to sin, the church should be the one asking them over for dinner, not throwing bricks. Yes, bricks, not small stones.
What we shouldn’t be doing is justifying bad behavior. We shouldn’t be saying things like, “you won’t be discriminated against if you can just be like me.”
We can’t make excuses for why someone was murdered. We can’t act like we know what the walk is like in someone else’s shoes. We shouldn’t take personal offense at another human being demanding they be treated as human beings. We should humble ourselves to try and see the point of view of another, rather than simply digging stubborn heels into the ground.
We shouldn’t make a mockery of another’s pain. Even what you consider the funniest joke, is in poor taste when it hurts another. We shouldn’t be placing blame on political parties or media manipulation (even though I do believe those exist) as a reason to gloss over certain sins, like racism. Diverting blame doesn’t erase injustice. Not talking about something doesn’t make it go away. That’s why a whole generation of children who were sexually abused by the “church” (I use that term loosely) are still trying to put together the pieces. But that’s a blog for another day.
Do you know why my coworker said what she did? She has witnessed hypocrisy. Religious people calling out other’s sawdust of sin before addressing their own plank. She’s seen the cruel hatred and bigotry, and this comment was before 2020 had even begun. Sadly, the Christian church has a long history of murdering and silencing people in the name of Jesus. I can’t imagine the pain He must have over what we have done, but even more so, what we continue to do.
Jesus gave us in great detail the instructions for carrying on His church, a church much different from the religious sect that preceded it. The problem is, although hard to believe, a large part of the church doesn’t read the instruction manual. I mean, they go to a church building on Sunday, but they have no clue that the church should also reside in them. They go by how they’ve been raised, or what they’ve always been taught, yet they’re resistant to allow the Holy Spirit to speak His truth. In fact, I think they’ve forgotten about the Holy Spirit altogether.
In this life, as a Christian, we must walk in Spirit and in truth. The truth is found in His Word, the Bible, and you obtain His truth by reading, studying, and meditating on scripture. His Holy Spirit will speak if we confess our own sins and ask for His clarity and wisdom. There’s nothing wrong with asking the Lord to shed light on a situation for you. He can speak to us all. In John 16 Jesus told us “when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you into all the truth.” Y’all, it’s time we let him guide us into all the truth.
I believe there is a terrible Spirit of Religion that oppresses a large portion of the Christian church, and it is binding us from loving our neighbor as Christ instructed. It tells us to condemn the sinner, not the sin. It places self-worth or a person’s identity on the sin we may see, rather than the fact that even sinners are children of God, and in fact, we are all sinners, the whole lot. It’s not our job to cast stones or pass judgment, but it is our job to show the lost Jesus in us. It’s not our job to treat others less, but it is our job to treat them as we would wish to be treated. It isn’t our job to search for sin in others, but it is our job to confess our own. It is our duty to bear the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control), something that has all but disappeared on many “Christian’s” Facebook timelines.
Do the words you speak bring life? Are you taking offense at every turn? Are you seeing life with a Kingdom mindset? Ask, how does this have an impact on eternity? How do my actions have an impact on the eternity of others? Ouch. Are your actions leading people to Jesus, or are they just showing them your opinion (that really only matters this side of eternity)? Do you desire to see those who disagree with you in Heaven, or do you just want to prove that you’re right? When did we get the idea it’s up to us to fix folks, rather than setting the example and letting God do the hard, heart changes?
Matthew 5: 38-48 You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
I know that’s asking a lot of us, but no one ever said this walk would be easy. I included the above verses because although all humanity should follow this example, they do not. But if you claim the title of Christian, then it is your duty to follow it. We cannot focus on what others do or don’t do, but we can focus on our own actions.
I don’t have life all figured out and I fail daily, but I do have a heart that desires to be like Jesus. I do desire to follow His example. My point in writing this post isn’t to condemn fellow believers in Jesus, but to submit to you that we all can follow Him better than we do. We can all fish for men rather than pushing them away from the boat. Christianity comes with a lofty heritage (since we like that word so much), and we should strive to live up to the name and example of Christ. I’m willing to work on it, and I pray you will be too.
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on BrieGowen.com