Wednesday, March 5, 2014

I Choose Love

"But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." -1 Peter 3:15-16

I am not political, nor am I a public debater.  Although I hold my own personal set of beliefs and opinions, I rarely voice them loudly, or in the case of many others -- passively aggressive.  But I am continually disappointed, and really just outright disturbed, by the apparent condition that many of my fellow Christians are in today.  Scripture says in Matthew 15:18, "But the things that come out of a person's mouth come from the heart, and these defile them."  And if I believed that Scripture is true, and I do, then there are a lot of Christians today who are deceived by the condition of their own hearts.

I have come to the conclusion that our Christian culture must be coming up with their own version of Scripture that fits to their own desires of how they want to act.  The reality is you can't pull verses out of context.  You can't pick which parts of Scripture you choose to act on and which ones you choose to ignore.  There is a reason God placed each truth-breathed verse in His "manual."  

I am no theologian, so I could be wrong, but it seems to me that God didn't write the Bible for non-Believers, that is until they become Believers.  The things in His Book are guidelines for people who believe in Christ as their Lord and Savior and are charged to live accordingly.  Unfortunately, as Believers, we continually try and hold others, that are not Believers, to this standard of living.  And then judge them harshly when they don't.  Have we forgotten that we aren't the Ultimate Judge?  Have we forgotten the only instructions that God gave to us, our only responsibility, is to love others unconditionally as Christ loves us?

We all know what topics are red-hot this day and age.  We know the debates all over Facebook.  We see the riots and pickets and protests on the News.  We hear the stories, we aren't oblivious or living in an isolated cave.  But what really disturbs me is seeing people, who are supposedly representing the God I love, I follow and have dedicated my life to, acting completely contrary to what He says in His Word.

Just because I am a missionary in a third world country doesn't mean I am exempt from these conversations.  In fact, it hits closer to home than you may realize.  I have friends who are gay.  I have friends who are atheists.  I have friends who are addicts and alcoholics.  I have friends who have had abortions.  I have friends who are Democrats (gasp!).  I even have friends who were literally Satan-worshippers but have since found the love of Christ.  And having relationships with all of these "types" of people has never once lessoned my effectiveness as a Christian, at least not in God's eyes.  In fact, my relationships with these people have actually enriched my life, made me want to live a more zealous life of love.  I have seen kindness, generosity and selflessness through these people in ways that have heavily impacted me.  And you know what is the most amazing thing?  They bring meals to a sick member of their community, take in abandoned and unloved children and care for the homeless too.  Not because a pastor or elder or church member asked for it but because it was just in their hearts to do.

I am not for a second saying that we give up on winning people for Christ.  Quite the opposite, actually.  In fact, I spent the first 20 years of my life as an unbelieving "pagan" myself.  I have been a Believer for less time than I had been a non-Believer and I am quite thankful I had people in my life who never gave up on me.  But if you look through the New Testament and follow the life of Jesus, he didn't win people over with harsh words of condemnation, rants over equality and value of life or having the best argument for a particular debate.  No.  He won them over with "gentleness and respect."  He won them over with unconventional mercy and forgiveness.  He won them over by dining with them, talking about life with them and genuinely praying for their circumstances.  And ultimately, he loved them, unconditionally, despite the seemingly huge differences between them.

It's time Christians are known across the globe for following the practices of our fearless, humble, kind and gentle leader instead of being the intolerant, judgmental, boisterous people we have been.  

Which is why as I reflected on today, the first day of Lent, I remember that on the cross Christ chose me, therefore I choose love.