Warning: This is a long post. I’m pretty fired up!!!
The last couple of days have been a roller coaster emotionally. Some events have taken place in our extended family, our community, and within the church body that have had me seesawing between joy and despair and pride and shame. I am confused by the hurtful actions of some who call themselves Christians. In short, my heart and my spirit feel wounded and bruised.
I’ve been wondering. Does God’s heart ever feel wounded and bruised by our actions?
Earlier this week my husband, Ken, officiated at a memorial service for a wonderful 92-year-old man. He had lived a full and interesting life. He left a legacy of hard work, integrity, kindness, generosity, humor, and grace. He came to faith late in life, but that didn’t stop him from serving Jesus to the best of his ability for the remainder of his years on earth.
As part of the service my husband was given the freedom to preach the gospel. And preach he did! The road to salvation was simply and clearly explained as we were led through the many scriptures telling of God’s great love for us, even while we were sinners, and of his unfathomable mercy and grace toward us by sending his one and only son to die a horrible and painful death on a cross. Talk about unmerited favor! My heart was bursting with gratitude and pride. In a time when Christianity is under attack and political correctness would say it is wrong to suggest that someone might actually be a sinner, I felt much like Paul when he said in Romans 1:16,
“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.”
I am absolutely unashamed to be a follower of Jesus Christ. However, I am ashamed of the behavior of some who would call themselves followers of Christ.
This past weekend our local community, as well as the Christian community at large, was rocked by the news that Pastor Rick Warren’s youngest son, Matthew, had taken his life. Matthew dealt with mental illness for most of his 27 years. The aftermath of a suicide is horrendous. The pain, confusion, despair, and feelings of guilt that a family suffers cannot be fully understood, except by another family that has endured the same tragedy.
From the first moment after I heard the news until today I have been praying for this shell-shocked family. I don’t know the Warrens personally. I don’t need to. I am a parent. I have extended family members who suffer from mental illness. I am a Christian. I believe when a member of the body of Christ is suffering it is time to circle the wagons and render aid. In this case, prayer.
Apparently not all feel as I do. I heard rumors of mean comments on some forums. I checked out a few and frankly I am shocked by what I read. I expected hateful speech from self-proclaimed atheists and nonbelievers. There was plenty of that. What I didn’t expect were the haters in the “Christian” community. Obviously a minority, but hurtful, mean, hateful and absolutely shameful comments were made by some professing to be followers of Christ.
Where is the love in that? Where is the grace in that? Where is redemption demonstrated? Where is reconciliation proclaimed?
I’ll let Scripture speak to these issues:
Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35
“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-20
I realize it is easy for someone to claim to be a Christian and leave despicable anonymous comments. There is probably some of that going on. Unfortunately, I’ve been around long enough to know that it isn’t just anonymous comments on the internet that are being lobbed like Molotov cocktails at members of the church body. I’ve heard some pretty ugly gossip from church people about church people. I’ve seen churches split over nonessential doctrinal issues. I’ve been on the receiving end of spiritual bullying.
We all have opinions. Fine. We don’t have to be rude to one another when expressing those opinions. Perhaps the better choice would be to keep our opinions to ourselves more often than not! The need to express our opinion, especially in a belittling, insulting, disdainful, or hurtful way reeks of pride to me! Hmmm, anyone ever hear of Adam and Eve and original sin?
Too often we get caught up debating the nonessentials! Our ministry is to reconcile the world to God. How can we do that when we are aiming arrows and stones at one another?
If more of us would ask ourselves these questions, BEFORE opening our mouths, the world just might see Jesus’ words in action.
Would Jesus say what I am about to say?
Would Jesus think what I am thinking?
Would Jesus act in the way I’m about to act?
Is there faith in my words?
Is there grace in my words?
Is there mercy in my words?
Is there hope in my words?
Is there love in my words?
Will my words build up or tear down?
If you can’t answer in the affirmative then the wise choice would be to keep your words, thoughts, and actions to yourself!
It is time to walk in grace towards one another in the body of Christ and to extend mercy whenever we can. We don’t have to agree completely with each other. It’s okay to agree to disagree without being ugly. We can confront in love. It is possible to have civil discourse concerning areas of conflicting opinion. Our words need to be full of grace and seasoned with wisdom and wholesomeness! Paul encourages us to “correct, rebuke, and encourage one another with great patience and careful instruction (2 Timothy 4:2).”
I’m probably preaching to the choir here, but I’ve just got to say this!
Come on church!! We can do so much better!! For the sake of the watching world. For the sake of the church. For the sake of love. For the sake of God – cultivate grace in your every day walk. It’s not all about you. It’s about Jesus.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10