I have noticed an extreme polarization in the beliefs in our country over the past few years, with people strongly embracing individual differences, including political affiliation, social issues, and especially views regarding religion. On one end of the spectrum, moral relativism encourages us that there are unlimited ways to reach heaven as long as we are sincere; but, at the same time, Christians vocally disagree over the gray areas, which are ultimately unimportant in the grand scheme of things. The modern Christian faith finds itself at the center of a great deal of negativity because of this type of spiritual snobbery. The result is that we may be scaring people away from Christ instead of loving them.
Religion is a man-made attempt to get closer to God. I’m not sure where I first heard that quote, but I’ve been saying it for years. In fact, this premise had been a major force in the love/hate relationship I have had with the modern church throughout my lifetime. The church is full of humans, and humans are very far from perfect, so churches (on a local or larger scale) are therefore fallible, and prone to have problems. The church is a realistic portrayal of our corporate need for Jesus, but we also can allow it to become an idol and thus we take our eyes off of Jesus.
I know so many people who refuse to give Christ a chance because of negative effects of the church. I started writing this back in December when a colleague shared with me that she does not attend church because Christians are too judgmental and there are too many man made rules. I have heard numerous iterations of this statement my entire life. Examples include, but are not limited to: not allowing a child to be baptized because the mother was unwed, restricting church membership to those who appear to have it all together, and having “certain” sins count as being more horrific than others, when sin is sin is God’s eye and He hates all of it.
Jesus never rejected anyone because they were too bad of a sinner. He never showed hatred towards someone who grew up with a lifestyle that seemed bizarre to Him. Jesus pursued relationships with all people; He opened doors and encouraged others to engage. Jesus spoke to people whom society looked down upon with mercy and love. Consider the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus began a conversation with her, asking her to give Him a drink, even though Jews were not supposed to associate with Samaritans. Jesus was upfront with her about her sin, but did not condemn her.
Jesus never compromised His beliefs, but He also didn’t shove them down anyone’s throat. Think about it… Jesus did not chase after people to share the gospel; he let them come to Him. He may have preached in public areas, but He never forced His beliefs on others. When the rich, young ruler asked Jesus about how he could attain eternal life, Jesus answered his question honestly. However, when the price was too high for this man, and he walked away, Jesus let him go.
The bottom line is this… As Christians, we need to come together on the basic tenets of our faith, those foundations which define our salvation, and we need to stop the internal finger pointing and end-fighting. Until we do, we are a stumbling block to the lost, those who desperately need the grace and mercy that only comes from Jesus. As Christians, we should focus on loving God and loving people, helping others understand that Jesus died for everyone’s sins and that by believing in Him, we can all enjoy eternal life!
But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:34-40).”