For The Love!

If it’s one thing my wife calls me on the most, it is when I make generalizations, or blanket statements covering entire social groups. All it is really, is my short usage of stereotypes or things that don’t actually apply to the entire said group. It can be somewhat annoying for me, especially when the issue she sticks me with was said simply to make a point. But in all actuality, she’s right, and I am thankful for her pointing it out. In the almost 5 years that we have been married, I have learned to catch myself when I am about to make such generalizations, and I am the better for it. But when it comes to religious prejudice or stereotypes, there are people who harbor no tolerance for Christians.

As a Christian myself, I find it entirely confusing and contradictory when people say that we need to be tolerant of all beliefs, but in the same breath, they rag on Christianity. Understandably, I can cope with this if they’ve been personally burned by someone who claimed to be a Christian, which is unfortunately very common; but what about the person who trashes Christians based on the idea that they’re the intolerant, genocide-inducing, our-way-or-the-high-way types? And all their information comes from hearsay, what they’ve read, or second-hand experience? I often find myself thinking, “So, by saying that we should be tolerant and respectful of all religions, except Christianity, are you saying that Christianity is not a religion?”

Last I checked, in the state of California, if you have 4 people who adhere to certain beliefs, you can get recognized as an official religion. So, let’s see… In 2010, it is reported that 64% of Californians fall under the Christian doctrine category. In that year there were just over 37,250,000 residents of the state, which means that over 20,000,000 people in California are said to believe in Jesus Christ. And that’s just one state out of 50, not to mention the world’s Christian populace. So I guess the problem isn’t that they think it’s not a religion. Well, what is it then?

I tend to listen to more podcasts than music, I’m just wired that way for some reason, and one that I listen to almost every day is Ravi Zacharias. He is a Christian apologist (in layman terms, he defends Christianity from scrutiny and accusation), and is one of, if not my favorite speaker. He has a lot of great things to say to counter any accusations a person might have on the subject. But some of the most common things that people confront him with are the likes of the Medieval Crusades, Christianity’s intolerance of other religions or lifestyles, and (the always classic) hypocrisy.

People who say that Christianity should be boycotted because of the atrocities committed during historical events like the Crusades and the Inquisition, or even the Salem Witch Trials, try to make Christianity out to be some sort of abased lifestyle. Well, if you follow that same logic, then we’d also have to write off atheism based on the Holocaust alone. (Yes, Hitler and Stalin were both atheists, in case you didn’t know.) I won’t even get into other belief systems, as there are too many unfortunate, and sickening events to discuss, it would just take way to long.

And then there’s the idea that Christianity practices hate for those who hold to beliefs contrary to its own. Let me make one thing clear, and I will make my point by utilizing a concept from one of my favorite bumper stickers, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” That is to say that if someone who claims to be a Christian tells a homosexual that they should die because of their sinful lifestyle, DOES NOT MEAN THAT IS CHRISTIANITY’S STANDARD PRACTICE!!! Hate has never been utilized in Christianity’s doctrine, but teaches the exact opposite. The great commission is not to tell everybody how evil they are and that they’re going to go to hell. The Great Commission is to spread the Gospel message over the far reaches of the Earth. But, how do we go about that? Here is my all time favorite quote from St. Francis of Assisi:

Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.

This is a no brainer. What St. Francis is saying here is that we are to show the love of Christ, and not necessarily through a verbal medium. This goes way back to what Jesus taught in that we are to love one another as He loves us, and in doing so, others will know that we are His followers. Or classically, “they will know you by your fruit.” We need to remember that the only people that Christ openly berated were those of the very religion He is God of: the Pharisees and Sadducees. He never condemned anyone who was not of the Hebrew faith, but showed them love and mercy. I guess the gist of what I am trying to say is that just because certain Christians practice “hate” against those who live contrary to our beliefs, doesn’t mean that all Christians are that way, or should be. A person of the Christian faith who practices hate is not living the way Christ intended, and they should be prayed for. Yes, I am saying that people who unrepentently and consistently do unchristlike things are not only conning and damaging others, but also themselves. What I am not saying is that they’re not Christians, that’s for God to decide on the Day of Judgement. The true Christian faith teaches us not to have judgement for outsiders, but that we are to call out sin in our own congregation, as clearly stated by the Apostle Paul in various places of his letters.

Hypocrisy is probably one of, if not the biggest issue that people outside Christianity have a problem with. But if we look at humanity as a whole, hypocrisy is rampant everywhere you go. Even in the groups that call out Christians on it! A little ironic don’t you think? But at the same time, I almost have to think that this is, and will be the case for as long as it takes us to change. Heck, God could be utilizing non-Christians calling us out as a check for his followers to wake up. Wouldn’t that be interesting? Now, I’m not saying that God is the perpetrator of Christian persecution, so don’t you even go there.

This is my call to repentance for all Christians who are out there giving other Christians, and in turn, Christ, a bad rap. Christ told us that we would undergo intense persecution and scrutiny, all the more reason why we need to be so careful how we act around people who don’t know Jesus. We also need to humble ourselves when we get called out on something we are saying or doing that is contrary to Christ’s teaching. So, for the love! Show the love, not the hate.

Catch you later!

– M

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For The Love!

Confirmation

If you had asked me how my relationship with Christ was a week and a half ago, I would’ve told you that it was rocky, and in dire need of repair. Though, If you would’ve asked me on January 6th, I would have exclaimed, “Jesus loves me!”

In 2013, I started going to school full-time on top of a full-time job. I had been doing fairly well with my spiritual life up until that point. So, I figured God would understand that I had to take some time to focus on my school work and the rest of my life for a short period. But little did I know that a short break in my devotions would result in some terrible feelings, and even some rocky instances in my marriage. I’m not going to go through all the details of my negligence, but I will just say that my time with media and God became grossly out if balance.

On Sunday, January 6th of this year (2014), I was sitting in the second to front pew in church with my wife and younger brother. My pastor (Brad Bell) had just finished giving his message when the campus pastor, Andrew, came up on stage and announced that we were going to take communion. I didn’t think anything of it as I had been regularly taking part in communion since I was a young lad.

After they passed around the grape juice and mini crackers, the worship band began playing a song called I Need You, which is one of my personal favorites. I’m not exactly sure what happened, or what moon and stars proverbially lined up to make this happen, but, I just began to weep. In an instant, it was as if all of my negligence and self service of the past year came crashing down on me. In that moment I felt shame, conviction, and comfort, each of it’s own intense variety. I can not compare it to anything I have ever felt before. It was in that moment that I asked Jesus to forgive me, and somehow, I knew I got my answer.

You see, nearly my entire life, I have been begging God to give me confirmation of my salvation. “Give me a sign!” I would say (and sometimes yell). “Speak to me, God,” was the other phrase of choice. I never really felt like God had saved me, mostly because I didn’t think I was worth saving. “What would God have to benefit from adding me to His congregation?” Here comes the negative self talk: I am not special; there is nothing spectacular about me; I find most people to be awkward and hard to approach for gospel reasons; I have nothing to add to the flock but selfishness and negativity. In reality, I am just your average person. A middle-class, paycheck-to-paycheck semi professional with a few hobbies. It wasn’t until after church that I realized what had happened. But first, let me go through the “symptoms” I am still feeling.

The next morning (January 7th, 2014) I awoke with an overtly positive attitude. As the day progressed, I realized that I was joyful. Joy is a feeling that I have rarely felt in my life, but I still knew that it was just that. My mind was clearer than it had ever been, even more than when hopped up on ginko biloba, or other “clarity” supplements. My creative muscles seem like super heroes, and my productivity has skyrocketed. My heart for people that I would have otherwise felt awkward around changed to feelings of love, compassion, and smiles. Needless to say, God gave me my confirmation by giving me His Holy Spirit, who brought all of my symptoms with Him.

I can not tell you how much my life has changed in the last week. I’ve had 2 different conversations with my wife that I have wanted to have for years, my personal projects have taken a major upshot, and my face just shines with joy. I feel good! Not just physically, but spiritually and mentally. I am loving life and have the confidence that I can take on anything with His help.

So this is me the past couple of weeks. I hope you take some level of inspiration from my story, and potentially start your own journey down this road. And, if you like, I’ll walk it with you. Take care of yourself!

Catch you later!

– M

Confirmation