I want to ask for the attention of two separate audiences today: Christians, and those who are turned off by Christians. Don't worry; I'm not going to launch into a sermon or try to tell you you're wrong if you don't believe the same things that I do.
I just want to "talk," one-to-one, about something that has been bothering me for some time now.
A week or two ago, my youngest daughter came to me. I could see that she was genuinely upset about something, and then she told me that she wanted to talk to a Christian, a woman, and I was the first to come to her mind. I take that as a compliment, and I leaned in to hear what she had to say. To me, anytime someone approaches me and says they want to talk to me BECAUSE I am a professed Christian, I feel the weight of the matter.
She began to speak, and my heart began to break a little at a time. My daughter was nearly in tears, having just read several comments posted on (of course) social media. These comments were posted by her friends who tell the world that they're Christians. They are connected on social media to pastors at our church. And these friends were making derogatory, mean, belittling remarks about the LGBTQ population. In an effort to save time, I'll ask you to go look up that term if you're not sure what it means. In a nutshell, LGBTQ refers to those people who feel a different sexual orientation that what is traditionally considered "natural." Again, I'll leave it at that, because even that sentence is laced with land mines, and tripping one is not my intent here today.
Now, my daughter has been a spiritual creature since, well, since forever. She loved going to church, reading the Bible, and really trying to understand and live by the words in it. She cared about living the life Christ wants us to live. When she went to college and subsequently moved out on her own, I saw a bit of drift from that, but I knew (or at least I prayed) that with time, she'd come back. Again, because of my beliefs, that matters very much.
What she said to me that day was, "Mom if this is what the church, what Christianity, is all about, I don't WANT to be a part of it!" At that last, my heart truly did break. I listened to all that she was saying, for once without formulating my response while she was talking. And I got it. I understood. Frankly, if such hypocrisy is what the church is all about, I would wash my hands of it.
Fortunately, the very opposite is true. I know this because I read what I believe to be God's words. I read the teaching of Christ, and nowhere in the Bible can I recall Christ admonishing the Church to ridicule people, to kick them when they're down or confused or frightened, to scorn them. Never. Once.
Instead, what Christ taught while on this earth was to love everyone, to respond with love, to offer love, to be kind, and to be gentle. He teaches us to examine our own hearts and lives with great scrutiny and to quickly rid ourselves of anything that causes us to live in a manner that disgraces Him, the Church, ourselves, or others. What is called in the Bible a "sin," is very different from what is clearly referred to as a "sinner" (that's all of us, by the way). In fact, Christ took it a step farther; He said to love for, and to pray for, those who are our enemies.
Do I have my personal beliefs rooted in the pages of the Bible? Yes, I do. In fact, I recall one Scripture vividly, nearly every day as I scroll through the endless babble of social media rants, many laced with hatred and scorn.
"For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged." – Matthew 7:2.
Those are sobering words. I will be judged in the same manner that I have judged others. In other words, it's not my job to judge. It'll take me an entire lifetime – longer – to clean up my own act and incidentally, a sin is a sin is a sin. Lying, envying, stealing, hating...these and more are all sins. Do we really want the same judgment heaped on us that we so casually heap on others? I doubt it.
My answer to my daughter was simple, and I hope with all my heart that it was enough. "Don't just Christ, or His church, but the people who walk through the doors, or by people who call themselves 'Christians.'" They are very different. Yes, His disciples were admonished when He left earth to BE the church, to tell others, to live a life that reflects His image. But we are human, and therefore flawed. I often liken the Church to a hospital, a place for sick souls to go and seek healing. Only Christ was perfect, and we should live every day doing our best to be like Him. But let's face it, even the "churchiest" folks are going to fall woefully short, every single day of their lives. Sometimes, they are the ones who fall the shortest, because they have elevated themselves on a very high – but very shaky – pedestal.
I told my daughter that now, perhaps more than ever, the Church needs people like her, people who really believe what they read in the pages of what we believe to be a book inspired by our Creator. Without people like that, we are often left with people who use that same Bible to beat others over the head, or to hide behind, or to justify sin by committing sin in the name of being "righteous."
Again, I am not trying to accomplish anything today except to ask Christians – myself included – to be careful of telling people you're a Christian, then using Christianity and Christ to condemn or ridicule ANYONE. This causes more damage to the church than any one thing I can think of, and it is a very effective tool of God's eternal adversary. To those who are turned off by Christians, I get it. I do. I would just ask that you realize that not all Christians read hate and scorn into the words of Christ, who knew neither when it came to His children. Christians are human and as such, we are all flawed. I examine my thoughts and actions often, and I am far from perfect, but I do wake up each day resolved to try to be better.
Before you judge the Christian Church, I would simply ask that you learn what you can about Christ. If you're still turned off, I'd honestly be surprised. But that – Christ's life and teachings and very source of life – that is what it's all about. Nothing more, and nothing less.
Carole Townsend is a Gwinnett author and freelance writer. Her fourth book, BLOOD IN THE SOIL (Apr 2016, Skyhorse Publishing), was recently named the Finalist for 2017 Georgia Author of the Year in the Detective/Mystery genre. Her previous three books are written with Southern humor. Carole often appears on network television talk and news shows, as well as on national true crime radio shows. Her books can be found in bookstores, on Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, and at www.caroletownsend.com. When she's not writing, Carole travels throughout the southeast, talking to groups about women, writing, family, and life in her beloved South. Follow Carole on Facebook, twitter at @caroletownsend, or Instagram at carole.w.riter .