Friday, July 16, 2010

The Art of Caring - Mere Christianity 101 (Part 1)

I am not a social activist! But, I am a Christian. And of necessity, Christianity includes and embraces elements of social activism. You don’t believe me huh? Then ask Jesus. You don’t go chasing money lenders and opportunists out of a synagogue with a whip if you’re not keenly aware of the social constructs of the culture. Nor do you spend time hanging out with the “rejects” of society if your priorities are personal social advancement and the acquisition of elite status. Ever think about the fact that nothing about Jesus’ decision to hang out with the woman at the well (a societal reject) suggested that he particularly cared about what people thought? Why, even his disciples initially questioned the wisdom of His decision, as did Simon the Pharisee when Jesus allowed a woman of questionable morals to shower his feet with her tears and wipe them off with her hair.

But I digress! I really want to talk about you and me, and about how social awareness must become an integral part of the demonstration of our faith if we are to ever make any significant inroads into reaching the hearts of the seeking, the hurting, and the next generation. Before you ask I might as well tell you that my rant is inspired by two separate but equally powerful incidents that were recently brought to my attention. My friend, Rob Curry, the President of the Atheists of Florida, copied me in a note he sent out to a number of his Facebook friends. I was appalled at what I read. The following e-mail was sent to Rob (after a series of back and forth e-mails) by a Christian who was up in arms over a billboard the Atheists had put up in Lakeland, FL (I had written about this here a while ago). I have omitted the name for reasons of privacy.

from: L.W.
to: Rob Curry
date: Thu, Jul 15, 2010 at 11:23 PM
Thanks for your very amusing E-Mail. I will keep it in my Bible, right next to Psalm 53:1 when I think of you. Whether you think me all talk and no action is of no importance to me because time will tell.There was once an arrogant, little atheist and racist man who dared to speak to me with expletives and tried regularly to intimidate me with his hateful persistent stares. Initially that bothered me, until one day the Lord told me to take authority over the demonic spirit that was controlling that man, because what was in me was far greater than what was in him. I looked that man straight in the eyes and showed him who I was in Christ. I watched as this man turned as a pale as a ghost, became diaphoretic and began to shake and tremble uncontrollably. He died right then and there, probably from a heart attack. And he went straight to hell where he will wait to meet God -- the One as you know is "all talk, and no existence."Rob, you really don't know who you are dealing with, for if you did (and weren't so stupid) you would be smart enough to be concerned.

In case you misunderstand my position, let me clarify that I’m not by any stretch of the imagination defending atheism. I realize that my friend Rob sometimes says things that Christians may find extremely offensive, but why is that surprising? After all, Rob does disavow Christianity and all other religions, which is one reason why he serves as the President of the Atheists of Florida. Rather than take an incendiary posture against Atheists though, I choose instead to focus not on our differences but on our common causes. Rob loves people and he hates injustice and inequity. I know this from first hand experience. Interestingly enough, love is not just a characteristic trait of God but is actually His personification according to the book of John. Jesus loves people (and that includes Atheists, whether they are nice to Christians or not).

Jesus’ command to His Church is to love all people. The Scriptures actually emphasize that there are three great tenets of Christianity: Faith, Hope, and Love. It then unequivocally states: “But the greatest of these is love.” Jesus Himself declares, “This is how all people will know that you’re my disciples; that you love….” Apparently there’s no escaping it. Since as a Christian I profess to love God, I’m committed to loving all people regardless of their response to me. Love, according to the Scriptures, “is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast it is not arrogant or rude, it does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful…” Now in light of this passage how does the e-mail above rate? That’s my point. It doesn’t matter how right we are, we must commit ourselves to loving people rather than proving how right we are and how wrong they are. Clearly nothing she’s said in her entire correspondence has served to help any of the atheists that have read her e-mails draw closer to God. So what purpose have they served?

In our attempt to prove how right we are as Christians, have we so quickly and so conveniently forgotten that the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery is our story? Have we forgotten that she is us? Let us not be caught holding the stones! Jesus’ response to the adulterous woman was not one of judgment and condemnation but one of love and caring. Her life was changed because she realized that He truly cared for her and her future, and not because of a sermon He preached or a Scripture He quoted. Now I know some of you out there will remind me that Jesus demonstrated “tough love” when he drove the money changers and opportunists out of the temple with a whip, but last I checked that wasn’t His mandate to the Church. His mandate to us is not now, and never was to drive people out of the temple, but it is and always was to go and make disciples of all nations and to love all people.

I’m discovering that my life speaks volumes louder than my rhetoric for better or for worse, and quite frankly I’m tired of people saying that they can’t hear what Christians are saying because the volume of our lives speaks louder than our words, and our lives and our words are saying different things. I'll conclude my thoughts tomorrow.


Hope R. Clark said...

I am outraged and repulsed by that email that Rob received!! I am so sorry that he has to endure such things. It is shameful and--Joseph, you are right--in no way helpful to speak such damage or carry such an attitude.

Joseph said...

Well said Hope!