Are Christians Really So Hateful?

church2I’ve pretty much had it. Every article I read about the response of Christians to the same-sex marriage ruling by the Supreme Court seems to be an indictment. Some serious head-shaking at the missed opportunity Christians had, but didn’t seize, to show the love of Christ. Recrimination over Christians responding in anger. In other words, in one form or other, it’s been, Shame on you Christians for reacting so badly to the Supreme Court ruling that has changed our culture.

One article, for example, in listing out six ways Christians blew it, said this:

We could have looked around at the hurt generated this past week; at the deep sadness so many LGBT people and their loved ones felt at being the center of such violent arguments and the horrible aftermath of them, and responded in love. We could have moved toward them with the mercy and gentleness of Christ, seeking to be the binders of the wounds. Instead, far too many of us felt compelled to rub salt deeply into them. We basically walked past those who were down—and we kicked them hard on the way. (John Pavlovitz)

My first thought is, Where are all the posts responding in anger? I haven’t read them. Perhaps I was somewhere else when all the kicking took place. I haven’t seen it. In fact, I didn’t see a lot of LGBT people in deep sadness. Most I saw were celebrating by putting rainbows on their Facebook avatars and rushing to the court house for marriage licenses.

On the other hand of course is the exhortation that we Christians aren’t taking this same-sex marriage ruling seriously enough (see Matt Walsh), or that we’re not doing enough to fight it or are doing too much to fight it.

I come away from it all feeling beaten down, like Christians who believe the Bible are misbehaving.

The topper for me was an article that actually came out some time ago about the Christian’s attitudes and actions being more like the Pharisees than like Jesus Christ. The conclusions were reached from a 2013 research project by the Barna Group, a Christian research organization. The conclusions were reached by identifying five attitudes and five behaviors of Christ and five attitudes and five behaviors of Pharisees, then respondents were asked which they agreed with.

This could have been a very interesting study, but in truth, the statements seemed more consistent with Love Wins than with the four Gospels.

Here are the attitudes and actions chosen to represent Christ:

Actions like Jesus:

I listen to others to learn their story before telling them about my faith.
In recent years, I have influenced multiple people to consider following Christ.
I regularly choose to have meals with people with very different faith or morals from me.
I try to discover the needs of non-Christians rather than waiting for them to come to me.
I am personally spending time with non-believers to help them follow Jesus.

Attitudes like Jesus:

I see God-given value in every person, regardless of their past or present condition.
I believe God is for everyone.
I see God working in people’s lives, even when they are not following him.
It is more important to help people know God is for them than to make sure they know they are sinners.
I feel compassion for people who are not following God and doing immoral things.

I’m more mystified by the attitudes attributed to Jesus, though I don’t think the actions are accurate either. God-given value? I don’t know how His conversations with the Pharisees revealed Jesus’s belief that they had God-given value. When someone was setting himself against God, Jesus openly opposed them.

Did He show God is for everyone? When He told the Samaritan woman that He wouldn’t heal her child because He’d come to the Jews, did that communicate His belief that God is for everyone?

Other places in Scripture let us know that in fact God takes no delight in the death of the wicked, that He desires all to come to Him, that His plan was for the nations to follow Israel’s example as His chosen people, and that now He has brought together people of all nations and tribes and tongues into His body, the Church. But was that Jesus’s message? I don’t think so. He praised those of faith and commended the Samaritan woman on that level (and therefore healed her child). But He didn’t start a healing ministry in Samaria. I think you’d have a hard time validating the idea that Jesus showed God is for everyone.

I could go through the whole list, but that’s not my intention here. The point is, I don’t think those actions and attitudes are a fair reflection of who Jesus is and what He said and did when He was on earth. So comparing Christians to that caricature of Him is bound to make Bible believers look different from the artificial construct.

Reading that report was the last straw. Christians are being blamed and bashed, but a lot of the unpleasantness isn’t coming from people who believe the Bible.

I think it’s telling that no Christians rioted in the streets or burned down gay bars or bombed a gay pride parade. I haven’t read a single blog post in which a Christian cussed out gays. If these things are happening or if a vocal group like the Westboro Baptist few is hurling insults at homosexuals, it’s more an indication that they are pretend Christians than evidence that Christians are behaving badly.

Please, can we Christians at least stop bashing Christians!

No, we aren’t perfect. We have not prized marriage as we should and have left the door open to the perversion of the covenant God invited men and women to make with one another. Yes, this redefinition of marriage is a game changer in our culture, but it doesn’t change the mandate we have to share the good news with the lost.

Rather than pointing fingers at what we didn’t do in the past or should have done in the present or had better do in the future, perhaps we can let Scripture guide us into all truth. Who knows better and who cares more for the Church than Christ? We are, after all, His bride.

I’m not sure why we think it’s OK to beat up on the Church. After all, we’re clothed in the righteousness of Christ; we’ve been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb; we’ve been rescued from the dominion of darkness; we’ve been saved by God’s grace, through faith. We are who Christ is making us. When we rail against the Church, aren’t we, in a way, railing against God Himself?

Published in: on July 8, 2015 at 6:51 pm  Comments (18)  
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Entertainment – What Does God Think About What We Watch And Read

Highway_road_workers_(9245786301)On Twitter today, agent Janet Grant (Books & Such) linked to a research study by the Barna Group concerning the viewing habits of Americans. I’d be interested in a similar study on reading habits, but I digress.

I’ve been thinking about entertainment for some time now—in large part because I write fiction, one of the entertainment pastimes. Some writers validate fiction as a worthwhile pursuit by identifying it as art. But is all fiction art? When does a story become art? Are the stories that aren’t art worthwhile? How can we determine what is art and what is worthwhile?

Interestingly, I think the road to the answers to these questions lies through an understanding of work.

Scripture tells us to do our work as for the Lord. Paul mentions this in his letter to the Ephesians, for example, when he says, “With good will, render service as to the Lord and not to men” (6:7). He says essentially the same thing to the Colossians. In this case, however, he elaborates a little:

Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men. knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. (3:22-24)

Some people might argue that Paul was speaking specifically to “slaves” and therefore the passage doesn’t apply to us today. There are several problems with that view.

First, “slaves” in Judea during the first century weren’t as we understand “slaves” today. These were people who committed themselves to service in order to pay a debt. Mosaic Law mandated that those under such obligation would be freed every seven years, whether they’d paid their debt or not. Hence, it’s foreseeable that some of these slaves were skating, biding their time until the seven years were up, and consequently not doing a good job at all for those they worked for.

Second, Scripture tells us that all Scripture is given for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness. Consequently, a passage addressed to someone else can still contain truth we can apply. For example, I learned a great deal about teaching from Scriptural instruction to leaders and to parents. The passages in Nehemiah and in Proverbs were addressed to people other than teachers, but that doesn’t mean God didn’t intend for teachers to learn from them too.

Thirdly, the last line says, “It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” Since I as a believer do serve the Lord Christ, I have to think this passage actually is addressing me directly.

One way or another, then, this passage speaks to believers today, and we can conclude that we are to do our work for the Lord.

Earlier, though, Paul said he was praying for the Christians at Colossae, “that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God” (1:10).

The “in all respects” reminds me of another verse in chapter 3—“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father” (3:17, emphasis mine).

“In all respects” and “whatever you do” bring me to the issue of entertainment. Scripture seems quite clear about how we are to conduct ourselves in our work, but what about our leisure? Doesn’t our entertainment fall into the category of “whatever”?

I’ve written several posts on the subject at Speculative Faith (“Is Entertainment A Waste Of Time?” Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4), but I haven’t been entirely satisfied with my position on the matter. I see in Scripture a clear statement that we are to work six days and rest one day.

I see in nature, with our physical need for rest, that we must sleep a third of our time. I also understand that in the same way our body needs exercise and food, our mind needs exercise and food. Hence, some “leisure” is simply a way of giving our minds what we need, and in a sedentary work environment, it may also be providing our body with the exercise it needs.

writing in diary August_Müller_TagebucheintragBut where does “mindless” entertainment come into the picture? Over and over I hear, often based on a quote from J. R. R. Tolkien, that escape is a good and appropriate thing for us to do, that escaping through stories is a good thing. We are prisoners escaping from what has held us, Tolkien’s analogy goes, not soldiers deserting in the midst of a battle.

But how do we know we aren’t deserting?

The prison escape seems to me to take the freed man home or at least some place better. Mindless entertainment seems to do neither. Home is where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God—a transcendent place of wonders too amazing for Paul to write down when he was transported there in a vision. It puts us in God’s presence, creates satisfaction, gives us hope.

Does mindless entertainment accomplish any of these things? Does it take us to some place better? How could it if it is mindless? God didn’t make us mindless, and for us to live in a mindless way even for a few hours, seems to me to be a downgrade of circumstances, not an upgrade.

One last thought—what might be mindless for one person, may not be mindless for another. Take sports for example. I remember when I first learned that the linemen in football actually had a plan, that they were assigned differing blocking schemes based on the play that was called. Suddenly running backs plowing straight into a pile of hulking bodies didn’t see silly. The whole game took on greater purpose. Someone else can watch the same game I watch, however, and see nothing but men running around in a way that seems disorganized and unproductive. An entire game of this would seem mindless to such a person.

I have to think the reverse is also true—things others find challenging for whatever reason might indeed be mindless to me (like tinkering with the engine of a car! or watching golf! or NASCAR!! 😉 )

What I’m questioning, I guess, is entertainment that a person declares to be mindless, then engages in fully, for hours. How does that fit in with, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father”?

The bulk of this article is a re-post of “Work, Sure, But Entertainment?” first published here in November 2011.

Published in: on June 1, 2015 at 5:26 pm  Comments (7)  
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