Anybody else NOT want to be labeled a “Christian” anymore?
Look, I’m not a writer of the words. So this isn’t going to communicate what I’m feeling as accurately as a true wordsmith would. This is the Executive Summary though…I’ve called myself a Christian since I was 23 (currently 48) but due to how some Christians interact with and respond to other Christians AND non-Christians, I think I’m out!
Please don’t hear what I’m not saying though. I’m not out on Jesus. I love that guy. I’m just wondering how some people that profess to have been saved by his gift of grace on a cross (read Christians), often have so little grace for anyone that thinks differently than they do. It’s the opposite of what he charged his followers with. “Love your neighbor as your self”. I seem to remember something about that command being just like THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT EVER!
For me, one of the best examples of how Jesus lived out this commandment, was the way he interacted with Zacchaeus, the local tax collector. Jesus interacted with a TAX COLLECTOR y’all!!! Are you not astonished by this?! No worries…most people today aren’t. Being a tax collector doesn’t sound like that big of a deal to us today. So I’m going to give Zacchaeus a new label. One that I hope will invoke that same level of outrage toward a person we may consider as the worst sinner today, as it did if you were a tax collector in the time of Jesus. Zacchaeus, the Nazi Loving Transsexual that sells child porn. Keep that in your head as I tell you how Jesus interacted with and loved on Zacchaeus. This is the way I would want “Christians” to love on the “sinners” of today.
Zacchaeus was the lowest of all people in Rome. NOBODY liked him and it’s not a stretch to say that everybody hated and loathed him. He took money from his fellow Jewish people and gave it to the government of Rome and got to keep a lot of what he took from his own people group. Which often left his own people poor and hungry. And Jesus wanted to hang out with HIM?! Jesus called Zachaeus over to him and said “I must go to your house immediately.” Not to call him out on his wicked ways. Not to tell him that he was going to hell. Not to tell him that unless he got his act cleaned up and started looking and acting more Christ like that he would never be welcomed in his Church. And let’s be honest, Jesus could have easily done so. HE WAS THE SON OF THE LIVING AND PERFECT GOD! But do you know what Jesus did? Well…he went to a party, at the house of the worst of all the worsts. And because he sat at the table with Zacchaeus, Zacchaeus changed his life, changed his ways, gave away half of what he owned and paid back 4 times to every person, what he cheated them out of. And, so often, we as “Christians” refuse to show love to another one of God’s creations because they have a different political, religious or sexual orientation than we do?
Side note: In the Book of Luke, way before Jesus met Zacchaeus, in the 19th Chapter of his Gospel, Luke starts Chapter 15 with this… “Now the tax collectors and the sinners were all drawing near to hear him (Jesus).” Wow!!! The worst of the worst were drawing near because of the way Jesus loved. Then in the next verse it says, “the Pharisees (most of today’s Christians) and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” Then Jesus launches into the parable of the Lost Sheep. I love how this sets the stage for when Zacchaeus enters the picture.
Do you know how The Gospel (The Good News) was spread in the years after Jesus’ ascension? His followers went throughout the region loving on and caring for those that no one else wanted to even look at or be close to. They treated the sick. They fed the hungry. They took care of the widows and the children. They went out of their way to sit with people that were different from them. They looked for opportunities to travel to people that were outcast and lonely. They sat at tables and they built bridges to meet those people. And so many people had their lives changed and put their faith in Jesus because of his followers, that Rome went from hunting down and killing the Jesus Followers, to changing the National Religion to Christianity. People came to know Jesus through love and kindness. People gave their life for Jesus because of the way they were loved on by Jesus Followers. The “Church” grew because of the way Jesus Followers loved on EVERYONE!!
For those of you reading this that are just chomping at the bit to say, “yes I agree BUT…Jesus also told them to repent. To go and sin no more.” Yes! The Son of God told them that. Our Savior told them that. The only sinless person to ever walk the planet told them that. And I find no instance in The Gospels of where Jesus stopped loving on someone for not repenting fast enough. He never gave up on someone that kept sinning. (Thankfully as my heart is so FULL of it) So many “Christians” of today often tend to be in more of a hurry to get to the part of the Bible that lets them kick someone out of the Church than they are to leave the 99 and pursue the one lost sheep. To bring that one sheep back into the fold where it can continue to be loved on and cared for, no matter how many times it wanders off.
I love Jesus! I follow Jesus! I am a Jesus Follower. I invite other Jesus Followers to start building tables and bridges. Tables for “sinners” to sit down and be listened to. To be heard. Bridges to make it easier for “sinners” to easily find those tables to sit at. Tables and bridges that create relationships for everyone to be loved the way Jesus loved. I invite the “Christians” to stop asking the “sinners” to change their clothes before the can have a seat at a table. Or to pay a toll to cross one of those bridges. I invite you to start letting people know what you are for rather than what you are against.
There is a liturgical prayer that certain denominations use that I think gives so much vision to what I am trying to articulate. Before I get there, let me just say that I am well aware that there are plenty of people that call themselves Christians that are loving the way Jesus loved. I hope you read this knowing my heart. A heart that wants everyone to get a chance to experience the overwhelming love of Jesus. A heart that wants a hurting, shameful and confused world to know that they are loved and they are forgiven.
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