Right now, I’m reading a book that is important. It is important in a way that can’t describe without a little bit of a back story. In order to understand where I’m coming from, I have to give you a brief look at where I’ve been.
Before I met my husband, I didn’t have the best perception of Christians. Yes, I was a Christian, but I wanted nothing to do with organized religion. It all seemed like a game to me. Everyone put on their Sunday face and pretended life was great then went on to spend Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday condemning and judging their brothers and sisters. They’d spew condemnation on others while living a life rampant with sin. On more than one occasion I was the victim of these fine church-going folks’ judgement. It didn’t seem to matter where I went, it was the routine in a different building. After a several years of searching, I just gave up. I loved Jesus, I wanted a relationship with Him but I wanted nothing to do with his people. (Does this sound familiar to anyone else?)
A few years later, enter my husband (or should I say future husband at the time). He was a good church-going boy, played bass in the band and his family was super involved in their church, so I decided to give it another try. I began to see that this church was different. People actually acted like themselves and let it all hang out, warts and all. The pastor spoke of his own struggles and short comings (something that was unheard in any other church I’d attended). Finally, I found a church home and a family.
As I became more comfortable in my church home, I began to add more and more new friends on Facebook and slowly, I started to feel very isolated. I’ve never been an outspoken person when it comes to my personal and political beliefs. As my friends list grew, so did the frequency of emails, invites and feeds for things that rang so opposite to my belief system. I began to wonder: Is being a Christian really just about shouting the loudest or who’s had joined the most “I hate so and so” groups? Is the day coming where I will be constantly forcing my personal beliefs on people without any intention of having a civilized conversation?
Let me digress just a little bit here and say that not all of my friends behaved this way, in fact it was just a small number of people. The behavior of these few people affected me so deeply because I felt they were perpetuating the stereotype that had turned me off to organized religion in the first place. I falsely began to believe these outspoken few spoke for the majority of “the church”. The old saying goes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, but in my case the few squeaky wheels served as leverage for Satan to whisper in my ear that I was out-of-place and didn’t belong in any church because I just didn’t think like “them”.
Now that you know where I’ve been, let’s talk about where it has lead me. A few weeks ago, a friend and I went to Barnes and Noble on our lunch break. We had no particular agenda and just planned on browsing for a while. Earlier that day I had read a post or something on Facebook from a squeaky wheel that had me feeling a little hopeless. As I was walking up and down the aisle I felt the Holy Spirit lead me to a lower-level shelf in the Christianity section. When I pulled this particular book off the shelf, I felt as if Jesus Himself had tugged on my jacket and whispered, “Sarah, you’re not alone.” The book I grabbed was Lord, Save Us From Your Followers: Why is the Gospel of Love Dividing America? by Dan Merchant.
After reading the first half of this book, I’ve felt new fire in my soul. It is as if the author knew the exact stresses plaguing my heart about declaring my life as a Christian in America. Here is a passage that I found particularly fitting for my walk in particular:
The word Christian now comes with some rather dubious baggage. Add the word born-again or evangelical and many Americans will assume you are a Republican who hates gays, abortionists, and the ACLU. The percption of our faith is not particularly flattering and seems to be based on what we’re against rather than what we stand for.
This passage essentially sums up why I started this blog in the first place. Love – plain and simple. When I say that I am a Follower of Jesus Christ, I don’t want someone to have a knee-jerk reaction to pull back because I am probably a judgemental jerk. I want my declaration to be a signal to the world that I love them. I want to tell people about Jesus and how He loves them more than any person here ever could, but how can I share that message if they believe that my sole purpose is to make them think exactly like me or hate the things that I hate? In one particular passage a question is posed about the impact Christianity might have if Christians spent the time they spent picketing gay pride rallies and dedicated it to serving in a soup kitchen. If that doesn’t put love in perspective, I’m not sure what will. I am so excited to see others also feel the urgency to change Christianity’s image in America.
Think about your perception of Christianity – do you think Dan Merchant is right? Personally, I think he hit a home run with this one and I’ve just scratched the surface. This book is important, especially for people like me who have been so burned by Christianity in the past. It dares to simply cut through the crap and gets down to the heart of Jesus, which is the only thing worth living for. I’m not finished with the book, but I’m sure I will be posting more when I’m done. To those or you that are close to me…you now know what you’re getting for Christmas.
Oh, and if you were wondering, I’ve stopped paying attention to the Facebook messages and political propoganda that would get me so riled. Instead, I’ve taken to praying for those people in hopes they will realize how their behavior looks to the non-believers in their lives and I pray for the non-believers that they look past those small things and see the true Jesus in the lives of their friends, families and co-workers.
Friends, not one of us on this big spinning rock is perfect. We are all going to blow it from time to time, we’re going to fail to see the forest through the trees, we’re going to lose our temper or avoid the tough conversations but we are beyond blessed to have grace that covers our sins and shortcomings. My prayer for all of us is that we share that grace as freely as we receive it.
Thanks for stopping by!