NOTE: This post is going to diverge sharply from my typical technobabble, but I really felt strongly enough about this that I really needed to put it into words. If you're looking for my usual geek projects, check back later.
I read a very thought provoking blog post today that was very well articulated on a very serious issue that I have seen time and time again among people in my own church family and in churches across the nation. To anyone who might not know me or my beliefs, I am and have my whole life been a Christian. One of the biggest problems I have heard from my non-Christian friends that they have had with Christians is that of feeling unwelcome. The concept of so-called 'tolerance' is a touchy subject for many Christians, and it is one that many simply reject outright. I admit, for a long time I did the same. The belief that there is only one way to Heaven is a very intolerant one indeed. But the problem with that response is that it lumps people together based solely on their actions, and that isn't what we as Christians are supposed to be doing.
A saying I've heard a lot growing up in church is "love the sinner, hate the sin". Well let me just come right out and say this, that mindset is completely and utterly wrong. We are called to love the sinner and that's it. Their sin is between them and God, and it's none of our darn business. Jesus himself spoke out against this when he asked, "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? (Mt 7:3, NIV)". And yet time and time again, I see people turned away from the church because their lifestyle is found to be "unacceptable". The real hot button issue these days is homosexuality, but I've seen it happen in response to everything from drug addiction to wearing "goth" apparel. In fact, anything that could be construed as "different" seems to be grounds for exclusion.
But why is it that we feel that people must change themselves before coming to church, especially since we put no more effort in enacting that same change than to browbeat those we feel need it. The fact of the matter is, I have no power to change who you are or what you do, nor do I have some moral obligation to try. If you are looking for change in your life, I can personally attest to God's ability to enact that change in a willing heart, but the fact is that we have free will. If God himself isn't going to overrule your free will to be and do whatever you choose, who am I to think that I should do otherwise?
As a Christian, my calling is to spread God's love to all His people. It's that simple; I am to love the people I come into contact with on a daily basis. Whether or not I like them is irrelevant, whether or not I agree with them is irrelevant, my assignment is still the same. So when I see people tearing each other down in the name of God, it makes me very sad, because they have obviously never known Him. To see signs and bumper stickers proclaiming "God hates fags" or similar sentiments just makes me wonder how it is that people who claim to be Christians can be so WRONG. Yes, I said it, THEY ARE WRONG. Every one of us is just as messed up as anyone else, so to single out someone else for exclusion because they are "different" is just plain WRONG.
As bold a statement as that may sound to some, one need look no farther than Jesus's own actions during his time here on Earth to see just what the heart of God feels. Time and time again, Jesus spoke and acted kindly towards those that society had cast out. Prostitutes, tax collectors (if you think the IRS is bad, tax collectors of Jesus's day may Bernie Madoff look like a petty crook), the worst of the worst and what did he do? He sat down and ate dinner with them. He didn't preach at them, didn't list off all the things in their lives that they needed to fix up before he could be seen with them. No, he ate with them. As they were. In fact, the only people Jesus ever got angry with were the religious leaders and his own disciples. His anger at the religious leaders was because of the way they completely misrepresented the God they claimed to serve and instead used His name for their own personal gain. In common colloquialism, you could say they "talked the talk, but didn't walk the walk." And boy, did they talk big.
Jesus's anger at his disciples was different, however. He was often angry with them, but out of the kind of loving correction that they needed in order to be sure that they remained steadfast in their eventual roles of carrying the torch of Christ's message after His death and resurrection. His rebukes were given out of discipline and correction, as a father disciplines his child so they learn right from wrong. And that is the rebuke I bring today, to fellow Christians out there. My God is a God of love, not hate. He is a God of life, not of death. If you feel otherwise, you are WRONG. It is not my place to correct those who don't even know or follow the teachings of Christ, that would just be foolish of me to expect someone else to live up to a standard they never chose for themselves. But those of you that have chosen to claim yourself as a follower of Christ, with that claim comes the responsibility to actually follow it. Christianity is not to be served a la carte, you must take the combo meal whole. Love your neighbor as yourself. It is a simple and perfectly clear command. Jesus even went so far as to define who that neighbor is. And not only that but we are to love even our enemies.
So basically, that pretty sums up the whole purpose of Christianity, and we're doing a pretty lousy job at it. So go outside and love somebody today. Find somebody you don't want to love and do it anyway.
If you would like to read the blog that sparked this train of thought, check out I'm Christian, unless you're gay