The Bigotry is Real; The Love is Realer

Christians are persecuted every day, that is an unfortunate reality. But the other unfortunate reality is that Christians also persecute every day.

And who am I talking about? Me, of course! Sure, we all know those annoying, judgmental people, but I”m here to talk about me. I don’t know about those people, maybe they mean well, but I’ve been inside my own head and I know it’s not pretty. There’s jealousy, there’s pride, there’s hatred.

It doesn’t come over night, the fall from grace. The darkness seeps in, colors your perception, disguises itself as light and truth. And pretty soon you’re all mad at those sinners who are really your brothers and sisters, and you realize that you’re the worst sinner of them all, but you just stop caring in a way. That is a bad place, don’t go there.

You read in the Bible that you should love your enemies, and you half-beleive it, and you half doubt it, so basically you’re just doubting it.

I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to accuse you of this too.

I know this all sounds really depressing, but it’s not the bottom-line. I’m sorry that I’m so real on this blog- sometimes I feel like I should tone it down a little and just talk about salad recipes. Maybe I’ll do that tomorrow.

I’m not saying that the Bible turns people into jerks. I’m saying that Satan is a clever little _____ and he knows how to twist things around. He can even use  scripture verses. Remember this?

Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:

‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’

and,

‘In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’[b]

Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’”[c]
Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”
10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you,[d] Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’”[e]

Matthew 4:5-10

But if I truly believed into the Lord Jesus, I would never think of using the Bible as a way to judge other folks and be a bully. I would be humble, compassionate, joyful, and loving. Oh, if only! I know it’s true, but why do I doubt the whole thing even as I’m writing this! And yet, it’s my only hope. Must bling to it. Must cling for dear life. It is life, friends. Take my word for it- I’ve seen what death and destruction look like. I know that’s what Satan wants. I don’t want to give him what he wants anymore.

The Brood of Vipers

I’ve never been a particular fan of snakes, much less a brood of them (that just sounds disgusting), so if someone called me that, I’d be pretty offended. And that’s just the thing- Jesus is talking to me too.

“You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.”
-Matthew 12:34 NASB

We often see the kind, compassionate Jesus, but many are uncomfortable with the angry one. We need to keep in mind that He is God. He has the authority to punish us. This reminds me of a mother or father who hates to watch their child screw up, so they eventually resort to name-calling and anger- anything that will get through to the stubborn kid.

So who is the brood of vipers? The Pharisees. The hypocrites.

Me.

It’s not the prostitutes or thieves that Jesus yells at, but the religious people of his time. The goodie goodies. Why do we think that is?

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.”

The other day, I looked in the mirror, and I did not like what I saw. This literally happened, by the way, not just a soul-searching thing. The face that stared back wasn’t the happy face on my student ID or in my old pictures. It looked tired and anxious at the same time. Robbed of joy and the glow of youth. It looked like the face of someone who was very unwell.

What happened to me? Shouldn’t I be holy by now? I’ve been abstaining from stuff, working more, trying harder, eating better…

But in the process, I missed out on something very important. I lost joy, hope, peace, love, sense of humor, energy, and quirkiness. I’d cleaned the outside, but the inside was still very bad and empty, in some ways worse, because I was allowing pride, jealousy, fear, and wrath to remain.

I am beginning to understand all kinds of hypocrisy. I am beginning to understand the Inquisitions, Holy Wars, oppressions, divisions, and squabbles. I am beginning to understand why gossipy church wives have remained gossipy and why many would rather be burned at stake than call themselves a Christian.

But I still don’t blame God. I don’t blame the Gospel for turning people into jerks. I also understand why people don’t want to be Christian. Because I know that I myself have fed into these negative images. I know because someone told me so in a very un-subtle way.

So I’m not going to point out that it’s some kind of logical fallacy to claim that because Christians are bad, Christianity is bad. But I will defend the message and believe in it. I will say that it is not the balmy love and mercy of Jesus Christ that causes us to act like jerks, but it is the cold, self-righteous religion that we impose upon ourselves without even realizing it. It is going through the motions and dressing up the ugliness with a facade of meekness and piety. Cleaning the outside of the cup while the inside is all moldy and gross.

It’s amazing that it’s so easy to get on the wrong track. You get on the wrong track, you realize it, you want to go back because it’s getting dark, but you keep going because something tells you it’ll pay off.

It’s so easy to get caught up in little rules and miss the boat on the big stuff.

“…Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.”
Luke 10:41 NRSV

But what, what exactly is that one thing? Don’t we already acknowledge that thing, every time we pray and say things like “With the Lord’s help, with Christ who lives in me, etc?”

So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (‭James‬ ‭1‬:‭19-20‬ NKJV)
So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. (‭James‬ ‭1‬:‭19-20, 23-25‬ NKJV)

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭2‬:‭8-10‬ NKJV)

So if I love God, I must prove it. It’s as simple and impossible as that.

Why Do People Hate Christians?

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Obviously, not all non-Christains hate Christians / Christianity. And the reasons that the haters hate are somewhat obvious. Yet the question still puzzles me.

From my experience, here are the main reasons for the hate/mistrust/indifference/revulsion:

1. Christians are hypocrites

2. They think they’re better than me because they’re going to heaven and I’m not; in other words, their ideas are self-indulgent rather than pious

3. They are simplistic, idealistic fools that I kind of want to punch in the face sometimes

4. Where was God when I needed him anyway?

5. I have my own religion, and therefore cannot accept Christianity and I want them to leave me alone

Okay, maybe I exaggerated and made light of the situation a little, but those are the main reasons as I understand it. But obviously, I don’t really know all the reasons since I am biased; and if you think I am wrong I would appreciate it if you told me the real reasons.

I’ve tried to make sense of all this, but I can’t. I would like to say that I enjoy persecution and being made fun of, but I really don’t, in part because I can’t always tell if I am being rejected for my beliefs, my personality, or a mysterious combination. And like the pathetic crybaby I am, I tend to take things very seriously at times. I pray to God that I will stop acting like a toddler who got their cookie taken away.

I would like to say that I don’t care what other people think. But that’s just not true. When people accuse me of being a hypocrite, I become completely convinced that I am. And because I am always thinking about how much of a hypocrite I am, I become reluctant to open my mouth. I am afraid my words will detract from the Kingdom. I am afraid my reputation will rub off on God and people will think He’s just like me. But most of all, I am afraid of what other people will think. I am afraid of being ridiculed, isolated, and mocked for my beliefs in the same way that I am occasionally ridiculed, isolated, and mocked for being who I am.

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I would like to say that I don’t get very many angry comments on this blog because of its presentation of ideas… but is it really because I am being wishy washy? Or do I just not get enough traffic to rack up all those hate comments that other blogs get?

What an unfortunate situation this is! This is a psychological dilemma that I’m afraid I don’t have an answer to. It might help if I stopped being a hypocrite, but how is that to be accomplished?

And here’s another question: Do I really want to be a non-hypocrite? Of course, if you asked anyone, they would say that it’s better to not be a hypocrite. But to truly become a non-hypocrite, to dedicate yourself to every tenant and teaching of the Gospel sounds a little repellant. It sounds like I will be judged for that as much as I am judged for being a hypocrite. And frankly, it sounds hard. How about a spiritual nap?

Lord, protect me from the madness of the world, and these thoughts that never give me peace. I pray that I can lovingly forgive all those who have hurt me, and that I will not indulge in bitterness when people judge me. You are the ultimate judge, God, and as long as I serve You, the rest doesn’t matter one bit.

 

 

 

 

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The Kingdom of Heaven: No Requirements, No Prior Knowledge Assumed

A common misconception about Christianity is that there is some kind of list of requirements. Of course, Christians frequently try to debunk this myth, and I’m sure that few beleivers have been ridiculous enough to openly suggest it. And yet, the idea still gets around, and it’s probably Christians’ fault for propagating it.

So, like many others have before me, I am here to say that it is NOT true at all. Who did Jesus associate with? Tax collectors (considered very immoral), adulterers, lunatics, and all the others that decent Jews shunned.

You don’t need to be rich to be a Christian. I think that one is obvious, but I thought I would say it just in case you saw televangelists and got the wrong idea. If you are poor, God can provide for you.

You don’t need to be poor to be a Christian. God will humble you and be your All in All.

You don’t need to be a happy medium or somewhere in the middle to be cherished by the Lord of Lords

You don’t need to be a “good person.” In the Lord, you will bear truly good fruits in due time.

You don’t need to be popular or well-liked. The Lord will be your friend and comfort.

You don’t need to be a hermit. If God wills it, you will bring your friends with you into the glorious light.

You don’t need to be “beautiful,” true beauty is within.

You don’t need to be plain, the Lord will set a mirror before your soul.

You don’t need to be sober, for true sobriety comes only from God.

You don’t need to be chaste, passion can only be tamed by divine intervention.

You don’t need to be straight, for no man is upright. (Romans 3:10)

You don’t need to be healthy, for the healthy don’t need a Doctor (Matthew 9:12)

You don’t need to be married, but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided… (1 Corinthians 7:33-34)

You don’t need to be single, For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife? (1 Corinthians 7:16)

You don’t need to be unwell, but rejoice in your health!

You don’t need to be sane, this I know for sure

You don’t need to be self-righteous; in fact, you really shouldn’t be

You don’t need to be loving, because God has enough love to go around

You don’t need to put on a good show, God sees what is within as well as what is on the surface

Shall I go on?

You don’t need to be strong, …God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong (1 Corinthians 1:27 NASB)

You don’t need to be weak, for the church needs its pillars

You don’t need to be wise or educated, God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27)

You don’t need to be a fool, but The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding (Proverbs 9:10)

Do you get the point yet? Have I included everyone? You don’t need to be self-controlled either. And ladies, you don’t need to be a size 0, okay?

Perhaps this is so hard to understand because almost everything that we want to do or be a part of in life that is “worthwhile” seems to have some prerequisites. Getting a good job, getting into college, being part of an organization or club. We even evaluate others and are evaluated when we are making friends. Not to mention relationships. But to God, worldly merit is nothing. He created all of us, and he knows all of us. He knows our strengths and our weaknesses, He knows all the things that we’ve done, and even the things that we ourselves have forgotten about. That doesn’t stop Him from loving us!

And yet, I regret to say that just because there are no prerequisites doesn’t mean that there is nothing at all that we should change about ourselves once we have come to see the Truth. Heaven forbid we should stay the same! This is why people think Christians are self-righteous, prudish, and hypocritical, because we say this. But how can we not say this when it is in our Bible that we profess to believe? How can we not apply this to ourselves and encourage others to do the same? It is not we who made this up, but God.

Yet I am here to say that we should not be striving to fit the mold of our church, of the believers around us. I don’t know about other parts of the world, but America has a long and regrettable tradition of this. Once we have come to know Christ, we should try to fit His mold.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; and behold, new things have come.

2 Corinthians 5:17 NASB

We must put on sincerity and love (this is the theme of 1 Corinthians). The truth is, people will always call us hypocrites, even if we are not being particularly hypocritical. People accused Jesus and John the Baptist of being hypocritical too(Matthew 11:18-19)! But perhaps if we stop caring what other people think, we will become more sincere, and maybe people won’t accuse us so much. Or maybe, feeling threatened, they will accuse us even more. But the good news is that it only matters what God thinks, He is the only judge of the hearts of men and the final judge of our fruits.

 

 

 

 

The Battle Continues- Christians Vs. Hollywood

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I don’t think that anyone who really knows me would say that I have no sense of humor. I love humor- snakiness, satire, slapstick, all of the above.

It seems like every time you turn on the TV or read anything intellectual, there are always jokes about religion. You know what I’m talking about. Sometimes, these jokes are downright blasphemous. But sometimes they seem kind of good-natured. They seem to say, “It’s okay if you actually believe that, we won’t judge, but you know it’s a little silly.” And every once in a while they seem somewhat appropriate/funny/understandable. Like what I saw today, on a recent episode of the Simpsons, when Homer was dressed up as Jesus while promoting a loan shark (get it, because of how Jesus got mad at the “money changers” in the temple), and was consequently struck by lightening. I don’t know, I thought that was funny. As close as the media will get to acknowledging the existence of God.

I’m pretty sure I’ve blogged on this topic before. But what I really want to know is, how should Christians respond to this kind of humor? And, where do you draw the line in making light of the things in the Bible? Puns, good-natured one-liners? Isn’t it wrong to ridicule the word of God beyond that (or is the Bible a 100% serious thing)? Does God himself have a good sense of humor when it comes to his own decrees?

Which brings up another topic. Forgive me for jumping around, but I think I will let those questions hang in the air while I discuss this, the matter of Christians as loud-mouthed media watchdogs. Sure, we can certainly have our opinions of what we see, we can react accordingly to what we see, and refrain from watching certain things, encouraging our friends to do the same. But do we need to write the strongly worded letters and go crazy on social media every time we see something particularly debauch? Should we try to change the culture by speaking out? Or should we accept that the world is different from us, and stop trying to impose our morals on it? Should we just let our lives speak for themselves? Why do we expect Hollywood to conform to our values? And don’t we have our own business to attend to? Or is it important that we remind ourselves and each other of what is right and wrong? Do we have something better to do than discuss how Miley Cyrus is an example of the cultural decline of America? Is there a plank between our pupils and our 3-D glasses?

 

 

 

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