So one of my former students had a note on facebook that I had to comment on. Because it could apply to others, I thought I’d include my response here (and frankly when I went to post it on facebook I was 851 characters too many and I didn’t know where else to post it!)
Here’s her original text . . .
I’m a Christian. I’ve identified myself as a Christian for almost 8 years now. In that time, I’ve always loved God. That’s never been a problem for me. But I’ve struggled with loving people. Gradually, I’ve found out how to love people. Now I’m dealing with a new issue. Loving my brothers and sisters in Jesus. Before, this wasn’t a problem. But as my circle has stretched from just my church family to Christians living outside, I’ve started to wonder about what Christianity has become in America.
Sunday, November the 9th, was the first Sunday since my pastor had returned from Bangladesh. He definitely had something to say. Usually I take notes on Sunday morning. This morning I couldn’t. I couldn’t take my concentration off what he was saying. Not just because it was powerful (which it was) but because it offered wisdom to a situation I’ve been dealing with for the last few weeks. I have dealt with Christian who just don’t understand the power of God – the ones who have crossed the fence and think that’s all there is too it. That is where a lot of people concentrate. But I’ve noticed there’s another side too. The side Jesus talked too so much when He was on Earth. And it breaks my heart when I talk to friends about religion and because of this example, they feel like Christianity is a religion of hate. Sometimes people misinterpret things as hate. In a country like ours especially where sometimes people can become very sensitive to the slightest remarks. But sometimes I observe it too. I have observed people who don’t seem to understand how to express love, but go to church on Sundays.
I’ve recently attempted to give up my habit of arguing and debating. It’s fun in an organized setting. But I sometimes argue or stumble upon disagreements that weren’t intended to happen. And I feed them. Lately I’ve been trying not to. I will listen to what a person has to say and if they ask, give neutral “this is what I think” input. But if they’re done, so am I. The Bible says in Proverbs 12:23 “The wise don’t make a show of their knowledge but the fools broadcast their foolishness” (NLV) I want to live by that. But the saddest thing is, most of these arguments are with fellow Christians, and I regularly start pleasant conversations with them or even with other friends and they will pipe in. It isn’t just a “Well I think this” it’s a very adamantly telling me I’m wrong. I have even gone with friends to congratulate a Christian for winning the elections at my school. And somehow that turned into an argument. I almost cried at the division in that. I don’t want to argue with people, especially not my family.
Recently I also found a young woman’s blog. She was there saying that she was proud of her daughter, because she was telling her that her 4-year-old daughter was a worthless sinner. I don’t deny that humanity is full of wickedness and sin. But, to tell that to a 4-year-old. And there were Christians commenting and encouraging her and saying she was right. But Jesus said that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these. You don’t need to lie. But you don’t need to exaggerate. It’s like if you bite into an apple and it’s sour, you don’t make a scene about it. The only difference is this is a beautiful, precious child, being told that nothing good can come out of her. How will she think to try to do good for God and to do His will, if her mother tells her that she can’t do any good.
The comments that really got me were the ones claiming that the criticism she got for her parenting methods, were just Christian persecution. American Christians, we have no idea what persecution is like. We live in a country where the majority claims to be Christian. I won’t go into how true that is. We live in a country that says man was created equal, where we have equal protection of the law. Yet, I see Christians who suggest laws based on the Bible and when they’re told that they can’t be laws, they call it discrimination. When anyone so much as suggests that they don’t believe in Christianity, someone will call it discrimination. That isn’t persecution. No where close. Real Christians who are persecuted have to go to church in hiding. Real Christians who are persecuted have to leave their families in order to protect them. Real Christians who are persecuted call themselves Believers in Jesus because they know that the name Christian is seen as immoral and unrighteous in the countries where they teach. And they don’t complain. Not out loud. In America, people practically get paid to say that they’re being persecuted.
The Bible warns us ahead of time about that. Jesus says that if your coat is taken from you, you give your shirt too (Luke 6:29). We can’t complain. We were warned that there will be people who try to keep us from sharing the Good News. If we stop and complain, that is giving some of our energy away. People say “Well I can do this and this too”. The study of our senses in psychology shows that if you divert your attention to just two things, it becomes more difficult to do both. Why do you think cell phones were banned while driving. This applies here too. If you put concentration on your personal persecution, you take it away from Christ’s request. You take it away from sharing with others.
I think the time has come to ask ourselves about priorities. I have asked myself. All my habits and my bickering, is that more important to me than God? Is the fact that I’m being persecuted more important than the salvation of that little boy or girl I want to talk about Jesus to? Am I so confused that I can tell a child that they are capable of no good, but forget what else Jesus said? The great thing is, the Bible isn’t contradictory. It really isn’t. You can follow everything in the Bible. But people don’t, on both sides. The sides which are leaning on the fence and the side where I feel their passion but they direct it in ways that may not be the best. If only we can find the middle ground. My friend has a blog that’s called “I’m here. You’re there. Can’t we find a middle ground?” That’s what’s happened here. We need to get the people on the fence more passionate, and we need to bring the people over here more to God so that it’s easier to understand HOW to share His love.
The Bible needs to be read with our hearts on God. It can’t be read like a novel. You can’t get the whole of the Words if you just read it as you would every other book. You need to examine it, you need to apply it, and every second you need to have God on the mind. It is God’s book. He knows it better than anyone. And I don’t believe God does or says anything without a purpose. If you read it with His Holy Spirit, it can become clearer. There are Christian who know the Bible by heart and there are Christians who know John 3:16 (and if you don’t know John 3:16, let me introduce you to KidZone…) But the fact is, if that’s all you know, it doesn’t mean anything. Just words. You need to apply it. You need to let it affect you. ALL of it. You need to know that Jesus said we are sinners, but also said to love our children. You need to know that Jesus said to stand firm, but the Bible also states that quarreling is the way of fools.
Then once we’ve finally come past trying to fix the little things in the world, we can see the big picture. We keep trying to fix everything one at a time. But it’ll never work. People need to find a Truth they can hold on to. Until we can change the big picture, we’ll never be able to change the small ones. Changing the way people act, forcing them to act a certain way, doesn’t make them believe any more. For some people, it turns them away faster. Before the plants grow you have to sow the seeds. And I will continue that mission, to plant the seeds of Faith wherever I can. That is most important. And as I gradually come closer to God and lose the habits I’ve kept for so long, I can learn to plants the seeds too.
Here’s what I tried to write on facebook . . .
I like how you’ve bathed yourself in your thoughts here, but even more that you’ve included God’s Word as the foundation. You always have been a wise gal, which is both a blessing and a temptation for you. Be careful not to ever put your thoughts or “epiphanies” above God’s Word. It sounds like He’s put your pulse on a piece of His heart that you can grow and maybe even cause others to grow in their walk with the Lord.
Your second paragraph hinted towards the power of God – see 1 Cor. 4.20 – the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk, but of power. Remember that. I need to warn myself here because I’m gonna use a lot of words and there’s a danger that those words can be greater than God’s power. Such is rarely (if ever) the case.
How humbling for your to admit your tendency to argue. I’ve never known how to share this with you . . . and for God to show you Himself through his Word in Proverbs – wow! Praise God and way to be humble and submissive to His message to you. You’re growing, girl!
Having a four year old myself, I hear what you’re saying, but at the same time (because I tell my son what this gal does, too), my boy knows that no one is more proud of him for who he is than his daddy. It’s about the relationship I have with my son that enables me to speak that truth of his sin nature in love. Just tonight we were reading a book about kindness, letting others go first and I had to speak truth to him about always racing his sisters so he can be “first.” We read Philippians 2.5 together which was in the book as the theme verse and he sorta swallowed the truth (he said, “but I’m faster than them.”) The reality was he got it. He knows that he wants what he wants first and that is ingrained human nature (and of course the world teaches it, too). Because I have that relationship with my son, if I DON’T speak the truth of his sin nature to him, I don’t think I’m really loving him. Now if I don’t invest in the relationship with him as his daddy (and not just his Father if you know what I mean), then I am clearly at fault. But what he and I have transcends just a person-to-person relationship. It’s just like God the Father was with Jesus, Jesus was with John, James & Peter, how Paul was with Barnie, Barnie with John Mark, and Paul with Timothy. It’s about relationships!
I love your zeal and passion, girl. You are beyond growing in your faith – just be cautious on judging those who aren’t there. Allow your joy and contagion for the hope that you profess (Heb. 12) spur others on toward love and good deeds. Remember 1 Cor. 10.13 that we each are tried in our own ways. You’ve been tried and God’s brought you through thanks to His grace and maybe even a bit of your obedience. Just remember the Power of God.
Thanks for your heart. You are a special daughter of the King’s.