I've been struggling lately.
You may have read my post about receiving hateful email forwards. It started with that, and soon I realized what I really already knew: Most opinions like these seem to come from a certain subset of Christian people. It isn't limited to intolerance of people of other faiths. It also includes telling nursing mothers to go in the bathroom because they are dishonoring God by feeding their babies in public. It includes private Christian high schools who claim their main goal is to bring students closer to knowing Jesus, but yet they uphold a policy of kicking out girls who get pregnant. It includes a certain minister I know who wanted to be sure he didn't sell his extra football ticket to a non-Christian because he didn't want to sit next to one.
People who do these things make me sad, because all the people they snub, insult, avoid and ignore? It hurts them. And I have yet to see these behaviors do any good. Usually they just push people further away.
If you only associate yourself with people who are Christians and refuse to talk to people who are different, how do you expect to spread the news of Jesus? People will obviously do things you don't feel are right, but why take on the weighty responsibility of judging them yourself? Why not love them the way they are and let God decide if they are right or wrong?
It was not hard at all for me to see judging and condemning people in the situations I've described as wrong--and I still maintain this opinion. What was difficult for me was realizing that this applies to me as well. Do you ever find you have a problem and God seems to be sending you the exact things you need to see until you figure things out?
Some things I've seen the past few days:
The Facebook status of someone I admire: Words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness. -Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (aka: Mother Teresa)
An article on Facebook that I'm pretty sure I can't find again, which posed the question: If you call someone "racist," are you doing it out of sadness for the victim or hatred for the guilty party?
The Facebook status (in part) of someone else I admire: "Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline." --MLK
The Bible, in a mostly random reading session: "Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him." --1 John 9-11
The "remove the plank from your own eye" Bible verse, which I'm sure you've heard and which I had to come across several times before it sunk in.
And then in Sunday school we watched Rob Bell's Lump (link is a preview). Long story short, his son told two lies, got caught, and ran upstairs and hid in shame. Rob went up later and found him hiding under the covers. He told his son there was nothing he could do to make him love him less. I love Rob Bell. He talks about things that happen with his kids and then uses them to explain our relationship with God. The idea was that there is nothing we can do to make God love us any less. That includes having premarital sex. Converting to another religion. Letting someone get a glimpse of your breast while you're feeding a baby.
Harshly judging and spreading misinformation about others.
And in my case? Thinking and sometimes sharing ugly thoughts about those who harshly judge and spread misinformation about others.
I was right that these people should not take it upon themselves to judge and condemn. I was right that it hurts others, and I was right to distance myself from it. But I was wrong to want to give up on the people who do this because they make me angry, and I was wrong to judge them by saying to myself, they think they have it right but they don't. I'm pretty sure Jesus only wanted us to love others.
I will still stand up for my beliefs, but from now on I'll try to always do it out of love. I definitely feel it's necessary to stand up, though. Some Christians avoid mentioning their faith to others, not because they are ashamed of their faith, but because they are ashamed of the behaviors of other Christians. That simply will not do. Besides, while it's easy to love your own child or your own sister or husband or wife when they are doing something you disapprove of, I really think we are meant to love everyone, regardless of whether or not we know them. So, while I don't want anyone to feel judged by me, I will still say what I have to say because I want them to realize that maybe they don't know everything about a person or a group of people. I want them to take an opportunity to know someone better. I want them to listen to the other side. And I feel it's my responsibility to present that other side if I know it.
I usually don't speak rudely or harshly to others when I am presenting an alternative viewpoint, but there is frequently anger in my heart. Matching their anger with anger of my own does no good, so from now on I am going to do my best to love them. To appreciate that they are children of God who (I believe) do not fully understand the issue at hand, and even though I may be frustrated, to communicate my views out of love. If we could all do this, how much better would the world be? Instead of starting a fight, words spoken out of love will disarm, enlighten and bring people together.
It's not always easy. But I'm really going to try.
Note: This post is totally different from the first Part Two I wrote. Totally. Just thought I should let you know.