"You're different from other Christians."
I've heard this quite a few times over the course of the last year. Mostly from nonbelievers. When I defend Christianity to people who have been hurt or scarred by Christians or the Church (my atheist friends, my gay friends, etc.), the response I get is, "Well, not you, Rachel. I know you're not like other Christians."
I'm not a particularly great Christian. I mean, this whole blog is about how not great I am and how much better I could be—how much better I want to be. Generally, I'm a very selfish person. Selfish, sarcastic (and sometimes unintentionally mean), ungrateful, lazy (see masthead for confirmation on that one). When I compare myself to other Christians (not recommended, by the way), I land squarely in the bottom of the middle. There are Christians who are more well-read than I am. Christians who are better prayer warriors than I am. Christians who give God more glory. Better Christians. Nicer Christians.
Something about that last statement strikes me: nice. It's not really about being nice, is it? I mean, you can be nice to someone and not actually love them. Heck, you don't even have to like someone to be nice. You just have to—I don't know. Not punch them in the face? It doesn't take much to be nice.
What should set Christians apart is not how nice they are but how compassionate they are. The true love they feel for others.
Some Christians spew hate for other religions or for gays or for whatever other group they don't like. Why? God doesn't hate those people. God loves them. God is not willing for anyone to perish, but for all to come to repentance. He didn't send Jesus to save a precious few. Jesus came to atone for everyone's sins.
Everyone. He loves everyone.
I've heard people pray that God would break their heart for what breaks his—that they would grieve over sin. Every time I hear that, I think, "Oh, boy. I'm not grieving over anything. I don't really get that upset over sin in the world."
I grieved today. I cried today thinking about the people who think Christians hate them. It's been weighing on my heart for some time now, but today the weight seemed to crash down on me. People I love and admire who think I'm the only Christian in the world who loves them.
That's not what God wants from us.
All we have in this world is God. He's the only thing that won't pass away. Material possessions, money, our bodies—they'll all go away at some point. At the end of the world, all we have is God. He's all there is.
I can't bear the thought of someone not coming to know God because we have taken it upon ourselves to tell them God doesn't want them. God is the only thing that lasts. Who are we to take that away from anybody? I don't want to stand in front of God one day and feel the weight of other people's salvation denied because I told them God hated them.
My job—if Christians have a job—is to love. The two greatest commandments are to love God and to love others.
Not, "Love God and others, except ____________."
When I'm following those two commandments, God is evident in my life. Other people are drawn to that. People should say, "Rachel is different," not because I'm not like other Christians, but because I'm trying my best to be like Christ. The result is that people see God in my life and decide they want to know God, too.
To my friends and readers who have been hurt by Christians, I'm sorry. Matthew 24:12 (in talking about the end days) says, "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold." I'm sorry if you've encountered people whose love has grown cold. Christians are human. We make mistakes. We misinterpret scripture, we take it upon ourselves to do the judging that only God can do, and we tell you that God can't love you.
Go to God. If you've stopped trusting or liking Christians, go straight to The Man himself. Christians can't mess God up. Our hypocrisy doesn't change who God is. In fact, it just proves God's awesomeness because he can forgive his followers despite all of our shortcomings. And he has enough forgiveness for all of us—all of us. Jesus never encouraged his believers to hate or condemn others. That's something some Christians have taken it upon themselves to do. I promise you, God does not approve.
And to the Christians out there who harbor anger and hate in their hearts, please reconsider. Those feelings aren't from God. They pull you away from God. Anger and hatred cause others to put up barriers that prevent them from knowing God. God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. Tuck that in your heart and remember it always.
Don't let me be the only Christian who truly loves others. Really. I'm a lousy specimen.