Unleashed

This weekend, I attended a Promise Keepers rally in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Promise Keepers is a movement of Christian men in America, dedicated to committing their lives fully to Jesus Christ to be better men, better husbands, better fathers, better neighbors, and so on.  (For more info about PK, check out their website — especially the seven promises of a Promise Keeper.)

Seventeen men from my church attended with (I’d say) about 7000 other men from around the Midwest.  We prayed and worshiped and invested our time together in understanding more fully what God calls us to as men in this world.  Sounds pretty religious, and I guess it was, but here’s why I bring it up…

I’ve recently been engaged in several very interesting discussions with a friend of mine — who is an pagan priestess — about her beliefs.  She’s strong yet kind, very conscientious, well-educated, and exceptional at what she does — a counselor in the public school system, evaluating children with special needs.  She also a pretty fascinating person.   She believes in magic and caring for nature, the basic goodness of people and in fact reincarnation.  A little while back, she surprised me by explaining that she is put off by Christians because in a past life (many hundreds of years ago) she and a group of her “hearth sisters” were executed at the hands of an angry Christian mob.

Now I do not believe in reincarnation (the Bible clearly teaches that “it is appointed unto man once to die and then the judgment [before God]”).  However, what most intrigued me about that conversation and the reason that I’m writing this blog entry is that this kind and generous person fears Christians.  Obviously, she and I see the world very differently — believe very different things.  But I’m struck repeatedly at how often she worries about offending me by talking about her faith or is nervous when I talk about Jesus or the Bible, because she deeply believes that so many who would claim the name of Christ would seek to viciously abuse her for her beliefs if they knew.  So she’s afraid to be herself in front of a fundamentally Judeo-Christian culture.

This really bothered me — deeply.  It’s just not right.  Since when do people have to believe the same thing as I do in order to keep from being harshly judged by me?  Why is it that so many so-called-Christians are so angry, so rude, so judgmental, so hurtful?  Aren’t we called by Jesus to be peacemakers?  Aren’t we called to be the ones who love those who are even unlovable?  And certainly this woman, just because she believes something different than I do, isn’t unlovable.  She’s actually pretty cool.  I can assure anyone who would judge her for her faith that God loves her no less than He loves me, or you, or the person who would sit in the most radical judgment of her.

Then I went to the PK rally.  We talked about unleashing the power of God in men’s hearts and lives — the theme of PK 2006 is “Unleashed“.  Thousands of men, praising God, declaring that they will be the kind of man God calls them to be, boldly agreeing to follow Jesus – to be like Him.  These men are the kind that would love someone even who harmed them, just as Jesus commanded.  They’re the types that would defend this woman, were she to face an angry mob of judges — in this life or another.  Not because we believe what she does, but because we defend the weak — not persecute them.  We know that stoning someone or burning them at the stake isn’t at the top of the how-to-love-them list.  God is her judge, just as He is mine.  I just don’t possess that right, and I don’t want to.  I’d much rather be her friend, and encourage her to seek the truth about the world — about who God is, and about who she is.  I’d rather walk a journey with her than set her on fire.  Don’t you think Jesus would have said the same thing?

Here’s a glimpse of how Jesus dealt with people who sinned against God’s law in John 8:2-11

At dawn [Jesus] appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.  “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

God is confident.  Jesus wasn’t insecure in His position before the woman in this story any more than He is before my friend now.  God knows the truth, and wants us to know it too — that nature and magic and reincarnation are not what the human soul needs.  Rather, Christ’s death and resurrection make possible a relationship with a very real, all powerful, divine and loving God.  That’s why we were created.  That’s the adventure we’ve been called to.  Many believe that, and many don’t.  But anyone who wants to follow Jesus will love those who don’t give a rip about Him — just like Jesus does. 

Today in church (The Vine), the entire service was about this very same topic.  I thought about my friend for much of the service.  If you’re interested, you can listen to Pastor Wiley’s message (17MB Windows Media), which did a great job talking about how we as Christians are called to love — even people way different from us.  I’m also posting a song that our special music team did to close our service today, called “Instruments of Your Peace“.  It’s old, and has that chant-like Celtic thing going on.  And it’s really slow.  But it’s beautiful, and it paints a much better picture of Jesus than self-righteous witch-hunters burning people at the stake.

For anyone out there who reads this and is confused about what Christians are supposed to look like, grab a Bible, open it to the book of John, and read.  You’ll meet Jesus.  And here’s the news flash…  If somebody says they’re a Christian but doesn’t look anything like the Christ you read about there, then don’t believe them.  It’s easy to call myself something, but it’s a different thing altogether to actually be something.  Being a Christian means following Jesus.  Period.

I want to see the power of God unleashed in our world.  But this isn’t about witch hunts and ferreting out the evil-doers.  God’s power will be shown most in the way His people stand out like sore thumbs … serving, loving, giving, investing in people … making the world a better place.  And sharing the truth about who God is.  I hope that the world can begin again to see Jesus when they look at Christians, because I think He’s been missing from the picture for far too long!

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About Jeff Block

Lover and follower of Christ. Husband and father. Writer and seminary student. On a long journey, learning to swim with the current of God's love and walk with Him in the garden in the cool of the day.
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4 Responses to Unleashed

  1. Russ N. says:

    Jeff,

    Found your blog by searching technorati for others that have posted about Promise Keepers. I was there this weekend as well.

    Can’t agree with you more on loving a person even though they have different beliefs and having God’s power displayed in love and service even to “enemies”.

    Thanks for writing and thanks for sharing.

    Russ

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  2. Neva says:

    Really interesting post, Jeff, and a lot to think about there.

    First off, I’ll start my admitting that I’ve always been a bit put off by Promise Keepers as an organization. It strikes me as overly patriarchal and anti-feminist, which naturally disturbs me. I will also say, however, that I haven’t had any direct contact with the organization, so I’m fully willing to be educated on it and change that view if it’s inaccurate.

    Now, for your real topic… I was very pleased to read this post. I think that more devoted and active Christians need to embrace this level of tolerance for people of other faiths. I have in the past left a Bible study group that I was otherwise enjoying because I could not accept the repeated message that I should either convert or condemn a good friend who is Jewish. I avoided joining a large Christian group in college because they very strongly promoted that I should condemn or change the behavior of my gay friends.
    I don’t believe that this is what Christians are called to do. Jesus asks us to let our light shine before men so that they may see God through us. I believe in showing people God’s love through how I live my life. If that causes a person to want to know God in the manner that I know Him, I am more than happy to help that person do so. And if my living that way simply causes a person to have a more positive opinion of Christians than they might have otherwise, I’m still happy with that.

    And I’m right there with you on worrying that too many purported Christians have forgotten whose life they’re supposed to be modeling.

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  3. Jeff Block says:

    I found an interesting article from another PK named Russ here. He commented above. On his blog, He also talks about how judgmental Christians can be. He was sad in his writing, as I was when I wrote this article, because there’s just so much pride and misunderstanding and judgment in the world. Christians are called to be fixers of this problem, not purveyors of it.

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  4. David Borck says:

    I couldn’t agree more. Just recently I heard of an incident in a church down the street from mine, it seems that there was a christian Hip-Hop demonstration put on for the youth, they were so impressed by it, they practiced a routine, and put it on for the congregation, during it, some of the members were offended by it and got up and left. Any time our youth want to perform in our church, our whole congregation encourages them, and applauds them, mainly because we feel that the youth need to express thier faith, and we except that they do it differently than us old fogies. We know how important it is for people in general, young and old, to be allowed to worship how they see fit. Our church has three services on sunday, and each one is geared toward a certain style. We as men need to step back into our designated roles as leaders of the church body, and do the job God called us to do. Thanks for letting me rant on.

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