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!