As Christians we are told to love our neighbours as ourselves (Mark 12:31). We are told that God is love (1 John 4:16) and that as his followers we should love and show love to all around us. We are told to be compassionate like the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), non-judgmental as Jesus told those who condemned the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11) and to show sacrificial love to our brothers and sisters like Jesus did on the cross (Mark 10:45).
However, too often this is far from reality.
I am not a Christian by birth right and by this, I mean that my parents did not attend Church when I was a child. I also did not become a Christian through an act of great salvation following the realisation that I had ‘made a mess of my life’. I have always believed in God but turned to the Church because of a desperate need for unconditional love and acceptance. Unfortunately, I found neither in the church.
My overwhelming experience, in my days attending different denominations, was of a group of people more prepared to accept a murderer than a person who did not conform to a set of rules, all different depending on the denomination, and loosely based on the bible under the caveat of ‘I say this in love’ that seem to excuse all manners of sins. I was judged in the Evangelical Church because it took me a long time to publicly ‘give my life to Christ’, even though, in my mind, I had done so long before as a child. I was judged in the Catholic Church for having been baptised in an Evangelical Church. I was judged above all for choosing to marry a non-Christian.
I am not alone in this experience and have met countless souls put off by the lack of compassion and hypocrisy shown by a group of people who claim to represent the God of love. It is time that as the united Church of Christ, we reclaim the love that Jesus showed us not just in words but also in the way we act towards our fellow humans whoever they may be.
Love is not a feeling that we do or do not experience
Love is something we CHOOSE to show to those around us. It must be unconditional and accompanied by acts of compassion and loving kindness that better represent what a feeling or a simple word ever could. Love is not easy, it is sacrificial, it is forgiving, it is self-denying, it is often not returned and it is only when it becomes this hard that we truly experience and demonstrate the love of Jesus.
see also ‘Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you‘
“As a parent you can only ever be as happy as your unhappiest child”
I remember going to church as a small child and reciting the Catholic creed. It starts with: “I believe in God the Father”.
one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:6)
As our Heavenly Father just imagine how unhappy He must be looking at the state of the world we live in filled with so many of His unhappy children.
- Imagine Him crying for the children killed in bombing in Syria
- Or the starving children of Yemen
- Or the young girl being used for sex in the streets of Manilla
- Or the little boy washed up on the beaches of Turkey when the boat that was supposed to carry him to safety from the war in his country of birth sank
- Or the man shot dead in the streets of Georgia because of the colour of his skin
- Or the young gay man who kills himself because he was rejected by his family and his Church
- Or the children who watched their father killed by a ‘pro-life supporter’ because he was a doctor working in a clinic that provided abortion
- Or simply the person who we caused pain through our unkind words
Imagine Him cry and then imagine the shame we should be feeling for uttering those unkind words, for staying silent in the face of injustice, for valuing our own comfort over the lives of those poorer than us. None of us like to feel shame though and we are usually very quick to remind ourselves that God forgives all our sins, which is true, but still doesn’t make our actions acceptable nor inconsequential.
1 Samuel 13:14 says about king David, “ But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”
David’s heart was far from perfect. He committed adultery and murdered his mistress’s husband to hide his sin. And although God forgave him, his actions had serious consequences. A man died and David’s son born from his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba also died. But David was repentant and eager to please God. He was willing to recognise his fault and listen to God’s heart.
We need to be men and women after God’s heart. We need to not be afraid to recognise our faults, repent and speak out to prevent others from falling in the same trap. We need to hear and feel God’s heart and act on Its conviction with our voices, our prayers and our deeds.
Jesus, knowing their thoughts, called them to his side and said, “Kings and those with great authority in this world rule oppressively over their subjects, like tyrants. But this is not your calling. You will lead by a completely different model. The greatest one among you will live as the one who is called to serve others, because the greatest honour and authority is reserved for the one with the heart of a servant. For even the Son of Man did not come expecting to be served by everyone, but to serve everyone, and to give his life in exchange for the salvation of many. Matthew 20:25-28 (TPT)
I have been thinking a lot lately about what makes Christians different to followers of other religions. Most religions have values based on love, care and compassion for others, so what makes Christians different. I came to the conclusion that, putting aside all the doctrinal differences between different religions, what makes Christianity stand out is of course Jesus, his identity, his life, what he stood for whilst he walked this earth and by association, our identity, as his followers, in him.
And arguably his most significant act whilst on this earth was his death on the cross for the redemption of the sins of ALL mankind. An ultimate act of sacrifice that has no match in any other human being or God.
That act of sacrifice was an act of obedience to His Father and of love and service to us. It is an act that we, as Christians, are all called to replicate, even today.
- Now we may not be called to die on a cross, although some Christians still do in some parts of the world, but we are called to sacrifice our own comfort and our own freedom for others.
- We are called to serve one another which too often we translate as serving our brothers and sisters in Christ, forgetting to extend this act of service to those who do not yet know Him, those who attack us, who ridicule us and who despise us.
- We are called to forgive, even the unforgivable and to offer grace and mercy to those who hurt us.
- We are called to include ALL in our prayers and act of love and compassion, even those who are different to us in what they look like, what they believe and what they do.
Nelson Mandela famously wrote whilst in prison: “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
As Christians, we have a responsibility to ensure that the freedom we have been given by Jesus when he died for us, is made available to all, whether they know Christ or not.
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2