I have been on both ends of the deal. I have felt judged and ridiculed and misunderstood by fellow Christians, and I have been the one judging and misunderstanding.
Growing up, I knew what not to do. There seemed to be so many rules linked to this God fellow that I somehow lost count. But among all these rules was the expectation that not only should I not break them, but I should do everything in my power to keep others from breaking them as well. This is what I thought should be my mission in life, the way that I could best love and serve God.
I was miserable. Nowhere in my young faith could I find room to be a complete and total human mess. What was I supposed to do with all my deep questions? All my brokenness? All my fears?
God couldn’t possibly care about all that. And I was right in some ways. That God, the one I thought I knew, who was against so much, and understood so little about me, that God didn’t care. But the Jesus that I have found in the years since those days, is so very different.
When I think back to those days where all I could see where fire and brimstone and rules I couldn’t keep track of, I can’t blame anyone who has somehow gotten the same message and wants nothing to do with that God. Sometimes I think that we present God to others as the God who is against and not the God who is for.
One hot summer day when I was eight, I tucked my trusty Adventure Bible under my arm and crossed over the driveway to my neighbor’s house. He was a year younger than me and always getting into trouble. Having been told for years by my Sunday School teacher that it was my duty to tell everyone about Jesus, I set out to do just that. Looking back on it, I am not sure that talking to my neighbor didn’t really help much at all. I have learned that when it comes to sharing our faith we must listen more than we talk. I have seen the most change in others lives when I don’t say much at all.
In reality, Jesus is the one who brings others to him, not us. Don’t get me wrong, He uses us big time in the process, but sometimes I wonder what would happen if we stopped making the salvation of others about us.
If we could just push past our fear of not doing enough for the Kingdom of God, then maybe we wouldn’t scare people off with our intensity. Maybe we would find ourselves hugging others more than preaching at them. Maybe more would experience the goodness of Christ if we could stand back and say, “God you do the saving, I am just going to take my struggling coworker out to dinner”.
All I know is that I don’t want to follow that God I learned about from the world, who leads with all the things that He is against. I want to follow this God who wants a personal relationship with me, whose “grace is sufficient” (2 Corinthians 12:9), who loves me deeper than I have ever been loved. I want to know this God who loves me far beyond what I could ever do or say, and who knows my heart better than I ever could.
I’m going to make the crazy assumption that is what others want as well. Especially those who have been crushed by this world, ripped apart for who they are, and misunderstood by many. They are looking for a savior, a place where they can be themselves and find the acceptance and love they so desperately need.
I want to lead with love, the greatest of all the things that our God is for. Everything else will fall into place. All I need to do is introduce others to the great peace, love, grace, and acceptance found in Jesus Christ. I can be free to leave the judgments, fears, and opinions out of it. I don’t know about you, but if someone walked up to me one day and capitalized on everything that I have done wrong and how much I need to change, I would feel exhausted and unheard. So we must be careful not to do this to others.
What are the things that you love most about Jesus? Start there. And then live your life leading with those things in your relationships with others. That’s how Jesus lived his life, drawing others to himself by showing them what he was for, not telling them what he is against. All we have to do is follow the greatest example.