Monday, August 22, 2005

Embarrassed


Have you ever been embarrassed to be a "Christian" by fellow Christians? For example, my husband went to the new Mormon temple, that opened up in Newport Beach, with some of his co-workers. Upon his arrival there, several protestors were outside the temple. As he got closer, he realized that these protestors were people claiming to be "Christians." As he was entering the temple, he saw the protestors wearing shirts that said, "Mormons go to hell," "Jesus is my Savior," "Read the Bible," etc. He also heard people shouting, "You're going to go to hell," "You're a sinner," "You're living in sin," etc.

Wow, now that isn't that something you'd want to claim to belong to? My goodness...and they wonder why people aren't just doing back flips at the gospel they are proclaiming, but if you can believe it...it gets worse. My husband had a conversation with these people.

Here is a little background before I share about the conversation my husband had with some of the protestors. My husband use to be Mormon. Now, he wasn't born into a Mormon family, like most who are Mormon. His mom converted when he was about 8 and he, too, began going with her to Mormon church. It wasn't until high school that my husband became a Christian...or for the sake of this entry a Jesus follower. He had just finished sharing all of this with his co-workers before they went to the temple.

Okay, back to the conversation at the temple:

As my husband exited the temple, he was approached by one of the protestors who was shouting at him and telling him he was going to go to hell. My husband then shared with this man that he was a Christian and that this scene the protestors were creating made him embarrassed to be in the same category with them. This man continued to ask him why he wasn't out there with them if he was as Christian. My husband told him that he wouldn't be caught dead at a rally like they were putting on. Then this man told him that he needed to start reading his bible, that John the Baptist was praised for doing what they were doing. My husband corrected him and told him how John the Baptist was not praised for telling people, no let me correct myself, yelling at people and telling them they were going to hell and that they were the scum of the earth, rather he was praised for telling people the time is near, repent. He also continued by asking, shouldn't we be living out Christ's example, which would be to LOVE all people, not bash them over the head with this false picture of Christianity that you're painting for them? This man had nothing to say except that apparently in his mind my husband didn't know the bible and that he should be reading it more often.

This guy, along with all the others that were with him, are an embarrassment to my faith. They turn people away from Christ rather than making the light Christ gives to us when we accept Him into our lives apparent. How dare these people think they have the right to judge others.

I went to visit my friend's new church plant yesterday and heard a simply amazing message that totally fit with where my heart is on this topic.

The message was focused on Ephesians 4:1-6

"As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit - just as you were called to one hope when you were called - one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."

That protestor at the temple needs to reread this passage. This passage is simply amazing. I've read it several times before, but this time, hearing a very amazing, passionate teaching on it, I have a new understanding of exactly what it means. This passage is calling believers to step up to the plate and "walk the walk." We are to "live a life worthy of the calling we have received." Think about that. God has called us to a very specific calling...to live a life of love. In doing this, we are to be humble. We need to be doing things out of love, not to receive praise and attention from the church or fellow Christians for doing something that would be considered so "Christian."

We are called to be "gentle" or in other words meek and mild. We are called to be "patient with one another in love." This does not just mean that we are in waiting. It means that when we have a brother or sister in Christ, and I'm going to go as far as to say, anyone (Christian or not), who is struggling with something that we are patient to see them through and not quick to judge their actions. We need to walk along side people, not push them over a cliff and hope they find a rock to cling to in their desperation to save their life. Along with this, we are called to keep unity within the church, "unity of the Spirit." I think the church is very good about accepting anyone into their church so long as they are not saved, but become saved at their church. I feel that the church fails it's members once people become Christians. The bible doesn't preach that we are to become perfect the second we accept Christ into our heart, but that is how the church acts. When a brother or sister is struggling, many times the church points fingers or ridicules rather than coming along side the hurting person and helping them get their head above the water again. We need to not only stay unified in helping one another, but we need to also stay unified in not dividing churches over miniscule things. For instance, not everyone at a single church will 100% agree or like the style of worship at the church, but really, is it something so worthwhile that church be divided over it? No! It's not! This is just one example, but there are several more and I'm sure if you think of your church you could think of something that is a point of disagreement among several people within your congregation. According to Paul, we need to stay unified.

Just as Paul refers to the trinity, three entities being one, in these verses, we, as the church (many members), need to be united as one for Christ. For Paul finishes this set of verses by saying "God is over all, through all and in all."

Let's unite together as a loving body of Christ and not as an embarrassment to our Father in heaven. Through our love we will connect and make relationships that will allow us the opportunity to share who we are and why we are the way we are which will have more of an impact as we will have developed a relationship in which we will be living out what we are claiming to believe. This is the best witness of all!!!

Let me leave you with one final story that I heard the other day:

A man, who was totally on fire for God, wanted to witness to people. He had been trained in evangelism and felt well equipped to handle any situation. He knew the Gospel and was ready to teach it. He went up to a lady's door one evening. He knocked. She answered the door with a cigarette in her hand, a baby on her hip, and a scowl on her face. She asked, "What do you want?" The man said, "Sorry to disturb you," and turned around and left as she closed the door.

Distraught, this man sat on the curb and cried out to God, "God I'm trying to do Your work! I'm trying to save more people for you! They didn't teach me how to deal with people like her. What am I suppose to do? I was ready! I was willing to go up and knock on strangers doors for you." This man continued on like this for some time.

Finally, when the man was done, he knew what he needed to do. So, he went to the store and he bought a bag of diapers and a box of cigarettes. As he was walking back to this woman's house he was thinking about how the people at his church would probably ridicule him for having bought cigarettes for this woman, but he felt it was what he needed to do. As he approached her house, he went back to the woman's door and knocked again. This time when she answered, he held up the items and said that they were for her. She invited him in, being that she didn't have a free hand to take the items.

The two of them began talking and after about a half an hour, the woman asked why he would do something so nice for her, when she had not been very kind to him before. This opened the door, God opened the door for this man to share his story with her and to share who Christ was and how He was at work in his life.

***This story illustrates the importance of relationships as well as ceasing the moments God presents in our lives***

So, are we going to be like the protestors at the temple and bash people over the head, condemn them, and try to scare them into believing in Christ or are we going to build relationships with people so they can see Christ evident in our lives and grow to wonder how they, too, can have the hope that we find in Christ?

Thanks for listening...

8 comments:

Kim said...

Stephanie, I'm so sorry you had to experience the ugliness you have described here -- yet how glad I am that someone like you and your husband were there and had the ability to speak the truth in this situation. Many people I am sure were turned off by these protestors -- but how many were blessed by your confrontation of them? Maybe even a protestor? We may never know all that happened there, but God knows. God sees.

I really believe that deep down we all know the difference between that which is real and authentic, and that which is born out of human frailty and insecurity. Sometimes all we need is someone to stand up and say "no. you've got it all wrong." It's like saying the Emperor has no clothes...once one person points it out, others can follow -- even if only inside their own thoughts.

God Bless you both, and may we all have the courage to speak the truth in love.

"Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done..."

WES ELLIS said...

I'm so tierd of these kinds of things happening. It seems you have to give an explanation to the question "are you a Christian" because it can be so ugly or beutiful.

At the camp I spoke at the big theme was "U-Turns allowed," second chances or simply repentance. I don't understand how the John the Baptists message got so twisted. why do we think "repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" translates "you are going to Hell?" why? John understood that repentance was to return to the life God originally intended for us. He understood that it wasn't as important what happened if you didn't repent but more what happened if you did. And it wasn't where anyone was going that mattered it was what was coming here... The Kingdom Of God. "Repent" means "it doesn't have to be so hard, turn to God with all your problems and actually do something about them don't allow things to swell up and rot inside you by carrying it arround with you." (at least that would be for our culture)

The Gospel is good news... "Repentance" is an amazingly posetive, uplifting message... not a guilt trip.

Thank you for the depressing but insightful story I will not soon forget it.

Kim said...

Wes - I really love what you say here. This isn't the first time I've been moved by what you've written. I am the mom of 2 awesome kids -- a 15 year old son and an 11 year old daughter. When I read what you and Stephanie have to say I am happy, relieved, excited, hopeful -- mostly because I know that you are both in youth ministry and both influencing my kids' generation. Don't Stop :). Keep up the good work -- and thank you.

Maryellen said...

Steph...
a well written and very insightful message. repentance is a postivie message. i hate it when Christians use the word hate, and i hate it when Christians declare that those guys, your guys, are going to hell.
like kim, i find comfort in knowing that there are sincere Christians out there who know the difference between love and hate, and understand the Truth of Jesus...

Ashley said...

For so long I have felt as though I am embarrassed to call myself a Christian, but more embarrassed to admidit that I am embarrasses. This post so clearly illustrates just one example of why we as christians feel that way. I admire your husbands strength that day. Also great thoughts, thank you for the encouragement that I'm not alone.

Teresa said...

I have another quote for you, "Give up your good Christian life and follow Jesus" Keillor

While in the shower yesturday (I know, more info than you wanted), I believe that God spoke to me about something. I thought that I should go, with my Pastor husband, and speak to all of the churches in our city. We could organize a city-wide community project to promote the unity of the body of Christ. I think that it might be infectious. I'm praying on it.

Teresa said...

I don't know if it is just where I live, but the Muslims have been having a open-house once a month (I heard it on the radio--not Christian). My husband and I think that we might go. How else do we build relationships but to show interest in them as people? My sister-in-law converted to Mormonism because, in the beginning, they cared for her. Now she's a mental mess and I cannot seem to be able to get through her. Maybe your husband could help.

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