Wednesday, 01 August 2012
How much do we really know? It is easy to take hearsay about some other person, or nation, culture or religion at face value, often without feeling the need to check up on it. I know that I am guilty of it, more often than I would care to admit -- but here I am admitting it.
In this day and age, I would think that most of us, at least those who post and write on the internet, have been attacked, pigeonholed, and discarded as not worth being listened to. It is so easy to do. Christians do it to each other all of the time. It is a scandal to many non-believers to see how those who believe in the same Lord Jesus Christ can turn on each other, condemn each other to hell and to feel justified by it.
The problem is that we are each pointed at; with scripture being used to back up the condemnation, it comes full circle as the saying goes. We can at times be a non-reflective lot, who seem to have forgotten not only the commandment to Love God, self and our neighbor, but can relegate it to almost nonexistence. We are told not to judge, yet it comes so easily, without effort, a way of life that is hard to die to. I have struggled with it all of my life.
Being Catholic, I have been regaled about the infallibility of the Pope, which is a very limited in scope and use. Then my Christian sister, or brother, who has condemned not only the Pope but all Catholics to hell, will base that on their own “infallible” -- without any limitation -- interpretation of Scripture. They are never wrong in how they present the scripture to others; well at least in their own mind. It is truly a tower of Babel in the Christian world and actually seems to be getting worse.
I have met men and women who were ‘saved’ the Friday before I met them, who never opened a Bible before, or never gave the Christian revelation any thought, and suddenly, in an instant, they are experts in who is saved or damned and feel obligated to set everyone straight. I find this quite amazing and at the same time understandable. No wonder we Christians are so often held in disrepute. Not because we are living out our faith, but because we seem to forget the central message of the scriptures and become screaming fanatics. Of course this is not the majority; it is the colorful segments of any group that get the attention -- often the wrong kind.
The Golden Rule is easy to talk about and praise, but living it out is more difficult. To treat others as one wants to be treated takes a great deal of self-reflection, as well as self knowledge. Being brow beaten has never worked with me, nor has someone berating my faith ever changed me, so how in the world would I think it would work with anyone else? If our hearts are filled with the love of Christ Jesus, then it will show in how we treat and relate to others. Each person has dignity and is worthy of our respect.
In the last judgment scene of Matthew, those who are saved come into the kingdom because they have visited Jesus in prison, fed him when he was hungry etc. Jesus, the Son of God, aligns himself with the downtrodden, the outcast, those who are overlooked and marginalized, not only by society but by religious people as well.
We are called to love ourselves in Christ as well as our neighbors, those especially that we have a natural aversion towards. The parable of the Good Samaritan points to this reality. Bible-toting, Sunday-going-to-church Christians can easily be today’s Pharisees, often forgetting the central message of the Gospel. I am of course talking about myself, for it is easy to judge others, but in doing so, they are reflecting back to me my own need of further conversion in my walk with the Lord Jesus.
Death to an old way of life is a life long process and our failures can only make us grow in humility, pointing to our need for grace, healing and forgiveness. This can guide us to be loving and forgiving of others, since we are all brothers and sisters on the way -- called by the same Lord and Savior. We become Christ's arms that embrace and heal; our hearts become the heart of Jesus allowing us to become healers of others, in doing so, people will see the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, there will be no need to bludgeon others with scripture verses that only cause pain and harm. Self righteousness cannot be used by the Holy Spirit, it is a dead end.Before you were a Christian, did you feel like you were judged by Christians? As a Christian now, do you still feel like Christians judge you? When you communicate with other Christians, even in moments of disagreement, do you ever think about how your discussion looks to those who don't believe? How can we emulate Christ even in times of disagreement and discord so to judge each other less and to act more as a conduit for Christ's love in the world?