I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I never experience crises of faith. I do, far more than I care to admit. This living for Jesus thing isn’t easy. Trusting in a deity whose ways are not your ways and whose wisdom is the foolishness of man carries substantial risk of friendlessness and embarrassment. Sometimes I lie in bed at night and wonder if the resurrected Jesus is just someone I cooked up in my head. Sometimes I wonder if my life would be better if I got up the next morning without a thought in my brain of caring for the hurting or avoiding temptation to please someone who, self-admittedly, isn’t even on the same page as me.
I have those thoughts, and then…something happens. Something that makes my faith real and relevant to me all over again.
See, I’ve learned something about the love of God. It really is transformative. Whenever love enters into people’s lives, they change. Alcoholism goes out the window. Bitterness is abandoned on the side of the road. People start to care about injustices and fight for a better world. Hurts are healed. Wounds are closed. Smiles appear where none were before. And that’s why I can’t give up my faith. I see evidence all around me that Christ’s gospel holds true–in my life and in others.
About a year ago, I asked God to allow me to see people as He sees them. It was the only prayer I’ve ever prayed that God answered on the spot. Literally. I was sitting in my car at the time, stopped at an intersection, and it’s like a pair of scales instantly fell from my eyes. It was a dangerous prayer, because it radically altered my perspective of the world.
You see that guy walking down the sidewalk? He’s on drugs. But he’s my child and I love him.
You know that cashier at the store who’s always crabby and rude? She’s my child. I love her.
You know that guy who is struggling with his sexual identity? My heart aches for him. He’s my child, too.
You see that single mom over there who is arguing with her boyfriend? I wish she would turn to me and be healed. She’s my child, and I love her so much.
You know that person who was wounded so bad in church that he gave up his faith and now tells other people that I’m a monster? I love him. He’s my child.
This went on for a little while, and I soon felt two inches tall. I’m not a child of God because I’m a Christian. I’m a child of God because I’m a human being. We all bear His image. We are all his children, whether we recognize it or not.
And when Christians who claim to know God and follow Christ stoop to berating and judging and condemning those who don’t, God’s heart hurts. In Matthew 25, Jesus said, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” As a mother, I can understand that concept. Whatever good or bad thing someone does to my child, I feel it. It’s like it has been done to me. When someone gives him a treat or pulls him out of harm’s way, my heart overflows with humble gratitude. If someone were to slap him in the face or knock him into the floor, I would feel emotionally crushed. That’s my precious flesh and blood! You abuse him, you abuse me!
So when Christians walk up to a struggling single mom and say, “This is what you get for being a slut,” they are saying it to God’s face.
When a believer coldly walks by a homeless man and says, “Maybe you should try getting a job,” he is saying it to God’s face.
When a person says to a gay man, “Burn in hell, you disgusting pervert,” she is speaking those words directly into God’s fatherly heart.
Is it sinking in now? How we as Christians have failed? How we will be judged by Christ at the end of time? Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these….
This is why I still believe. Because without the gospel to inspire me and the Holy Spirit to guide me, I’d never know the transformative power of God’s love. I wouldn’t seek to reach out to the hurting without prejudice. I’d still be wrapped up in politics, arguing with people on the Internet about petty matters, upset that I don’t have the money to renovate my hideous kitchen.
In January, I made a New Year’s resolution to love more: my husband, my child, my friends, and the strangers of the world–saved or unsaved. Since then, the lid has been blown off of my existence. I have more joy, more compassion, more self-control. I’ve made significant changes in how I deal with others. I worry less and argue less.
But it’s also messier. Showing Christ’s love to strangers often means getting far outside of my comfort zone. It means picking up broken glass and empty beer cans on the side of the road in a gang-infested neighborhood. It means encouraging, and losing sleep over, brokenhearted friends dealing with situations beyond my life experience. It means choosing to store up treasures in heaven rather than treasures on earth. It means getting frustrated and discouraged whenever my fellow believers choose to bicker and condemn rather than commit to the words of Jesus.
It means those crises of faith often become more frequent and acute.
What it Means to be Christian (Part 2): Love
Terrific post! I can hear myself in your words. It is a lonely and confronting place to be Christian and I find it even more lonely when I come face to face with someone who introduces themselves as a Born-Again Christian. I think to myself, re-born as What??? This is not Love! This is not hope! This is not Encouragement! I do not see any of this, I feel judged and ridiculed, questioned, As if I must convince them of my faith like they are my advocate to God, not Christ! Oh how it grieves my soul.
So I try to show love and not law, I show acceptance and not judgment, I try to give encouragement not criticism, and faith not religion. It is hard and I have crises of faith in myself more-so than in my Saviour, It is hardest when we are hit from left field with something we can’t imagine God would want for us, we question Him, yet I find I always fall back into trusting His will above my own understanding. Good for you and Blessings to you Sister!
Blessings to you, too! 🙂
It is a karmic/spiritual determinism that what goes around comes around.
When Jesus called us to “love our enemies” with the same love that he loved us while we were still his enemies he offered us the power of Love that he had to break the tragic karmic cycle of abuse and pain, the Power of Unconditional Divine Trinitarian Love.
That is why the teaching of the Eastern Orthodox Church is so important: Being a Christian is not so much a matter of inviting Jesus into out lives, but of getting ourselves into Christ’s life.
If faith in the Jesus of history does not evolve into faith in the Cosmic Christ, Savior of the world not just the Church, it will have no power to transform society through transformed individuals.
Powerful post! The Christian walk – faith in action, really is all about loving God and loving others.
This one is incredible, April. Just wow….
You’re speaking from my heart and have said it all so well. It’s the compassion — that is key. Jesus was and is compassion incarnate. Really good post, April.