Sometimes, I’m afraid to say I am a Christian. There is so much negative connotation that comes with that word. Sort of like saying, “I am a Muslim.” Suddenly everyone thinks you’re going to blow someone up and all you think about is infidels and genocide. But just like every Muslim does not walk around shouting “Off with their head!” so every Christian is not a judgmental hypocrite. I know that sounds like a lie or a plea for “my people.” But in truth it’s just a plea for me.
I grew up in the church. I grew up as a preacher’s kid and a missionary kid in a the household of the most judgmental and legalistic person I know. And I grew up knowing that Christians should not judge or be hypocrites. But that there were rules and you had to follow all of those rules. If someone else did not follow the rules then you were allowed to judge them and condemn them and prophecy all the bad things that would happen to them. You were to look down on them. So that just maybe their shame would make them want to be right again. He taught me to make it look like you were enjoying yourself so much that the “sinner” would be jealous and turn from their wicked ways and come back to the “family.” I can see now what a twisted, wicked teaching this was. Even though as a child I felt something off about this and in my heart it felt so horrid and wrong, I had to survive. Or I would be the outcast. And at 10 years old in the middle of an African savannah where was I to go? So I believed the lies and ignored the aching questions in my heart. I told myself, he is a preacher. He is a missionary. He knows God’s word. He knows what’s right. He was placed by God over me to lead me and guide me. So if I don’t do what he says then I am not doing what God says. And he told me feelings don’t matter just obedience. So I obeyed and ignored my heart. And no matter what question I had in my heart – “But what about forgiveness and love and grace?” – there was always a hammer of twisted scripture to bash my hope to pieces.
You only get love when you’ve earned it. Once you have believed in me, once you have confessed all your wickedness, once you have baptized yourself, once you have made yourself perfect. You only get love when you do everything right to remain in my love. Messing up is not remaining in my love. Jesus already died once for you don’t make a mistake and waste his death. Don’t push Him to save you each time you mess up because He will get tired of it. He already died for you once don’t make him do it again. Forgiveness is only for those who live rightly and don’t do it again. Mercy and grace are only for the pure and perfect ones who have proven themselves and who deserve it.
But who don’t ever need it.
All I wanted to do was love people. But “You can’t just come over here and love on people!” You have to show them their wickedness, you have to make them do what is right. They are the world. They are the sinners. And until they repent they cannot be your friends. They are a danger and a threat to your Christian life. They will steal your soul so you must steal theirs first for Jesus.
But I wanted to know people and be kind to people not so I could introduce them to Jesus but just because they were people too and they looked like they desired love like I did.
To my little, deceived eyes Jesus was a trickster. He was kind to people and loving at first to get them to like him and want to be a part of his “family” but once you were apart of it there were loads of rules and all he did was point out how miserable you were and how you never measured up and how you failed and were ungrateful and didn’t deserve anything he gave you.
But this isn’t the real Jesus. This was just a man who had been deceived and lied to himself for so long he couldn’t see God’s truth anymore so that he became a deceiver and a liar. He was just a man. He was not God. And he definitely did not speak for God.
I’m beginning to believe that satan uses Scripture to deceive us. When we read God’s word, God is right there. But so is satan. And he’s twisting everything his way. I think it is easier for us to believe satan’s lies than God’s truth because satan appeals to our rational thinking and God’s truths are anything but rational.
You are loved. You are accepted. You have unending grace and mercy. I love to die for you. I love you. Even in all your sin. You don’t have to earn anything. I’ve already taken care of that. Just live with me. Just let me love you. I have so much love for you. I have so much goodness for you. I do want to see you smile and be happy and truly enjoying all I have created. It all was created for you anyway. I want you to feel. I created your feelings. You can be sad, you can be angry, you can feel hate. But most of all I want you to feel love and be loved. Love covers over a multitude of sins. Love builds up. Love sets you free from all that dark baggage that keeps you locked up. It’s hard to see the real Jesus when you’ve seen a false one for so long. It’s hard to believe the truth you’ve always hoped for.
Once I finally got out from under the corrupted teachings, I began to realize how free I was. How saved and loved I was. I had always known it, but I never knew it within my heart. Before, I couldn’t understand why anyone in the world would ever want to come to Jesus if you had to be perfect and live up to expectations and standards and if you failed you were one step closer to hell. I couldn’t see why anyone would want to live to earn someone’s favor but never receive it. To have your failings rubbed in your face. To feel like God’s love was always out of reach. And I could never climb the ladder. It was like once you thought you’d reached the top another 100 steps were added. I knew God loved me and saved me but everything was conditional. He loved me when I had done enough to please him enough to love me. He loved me when I got all of the right answers, when I was humble, when I was thoughtful, when I was kind, when I obeyed, when I knew what he wanted me to do without him even telling me, when he was in a good mood- which was hardly ever because he was never satisfied and was extremely unpredictable. God didn’t love me for me unless me was good enough. Which I never felt I was.
But now, now that I am free from that twisted authority over me, I have found freedom in not being good enough. Because I already am good enough. Even in my weakness, even in my mistakes, even in my sinful heart. The heart that struggles to forgive the mean words said against me, to forgive the deceived father who deceives, to forgive the best friend who betrayed me, to forgive the scowling glances that look down on me. It is hard. But now I know God has grace for me and He doesn’t look down on me for not being strong enough. He smiles at me and says “It’s okay, that’s what I am here for. I’m the strong one for you. I’m the grace-giver, the heart restorer. I have covered you in beauty. You never have to try to be enough because you already are enough. I am pleased with you. You don’t have to do something right to get a smile from me. Just be my child We’ll do this life together. And don’t forget, you have an advantage because I’ve already overcome it.”
With all this love and acceptance why wouldn’t anyone want to come to Jesus? Now I can finally understand why so many other people I’ve read about are so beautifully in love with a God who has no catch.
So, yes, I am a Christian. And maybe I’m a hypocritical judgmental Christian because I still make mistakes and I am not perfect. I still tend to judge people before I know them. That guy with the snakebites and black clothes who walked into my class striking fear in my heart. He must be an angry man who listens to screamo because they are angry too. But who had the kindest smile and the warmest heart. Who talked to me every day. Who listened to Of Monsters and Men with me. Who encouraged and believed in me and became one of my best friends. Or the girl with the tattoos and the sad face. Who wore gray clothes and never smiled or talked. But who drove and sang “Should’ve Bought Her Flowers” with me as loud as we could. Who gave me the most belly aching fits of laughter of my life. Who gave me a place to be myself and still be loved.
Or the tan guy with dirty, baggy clothes who smelled like smoke and softball fields. Who was rumored about – he always has a girl on his arm, his brother is a druggy so you know he does something too, he didn’t grow up in the church so he’ll never be good enough. But who has the softest heart. Who forgives the spiteful words said against him. Who is kind to those who aren’t kind to him. Who accepts my brokenness. Who loves me in my imperfections and still believes I’m perfect to him. Who thanks God with me every day for bringing our broken lives together. Who showed me how to love and forgive and be loved and forgiven.
I know why people don’t want to come to Jesus. It’s because of people like me who fail and get in the way of how much love God actually has to give. People who say they are Christians but don’t love like they should or forgive like they should or accept like they should. People who aren’t perfect. People who are just humans too.
Remember, I grew up in the church I’ve seen how evil people can be. But I’ve also seen how wonderful they can be. So when I say I am a Christian, please remember that doesn’t mean I am perfect, It doesn’t mean I won’t make mistakes, and it doesn’t mean I’m not human. I am doing my best just like you. But sometimes I get weary of trying to be good in a world so bad. Sometimes darkness clouds my sight and I can’t see clearly. But please give me a second chance because I know a God of endless second chances and I am trying to be more like Him. Please forgive me for when I fail and hurt you. I know I am expected to be better. But living up to expectations is exhausting. So please bare with me as I try to get through this life as a Christian imperfect human. I’m not making excuses. I’m just saying Christian does not equal perfection. And as you try to remember that, I’ll try to remember it too. Let’s do this life together.