This blog is where I can pour out my heart with my longing for God.

Posts tagged ‘humility’

Embarrassing Christianity

I remember when the word “gay” meant “happy.” (Yes, I’m that old.) But my kids will never be able to use that word in its original definition, because “gay” has come to mean something totally different in our society.

I’m beginning to think that the same thing is happening to the word “Christian.” Merriam-Webster says it means “one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ.”

I guess the key word there is “professes.” I can “profess” to be fluent in six million forms of communication, but that doesn’t make it true (or make me C-3P0, for you “Star Wars” geeks).

You can wear the title of “Christian,” but that doesn’t make you one. There are days I am loath to identify with American Christianity in its current state.

“Why?” you may ask. Because Christians are living more and more like the world? Because Christians are becoming more and more liberal?

Nope. Because the Christians who usually steal the limelight are often arrogant, self-righteous, holier-than-thou and condescending to anyone who doesn’t agree with every single tenet of their beliefs.

I have seen it like never before in the hubbub that surrounds the marriage amendment that is up for a vote on the North Carolina Primary ballot on May 8. This proposed amendment to the NC Constitution reads as follows:

SECTION 1.  Article 14 of the North Carolina Constitution is amended by adding the following new section:

Sec. 6.  Marriage.

Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.  This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.”

The lines have been drawn, and there is ugliness on both sides. I have seen staunch Christians blacklist those who are against the amendment. I’ve seen committed Christians be too intimidated to admit that they might have reservations about the amendment based on their beliefs that there could be a broader than expected legal interpretation of it which could have implications that reach farther than just a man/woman marriage. I’ve seen ugly comments that border on hatred of anyone who would oppose this amendment.

Call me clueless, but I just don’t get it.

As for the proposed amendment, I don’t understand the pros and cons of it enough to argue either side. I know firm Christians who believe the amendment is the will of God, and I know firm Christians who believe that it is not. (Please realize that not supporting the amendment in its present form doesn’t mean that someone supports homosexual marriage.)

To you liberals: don’t be hating on me, but I personally believe that marriage is a man/woman thing, according to God’s original plan for creation in the Garden of Eden and subsequent scriptures. To you conservatives: HOWEVER, I am not fully persuaded on how I will vote on this amendment. AGAIN, don’t suppose that because someone might be undecided or they have chosen to vote “No” that they are proponents of something other than marriage between one man and one woman. (Then again, they might be, although I personally am not.)

But the marriage amendment is not even the real issue here for me. For all of the people who are arguing that if we don’t affirm the man/woman marriage idea by passing amendments such as this one in NC, the door will be open for all kinds of evil to enter our country and that our nation will go down the tubes, let me say this clearly:

I believe that if you stand on your soapbox with arrogance, condescension, mean-spiritedness and anger against your opponents, it is YOUR behavior that opens the door for evil that could ultimately flush America down the toilet.

“For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” James 3:16

Why? Because no one expects someone they consider to be a “sinner” to act right. But EVERYONE expects a “Christian” to act right.

Yet we have it backwards. We’d rather “be right” than “be righteous.” I have a Facebook friend who commented tonight: “I must remind myself daily it is more important for me to act righteous than to make sure others know I am right. Humility is a cloak we all should learn to wear.”

It is more important to be loving to those who oppose us than to argue our rightness with them. Does loving them mean we are weak? That we have caved in to the opposing viewpoint? That we have compromised?

God forbid. Why on earth do we equate “love” with “compromise” or “agreement”? We have made love a weak, pansy-pie emotion when it is the strongest force on earth. Yes, the strongest. It was LOVE that made Jesus Christ shed His all-powerful blood on Calvary. It was LOVE that God breathed into Adam–He breathed into Adam to give him life–His breath is His Spirit–and if God is Spirit and if God is Love, then even His Spirit consists of LOVE.

If I hug a known liar, the Christian world looks at that as if I am embracing lying. If I treat a drug addict kindly, then I must be accepting of his/her lifestyle. Right? WRONG.

Stop making love and compassion for a sinner equal to agreement and compromise with sin. These things are not synonymous.

And by the way, I smile at you and treat you kindly, yet you have your own imperfections and sins. The majority of you would probably embrace me and love me, but I sure have my own set of faults and sins. Because we treat each other with kindness and love does not mean we are saying, “Hey, it’s okay. Go ahead and continue in your impatience, arrogance, gluttony, lack of self-control, hatefulness and general sin.”

NO. We are saying that we love each other DESPITE our imperfections and that we pray that we ALL overcome sin in this world by the power of Jesus Christ.

You want to win the sinner? Well, you sure won’t do it with your arrogance “because YOU have never done what they do.” Or your holier-than-thou snubs of these people “because YOU would never fall the way they did.”

“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” Galatians 6:1

I noticed the word “meekness” there. And the idea that you and I, too, could be tempted.

But Jesus wasn’t always meek, you say. He got angry in the Temple and overturned tables. He called people “whited sepulchers” and “generation of vipers” and “hypocrites.”

Yep, He sure did. But the people He was coming against were the religious snobs of that day. Those ugly labels were pinned on the Pharisees and Saducees–the religious right of Jesus’ time.

I am conservative. I lean toward the right. But do not identify me with those who parade the title of “Christian” complete with arrogance and condescension.

Jesus wasn’t condescending, yet He didn’t condone sin either. “Go and sin no more,” He said. But He handled each of these sinner situations with love. Find me one instance where He was brutal to a sinner. If He had been disrespectful or snobby, the tax collectors and drunkards wouldn’t have wanted Him to break bread with them.

Again, don’t confuse Jesus’ love with tolerance. He did not tolerate sin, but He loved the sinners and treated them with compassion.

And sinners were drawn to Him because of that. And consequently, lives were changed for the better.

It is the same today. Manifesting the love of Christ through the Holy Spirit–even to those with whom we don’t agree or to those who vote opposite of us on the NC Marriage Amendment–is what will change this world, draw the sinner to repentance and help you and me stop sinning, too.

I have determined to love the people on both sides of this debate. And to my many friends who have a strong belief one way or another on this issue yet have managed to demonstrate integrity and kindness in the midst of your strong convictions, thank you. I am so blessed to call you friends. I feel privileged to be identified with you as Christ-followers.

Christ-follower. I like that. Perhaps until the term “Christian” loses its negative implications brought on by the ugliness of some of its more outspoken professors, I would rather be called a disciple of Christ or a Christ-follower or even a Jesus freak–as long as I am more closely identified with Him than with religious spirits.

Let’s stand strong for the right, but let’s be righteous while we do it.

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Simple mathematics–more of Him, less of me

The Christmas lights don’t twinkle anymore at night. I probably won’t hear “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” again until next November unless Walmart decides to start their holiday music after Labor Day this year. The hubster took the last of the Yuletide gift bags and wrapping paper to the basement storage bin this morning. Meanwhile, I’m wondering if the last, rapidly-aging vestige of the Christmas honey-baked ham in the fridge will kill me if I indulge a final time.

Blustery, cold January has relegated December to the last page of the 2012 calendar, and I can’t quite catch a glimpse of spring no matter how hard I squint into the future.

The New Year has arrived. This is where the rubber meets the road, where the feet hit the bathroom scale, where the Richard Simmons’ videotapes come out of the forgotten reaches of the entertainment center drawers.

And this is where my new motto for 2012 comes into play: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

I don’t mind the decrease if it means I can get my beige corduroy pants buttoned again. I actually don’t even mind the decrease in the way that John the Baptist meant it in the aforementioned Scripture.

It’s just that I’m not sure how to do it. Mathematically speaking, the equation simply reads: Add Jesus. Subtract Leslie. Or, +Jesus – Leslie = ALL JESUS.

In theory, I WANT Jesus to increase in my life and myself to decrease. In practice, it gets tricky.

“And then I realized how many stupid times a day I used the word ‘I.’ In fact, probably all I ever do is think about myself. And how lame is that when there’s, like, 7 billion other people out there on the planet and when -“ (Mia Thermopolis, “The Princess Diaries”)

Just substitute my name for Mia Thermopolis. This could be me speaking. I am also reminded of the first line of one of my favorite poems from childhood: “I had a little tea party this afternoon at 3, ‘Twas rather small–3 guests in all–just I, myself, and me.”

But I LONG to do what John the Baptist did–decrease myself that my Lord and Savior may increase. The Greek word for “decrease” here is “elattoo” (transliterated) which means just what you would think it means: “to decline in importance, to decrease in authority or popularity, to make less (in rank or influence).”

But we are groomed from infancy to want attention for ourselves. Our parents dote on us, video our every shining moment, take pictures of all stages of our cuteness. We learn in school to compete for the best grades, the top spot on the team, the supreme level of popularity. Everything in life seems to position us as the bright center of the “ME” universe where all other things and people revolve around us.

But God’s Word teaches me something totally opposite. “For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)

“For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think. . .” (Romans 12:3)

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness. . .” (Matt. 6:33)

This is my prayer for 2012–that I would take a backseat and let Him drive the bus. That when people look at me, they don’t see the gaudy, brassy light of Leslie but the radiant, pure light of Christ. That I won’t have to get the glory for anything. (“Hey, that was MY idea that we do that!” “I thought of that first!” “Yeah, well, she wouldn’t have done that if I hadn’t reminded her.”)

In essence, it all boils down to that beloved old hymn, “How Great Thou Art.”

“Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee, How great Thou art! How great Thou art!”

Realizing and exalting HIS greatness is the key.

We really don’t even have to think about decreasing ourselves. If we focus too much on that, we can so easily get caught up in even more focus on “me, me, me.” If we just think about increasing Him, the emphasis on ourselves will naturally decrease.

Remember the order of mathematical operations. With simple addition and subtraction, move from left to right in order. John the Baptist had the order correct: first, He must increase; then, I must decrease. The first one inevitably leads to the second.

“Then I shall bow

In humble adoration

And there proclaim,

“My God, how great Thou art!”

More of you, Jesus. More of you.

(Click on the link below to hear a version of this old hymn that will make the hair stand up on your arms!)

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