I have been reflecting quite a bit on the book that I just finished called An Unlikely Disciple. There is an inner conflict within me that I am convinced may never go away. I grew up Southern Baptist. Jerry Falwell was a hero. I never bought into the extremes of Bob Jones and his crew, but a looser adherence to “the fundamentals” was okay with me. As time has gone on, I have watched with dismay this movement get further and further away from true Christianity. Falwell lived with his foot in his mouth. He often made Christians look like intolerant buffoons and his charismatic counterpart, Pat Robertson doesn’t do much better. I am all about standing on things that are important, but where do you draw the line? I am becoming convinced that we are even more called to meet people where they are and walk them toward Christ. I still believe that a person should come to a point where they accept Christ (although I have met many friends who say they cannot point to to a time or place, but they know that they are believers and their words and deeds testify to it), but I just struggle with the vitriolic tones that certain evangelical leaders take. Honestly, it angers me.
I preached a very evangelical sermon yesterday. I pleaded with a small congregation to deal with sin. But I made a point not to picture God as someone who simply wants to punish them, but a God who loves them. I made an effort to make sure that they understood that the gospel does not just point away from hell but toward heaven. Someone recently said to me that they appreciate how I just take things in stride. Honestly, that is not always the case (just ask my wife), but sometimes I appear that way because I just simply do not care about some things because they simply do not matter. By the way, I only appear that way because I do my best to pray every morning and to cast my care on Christ (“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” 1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV). It is only this that helps me.
I said all of that to say that it almost seems like I agree more with Roose in this book when he looks with confusion at Liberty University and says (and I paraphrase), “You call this love?” He’s right. If it doesn’t look, smell, sound, taste, or feel like love, then it probably isn’t. Unbelievers know a lot more about love than we give them credit for (part of the Imago Dei I believe). Roose believes that true love will bring freedom…and he’s right. For all of our talk about sin, we must remember, as believers, we are given the keys to the kingdom, we are given Jesus Christ, the key to freedom from sin. I am really trying to simply just love people more and point my finger less. Besides, can I really point out sin in others when it is so prevalent in my own life? I know it is. Maybe that’s the difference. I just admit it, deal with it, and try not to pretend like it isn’t there…most of the time anyway.
I do feel many times like I am stuck in the middle between this screaming, judging fundamentalist on one side and this hippie preacher that just wants to love people because God loves him on the other side. Perhaps Dr. Leslie, my undergrad New Testament professor was right. “The truth is often in the middle,” he would say and it usually made me mad. But that was the fundamentalist in me talking. I’m a bit older, a bit wiser (I think) and the truth is, sometimes…I just don’t care.
“Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:17 ESV)