Romans 10:9 and my love/hate relationship with Christianity

… because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9 ESV)

I have a love/hate relationship with Christianity. It goes something like this:

I love Jesus.

I hate that people say that one must to do something other than love Jesus in order to call themselves a Christian.

I love Jesus.

I hate that we categorize people as believers and non-believers, whom we must somehow save (or not). We forget that we don’t do the saving. God does. When we convince ourselves that we somehow have something to do with it, we are making ourselves God and that’s idolotry.

I love Jesus.

I hate that people act like they know for an absolute fact who gets into Heaven and who doesn’t. It’s as if they don’t believe that God has the power to accomplish something bigger than our minds can comprehend. Here’s an extreme example: Jeffery Dahmer in heaven? Not a chance, we say. And yet, he proclaimed himself to be a born-again Christian. We believe that Jesus performed countless miracles and was raised from the dead and yet we don’t believe that God can redeem the heart of a sinful man? At the core, that is unbelief in the gospel.

I love Jesus.

I hate that a Jesus-loving black man stood in my kitchen last week and told me that he’s been told before that because his skin is black, he is a child of Satan. There is no scripture that gives us a complete physical description of Jesus (except in Isaiah 53:2, it does say that he was rather average), but I am 99.99% sure that he doesn’t look like this:

20120429-134732.jpg

I love Jesus.

I hate that we use New Testament scripture as proof text as to why we are saved…and, we use Old Testament scripture as proof text as to why others aren’t. The Jesus we believe in, that we rejoice in his sacrifice and proclaim “He is Risen!” on Easter morning? He did that to fulfill those laws. Does it mean that we are to just go on sinning? No. But that is a whole study of Romans which could take months. My point is that we should be focusing on redemption and grace. Because, if we really are concerned about people, we aren’t going to do anything but drive them away by making them feel bad about themselves in Jesus’ name.

I love Jesus.

I hate that my faith gets questioned by people who think that Christians are of a certain political party. I have a whole diatribe on that, but I’ll just say that I can be a Democrat liberal and love Jesus at the same time. It makes perfect sense to me, but that’s another post for another day.

I love Jesus.

I hate that people suggest that science is in opposition to creation. If you believe that God created the universe, why is it so far fetched to believe that He used science to do it? We often refer to God as the Great Physician…why isn’t he also the Great Scientist?

I love Jesus.

I hate that we categorize sin. Sin is sin. It’s all in opposition to God and separates us from Him. Just because I can justify my act of anger toward somebody (clearly they acted a fool) doesn’t make it any less a sin than if I murdered somebody. Sound extreme? Read Matthew 5:21-22 and you’ll see what I mean. The point is not that if we get angry, we will go to hell. The point is that one sin is not bigger than the other. Still don’t buy it? Read James 2:10. Here, I’ll make it easy (but you should still look it up and not assume…)

For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. (James 2:10 ESV)

Nobody’s sin is bigger than anybody else’s. And when we start pointing out other people’s sin (which is SO easy to do), we raise the bar infinitely higher for ourselves. What these passages are telling us, in my opinion, is that we can’t do it on our own. That’s why we need a Savior. So, to get back to my original point, we spend too much time pointing out the sins of others instead of telling and SHOWING them the good news of Christ.

There’s a quote that many attribute to St. Francis of Assisi. It says “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary, use words”. There’s no proof that he actually said that, but I digress. It serves as arsenal for people who either want to call Christians out for the rubber not meeting the road or for those who don’t really want the burden of saying the word “Jesus” out loud in mixed company. I can call out both groups because I have landed in each one at various times in my life. I’m not proud of it, just being real. Anyway, I have heard many bible teachers that I respect greatly disagree with the sentiment, saying that we always need to use words…to do anything less would be lukewarm. I think that if all we do is use words, it can be pointless and counter-productive. I can’t just walk up to my agnostic co-worker and read scripture to him and ask if he wants to recite the sinner’s prayer now. Even *if* he didn’t tell me I was crazy and walk away, I would then have to Google a generic sinner’s prayer because I wouldn’t know anything about his life or his story in a way that would make that prayer at all meaningful. You see, I believe that you have to show the gospel in order to share the gospel. Showing it doesn’t absolve us from sharing it, but how do we build relationships otherwise? I don’t take parenting advice from people who I think are terrible parents. Why would I ask somebody about Jesus if I didn’t think they walked the walk?

So, instead, I do my best to follow what Jesus said in Matthew when asked “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” (Matthew 22:36)

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40 ESV)

Love God. Love People. No other rules or conditions. And, essentially, I think what verse 40 is saying is that the whole of the Law and Prophets (Old Testament) is dependent on these two commandments.  Think about it, if we all loved God and loved people, what purpose would a commandment not to murder even have?  There would be no murder.

If you are like me, the commandment to love our neighbors is overwhelming.  Because Jesus doesn’t tell us to love the people that we like.  Or love the people we agree with.  We are to love all people.  How on earth do we do that!?  Well, that’s why the first commandment is to love God.  I have found that when you love God, it is easier to love people. Not easy. Easier. And honestly, I find that it’s easier to love people who are not Christians because I don’t expect as much. And, then I realize that I’m putting conditions on them (the Christians) which is exactly what I’m irritated about in the first place.

This really started out as a pithy list I had going in my mind about why I hate religion. The truth is that I don’t really hate religion, there are a lot of good things about religion; but I think it can sometimes distract us from what our mission as Christians really is. And it’s not pithy. It’s complicated. And, it’s important.  But, sometimes I just can’t shake this thought from my mind:

Seriously.

I should note that I have many Christian friends who might read this and wonder if I am judging them. If I’m honest, perhaps I am. But, the way it plays out in my mind is how I am raising the bar for myself. So, it’s a self-reflection in that regard. On the other hand, I have many non-Christian friends who might read this and wonder if the only reason I’m friends with them is to convert them. No. In fact, you are the reasons why these thoughts begin to bounce around in my head. Why I examine my own interpretation of my faith and the scriptures. Why I am constantly trying to learn more, and in that process realize that there is so much I don’t know. Why I feel so strongly about loving the people whom God has seen fit to put in my life. Why I am content to let God be bigger than I can ever imagine. And in the process of knowing me, I pray that you might get a glimpse of the Jesus that I love. And, if you ever want to know about my faith, ask me. I’m an open book.

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