I spend a lot of time talking to Christians. My family, friends, and the people that I come in contact most often are, by and large, Christian. I was raised in a Christian home, in Christian school, and church and so was my husband. The only time I spent when the majority of people that I was around were not Christian was in college. That was the time in my life I felt most Christian. The Christians that I knew were Christian because they chose to be. We discussed every day our thoughts and opinions. We were expected to live our lives as Christians would live their lives. I knew everyday that I was a vision of what Christ and Christianity are, and I carried that weight gladly. It changed my faith and it changed my life. It was the biggest blessing I have ever received.
Now that I am once again surrounded by Christians who have their whole lives, been surrounded by Christians. They have no idea how to express their beliefs in a way that makes sense, and is not abrasive to people who have not heard the same thing their entire lives. They have no idea how to carry the weight of being Christian before people who watch you to see what Christ looks like. They have never built relationships with people who deal with the sin that they speak so plainly about. They’re clueless. And it’s making me crazy! I’m trying to create a bubble around me where Christ can be seen as love and where people can come to me and ask me about Christ, regardless of who they are. I’m trying to make sure that I am inviting people outside our community to come into our community. But the generational, isolationist Christian has no idea that they are being so exclusive and standoffish.
One time, I went to a new church in pants. It turned out to be the type of church that everyone wears ankle length flowered dresses. I immediately felt uncomfortable because everyone looked me up and down before welcoming me over-enthusiastically. The pastor literally looked directly at me and my husband while giving a tour-de-force of the gospel Genesis to Revelation. At one point, my husband went to the restroom and when he got back the pastor said the parts that he missed again. He had assumed that we had never been to a church, that we were unsaved and that we would never come back. He was right on one account. The second the sermon was over, I walked very quickly to my car and told my husband to get us out of there. That’s how I imagine every unsaved person feels when they attend a church for the first time. We assume we have a community and others are outside of that community or inside that community. Both assumptions are very dangerous. We either isolate people as outsiders whom we are judging or as insiders with whom we agree. If I say this to any of the people who I speak with on a regular basis about Christianity the vast majority would dismiss it saying that their church is different. But when I talk to them, it’s obviously not. They know it’s not too, but don’t want to admit it. They make some kind of racial slur, economic judgment or abrasive comment to which I respond that they should seek to create a relationship with some of these people. That’s when you get these kinds of statements: “We have black people who come to our church- Mary, I sit with her sometimes. Beautiful voice.” or “I work with a gay man. He knows what I believe.” If these people were a part of our community why would we feel the need to qualify them as separate from an act of kindness done to anyone else. Not only that, but why would we feel we deserve a bigger pat on the back for an act of kindness that we find normative to those in our community? If Mary is no different from any of your other friends, why do you need to name her as “the black woman” I sometimes sit with? But they don’t see it. I can say how makes people feel until I’m blue in the face, but they don’t think they are making them feel separate.
This is the point when I give them the advice that they all seem to find so offensive. What would Christ do? We’re sitting around, generally talking about politics, when someone makes the statement that the blacks and mexicans voted for this or that, or they complain about the Muslims who are taking over the country or they’re no longer going to watch Big Bang Theory because Sheldon is gay in real life. They say it with a sad expression on their face, nearly apologetic. And I give them, what I think must appear to be, a withering look. It’s the stuff that seems most plain to me. Those little digs become huge stumbling blocks to people already having trouble standing. They show constantly that those people are outside our community. When I encourage the development of relationships with these people we circle back to justifying statements that one day they met someone like that or, my least favorite, I hear the argument that we are not supposed to surround ourselves with sinners but are supposed to be set apart. Again, it seems so plain to me. Is that what Christ did? My question gets avoided in favor of OT verses and sometimes Paul’s, but never back to Christ. Eventually, I get tired of trying to explain it to people who don’t want to understand or they get angry and tell me I don’t care what the Bible says.
Perhaps they’re right, I’ve finally thought. Maybe I don’t care what the Bible says. One of my acquaintances was arguing the case of being able to judge people pointing the passage where Christ is being accused of breaking the Sabbath by healing someone. Christ says to the Pharisees: “Don’t judge on appearance but judge with fair judgement.” Basically saying: I did something good here and you’re judging me on semantics, shut up. It was at this point that I realized maybe I don’t care what the Bible says if it isn’t in line with what Christ would do. And yes, this passage is proof that that happened. Christ broke a commandment to do what is right. In doing so, He exampled to us that law can be an idol and sometimes it needs to be set aside to do what is right. As a Christian, I will seek to do what Christ would do and if that means that I don’t care what the Bible says sometimes, then I guess I don’t. I don’t want to worship law in age of grace, to do so is to render Christ insignificant. That I will not do.
So I give myself everyday the advice that pisses of my fellow Christians: Love as Christ would love. Hang out with who Christ would hang out with. Condemn what Christ would condemn. We’ve made it trite with those trendy little bracelets from years ago, but isn’t what we should be asking every day: What would Jesus do? When I’m having a discussion with someone and I ask ‘what would Jesus do?’ it may sound like a taunt, but I don’t mean it that way. Perhaps if you feel angered by my asking that you need to ask why. I know when I am faced with that statement in discussion and I know I am doing wrong, it angers me. Perhaps, the anger comes from the same place within these Christians, and there’s hope that they know deep down they are treating people wrong and they just aren’t ready to stop yet.