Why do the words of Jesus “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” have such little impact in our contemporary Christian culture? Perhaps it is because loving our enemies, or even those we find annoying is not an actual thing we do. We gossip, we make fun of, we use them as an example of how much better we are, but we do not love them, let alone pray for them.
This week I had a conversation with someone who called a Muslim a towel headed terrorist that “if they come anywhere near me they are going to get the business end of my Glock.” My additional conversations included a woman who told me Homosexuals are an abomination because of the kind of sex they have, and that I was a heretic because I did not truly believe the Bible.
In this past year, I have heard and seen horrible words said and written by people who claim Christianity but live in such fear that they lash out at what they do not understand. This is mostly because they believe their way of life is being threatened.
In preparation for these thoughts today, I Googled the top ten most Googled Bible verses and what I discovered was interesting.
Other than the number one verse, which we can thank the NFL for (John 3:16, “for God so loved the world… ” ), all the other verses were self-help in nature, “be anxious for nothing”, or “do not conform to the standards of this world”, etc.
I think that is about right. The message of Evangelical Christianity has become primarily a self-help dogma with Jesus as its guru.
If you have recently attended any church of this ilk, you will notice that after the service, over lunch, your friends will attest to the efficacy of the sermon if they respond with “I was so convicted” or “God really spoke to me about..”
Christianity has become so “individualized”, (Jesus is my PERSONAL Lord and Savior, not in the Bible by the way) that the natural response to its message is to use what we learn and fit it into our mostly upper-middle-class suburban lives.
So we work on our patience because “someone at work is a real bitch and I just need strength to deal with her. “
Or we need more faith to believe for that big financial miracle that will make everything right.
Or, we need wisdom because “my teenage daughter swore at me today when I told her to clean her room.”
Now, if what I just mentioned is on your prayer list, please do not dismay. You are in good company because this is the Jesus we were introduced to in Evangelicalism. A version of Jesus custom made for our American life. Don’t get me wrong, I believe we are all incredibly sincere and trying to just please God, and I believe that the man or woman that taught us to pray for those things did it with genuine sincerity.
Praying for those things is of course not wrong, we can pray for whatever we want.
Unfortunately, self-help prayers have now become the norm.
It does not seem to me that all of the hand wrenching, blood sweat and tears that Jesus did as reflected in the Gospels was done so that you and I could live comfortable lives that are occasionally tested by someone that gets on our nerves.
But perhaps that is what our faith has been reduced to.
Let’s change that, shall we?
I encourage you as I encourage myself to shake off that mousey ideology and begin to follow in the way of Jesus. The one who was so others focused that he consistently put himself in harms way. He was criticized for talking alone with a woman at a well, but he changed her life. He was called a drunk and a sinner because he spent time with the wrong kinds of people, and those people were immeasurably affected just by knowing him. Finally, he was deemed a heretic for not believing correctly about God, he was crucified for it, and his new perspective changed the world.
I want to be like that Jesus. A man so furiously sure of his Fathers love that nothing struck fear in his heart, not even that bitch at the office.
Can we begin to pray for our brothers and sisters, who have also been introduced to a misguided God and wish us dead because of our faith and geography?
Can we reach out and get to know, (not try to change or convert) that guy at work that everyone makes fun of with limp wrist jokes and affected effeminate voices?
Can we go over and introduce ourselves to the “towel head” neighbor, and try to get to know him and stop praying he and his family will move out of the cul-de-sac?
I think we can, I know we can!
Let’s reimagine our faith!