Of the dozens – probably more like hundreds – of people I’ve met who’ve broken up with God (they don’t take His calls, they neither love Him nor accept His love, etc.), a vast majority have done so because of experiences in church. They became so appalled by the actions of Christians that they felt they could no longer call themselves one, which meant no longer following Christ.
A lot of those Christians’ actions – the ones that drove former believers to disbelief – are rooted in the best of intentions. Few followers of Christ would ever intentionally do anything to run anyone away from the church. I really believe that. But just as few are the Christians who can effectively navigate the narrow channel between judgment and grace. Our problem is that we don’t know how to deal with people who don’t see things our way.
This predicament isn’t exclusive to the church. It’s the same reason Democrats and Republicans would let the U.S. default on its debt before conceding to the other party’s approach to debt management. The same reason otherwise-rational adults get into fistfights over affiliation with a football team. The same reason employees within a department, departments within an organization, and organizations within an affiliation undermine one another and compete – rather than collaborate – for resources. The same reason, fundamentally, people all over the world, since the beginning of civilization, have participated in wars, revolutions, riots, crusades, protests, and other conflicts.
I watched a TED talk by Chris Seay, a Houston pastor, in which he talks about the importance living with conviction (check it out below) and remembering our past. I love how he frames his approach to dealing with ideologies. To paraphrase, he bases his faith on “propositions that declare great truths [but] bring humility and draw people together instead of pulling them apart.” Amen.
Jesus’ message was one of unity, not division. Let me be clear: his teachings do not compromise, but neither do they exclude anyone. God does not tolerate sin, but neither will He deny anyone their eternal birthright as long as they accept His absolute authority and saving grace.
To Christians: Don’t hold so tightly onto the labels you use to describe yourself that you forget what else you are. You may be a conservative, evangelical believer, but you’re also broken. And human. And in need of others’ love and company. You’ll do well to acknowledge just how much you share in common with the people who drive you the craziest.
As promised, here’s Chris Seay’s TED talk: