can Christianity be a religion of love when "Christians" so
often condemn those whose lifestyle and views
is a religion of love because Jesus reveals God to be
Ultimate Love. The spiritual journey
is one of our learning to "bear
the beams of love." That process of transformation
is what we traditionally call sanctification, or growing
in holiness. We use words like "enlightened, awake,
whole, saved" to describe the same process. Our
goal is union with God, ourselves, and others -- a consciousness
that is as transparent to divine love as is humanly possible.
of us is at different stages in that process. We live within
different levels of maturity.
people love about as well as they can most of the time,
given their own limitations and their own level of maturity. That's why even great atrocities of prejudice can usually
be traced to some form of immature love. Nations sometimes
launch unjust wars for the sake of love of country.
Christians label non-Christians and even other Christians
as infidels, it is because they love the part of the truth
they have grasped but their love is still narrow and immature.
Most sin is distorted love.
that, can't we be a bit more generous with each other?
Rev. Lowell Grisham
might be a Christian except for the
Christians I have met." That or
a similar statement is attributed to
Mahatma Gandhi. Compiling a list of
individuals or groups who have misappropriated
the mantle of Christianity is a monumental
names listed would be familiar to most. Many of the
vast numbers that have pillaged, cheated, abused and defiled in the name of Christ
are among the legends of our western civilization. The task is further burdened
by the many more that have, with pureness of hearts and the highest standards
of contemporary morality, proselytized in the name of such "Christian" causes
as the "white man's burden" and "manifest destiny."
to the list, those groups that validate
their particular brand of Christianity
by distinguishing their beliefs and
practices from even the slightest variance
in the beliefs and practices of all
others. A Christian is not someone
who is "saved" through the
rubrics of membership or the mere ascription
a Christian is not about exclusion.
Being a Christian is not about separation
or discrimination. Being
a Christian is not about deciding who
may be right or wrong. Being
a Christian is not about securing what
is rightfully yours or imposing justice
on or even for others.
left us a final gift. It is a peace
that needs no guarantee of security.
You cannot build a wall around it and
it cannot be sold or earned. You cannot
even attain it by the most zealous
adherence to the Golden Rule. Think
of the most abhorrent individual. It
is not enough to forgive him, you must
embrace him. Not when he is penitent,
but when he is most adamant in his
there are few among us that can pass
that test. At best, we try or we struggle
with the concept. Fortunately, there
is no litmus test for admission to
the Christian church. Christians today
are burdened with the same doubts,
fears, bigotry and arrogance that have
betrayed and divided the church for
almost two-thousand years. Still we
persist in gathering in worship. We
persist in calling ourselves Christians.
We persist, as individuals, in the
face of repeated failures.
being a Christian is less about answers
than it is about questions. Being a
Christian is less about the final destination
than it is about the road we travel.
Being a Christian is about a journey
of discovery. Being a Christian is
about taking that journey together.
is on the record in respect to the
primacy of love and in respect to the
reality of judgment. There is also
plenty of evidence in scripture and
tradition of a variety of interpretations
and applications in regard to the relationship
of love and judgment and how they work
together between God and people, among
Christians themselves, and between
Christians and others. Admittedly,
the record is mixed, at best.
are the signal, cautionary warnings
that arise out of the heart schooled
in scripture. Let us judge not, lest
we ourselves be judged. Well, I happen
to think we all are judged anyway,
and that it's actually a good thing.
Let any of us without sin cast the
first stone. Well, I don't know about
you, but that let's me out. Let us
love one another as we love ourselves.
I could use some improvement in that
department too. How about you? When
Christians get conflicted, confused,
and cranky, we can always ask what
Jesus would say and do. Even though
we're never up to his example, we're
all better off for having to make the
comparison and acknowledge the contrast.
good news that the perennial appeal
of Christianity rests upon the example
of Jesus and not upon the example of
his imperfect followers. Still, admirers
of Christ and critics of Christians
have said the
Gospel would be more credible if Jesus'
followers did a better job of imitating
him. Our work is certainly
cut out for us in that regard. One
way to reconsider the discrepancy is
to imagine how much worse we all might
have been without his corrective example
hanging in judgment over all our misdeeds.
At the same time, the most luminous
saints are the ones capable of a more
gracious level of faith in action,
practitioners being more clearly perfected
in their imitation of Christ. The more
inspiring followers stand out from
the saddest aberrations of discipleship.
example continues to exercise its judgment,
continually exposing the intentions
and motivations within people and events,
sifting spirits, sorting good from
ill. The key is his own motivation
and intention, to serve God's will
by offering salvation to all. He does
so in the right spirit and for the
right reason, not to condemn but to
recall, not to hurt or harm but to
help and heal. That example provides
the standard against which we exercise
judgment ourselves, with humility,
acknowledging ourselves to be both
sinful and sanctified, garden-variety
saints seeking to live as Christ for
such, we seek to grow into the most
faithful and life-giving lifestyle
possible by grace through faith, and
we wish the same for anyone else. Any
lifestyle that is life-giving and lived
with integrity is one that must have
its origin in grace, because its is
only grace which can accomplish such
new life in us. That allows for a lot
of varieties of manifestation, based
on the summary of the law of grace,
loving God above all, and so loving
neighbor as self.
Rev. Dr. Katherine M. Lehman
of all, I do not think everyone who
calls themselves "Christians" are
at all close to Christ. In fact, I
suspect that a lot of people who profess
to be Christians will be very surprised
one day. No one knows who the "real" Christians
are except God. It is not our place
to judge such things. In the meantime,
all of Christianity gets a bad rap
when some misguided people do and say
very un-Christian things.
always seemed to me that Christianity
should be judged by Christ's example,
not by his followers' examples. His
followers, including me, are fallible
human beings struggling to overcome
our own demons. Sometimes we fail.
The beauty of Christianity is that
Christ gently picks us up again, forgives
us, and helps us back on the right
what was Christ's example? He said
that everyone has sinned and fallen
short of the glory of God. He did not
condone sin but he forgave it. My interpretation
of the Gospels is that He was more
concerned about the sins of pride,
self-righteousness, and hypocrisy than
about sins of passion. Christ did condemn
all kinds of sins, but he was compassionate
and understanding in doing so. He demonstrated
his love for all people regardless
of their lifestyles or views. In my
opinion, we, as Christians, should
do likewise. Many of us do a pretty
good job. Many of us have a long way
to go. But no one of us is better than
another. We are all saved by Christ's
grace and by His grace we will become
more and more like him.
is a puzzle, isn't it? This question is a first cousin
to some of my reflections on the question: "What if
I am not certain what I believe?" Certainty can lead
to arrogance. Arrogance invariably leads to condemnation.
Maybe Christianity's "religion of love" needs
less certainty and more trust. At the beginning of
this century, I think we need to bring back a book
last mid-century: J.B. Phillips' Your God is Too Small.
The title tells the story. Many Christians seem to have
(need?) a very small God. And with that small God they
seem bent on whipping the very world that God so loves.
only answer I have for this question is that we must struggle
more faithfully, we must labor with more love to hold up
a balance to what many see and experience as an oppressively
one of the saints of old has said, "Truth is never
truth if it is on the side of oppression." To that
I would add, Christianity
is not of Christ if it is abusive to those "whose
lifestyles and views may differ from their own."
Rev. Dr. Douglass M. Bailey
who trumpet their faith from the housetops and hurl down
judgments on others below, often give Christianity a bad
name. By presuming to know so precisely and literally what
God's will is, they take on the self-righteous posture
of the Pharisees and separate themselves to that extent
from the healing Spirit of Love. "Christianity is
a very good thing," George Bernard Shaw observed. "I
would like to see it tried sometime."
Christians we are called to have compassion for people
in situations that we may not understand. However,
when a lifestyle in any way harms you or others, it then
unacceptable. ...I believe [the foundation of] acceptance
and inclusion to be exactly "what Jesus would do."