One day, I was hanging out with a friend, and she said something that really got me thinking.
C: Gloria, I can’t believe that I’m friends with you, a children’s pastor.
Me: Why? Why does it matter whether I’m a children’s pastor or not?
C: Because you’re a devout christian, and you like serve in the church… and you’re the only one who is still friends with me after I stopped going to church. And I don’t feel like you judge me for not going to church. You’re like really my friend. And it’s not like you’re a different person when you’re at church from when you hang out with me. I just never thought I’d be friends with someone like that.
Me: (confused…) uhm… I think that’s a compliment, right? Why would I judge you? I do wish you would go back to church, but I can’t make you do stuff… and why would I stop being friends with you just because you stopped going to church?
C: Because everyone else has…
Me: (speechless…) that makes me sad… I’m sorry…
It’s been over a decade, and I never forgot this conversation. Should I be bringing up Jesus in our conversation more? Should I be happy and satisfied that she finds a good friendship in me? Should I apologize to her on behalf of all christians and churches that have hurt her? Should I rebuke or correct our friends that have abandoned her?
Some of the recent events have led me to think about my conversation with this friend. There’s been a lot of debate over Rob Bell’s book about hell, and then there was the whole Judgment Day debacle.. and I came across this blog titled “An Open Apology for the Church” by Joe Boyd which got me thinking about how Christians have made a lot of errors along the way. Of course, Christians are imperfect humans; and the reality is that Christians will make many mistakes, even hurt people (hopefully unintentionally.. otherwise that’s just mean). Christians want non-Christians to know that we are just as imperfect as anyone else and that we need forgiveness and grace. However, when the tables are turned, I am not sure if we show as much grace and love to others.
When “Love Wins” by Rob Bell was under hot debate, I was more disappointed and saddened by hurtful, unloving words that were publicly exchanged between pastors and theologians. When the “Judgement Day” came and went, I was more disappointed and saddened by sarcastic, patronizing words that were said, tweeted, and posted by Christians. And I am just as guilty of this… afterall, sarcasm runs through my blood (you should meet my dad, apparently sarcasm is an inherited trait). I’ve joked around with friends about Harold Camp and his predictions. I’ve snickered and rolled my eyes. But the more I thought about this, I realized that once again, we weren’t responding to the situation in love… and as far as my non-Christian friends could see, we were poking fun just as much as anyone else, if not more. It’s no wonder that we send a very mixed message to non-Christians… and they often associate churches with likes of Westboro Baptist. Today, I read a tweet by Anderson Cooper: “That’s not a church, and I don’t think about them ever // RT @____ what r your thoughts of Westboro Baptist Church coming to #Joplin” I agree, it’s not a church that Christ had intended… but many people don’t have a clear understanding of what church is suppose to be, and they just see Westboro Baptist as a bad church. 😦
I respect that many Christians want the truth to be told and understood. But sometimes I feel that our love of knowledge of the truth gets in the way of responding in love. Perhaps that just means we know the truth, but we don’t practice the truth. And when non-Christians see the way we react to various situations, how are we exemplifying the love of Christ? How did my friend feel the love of Christ when she felt abandoned and judged by those she thought were her friends after she left the church? How did believers of May 31 Rapture feel the love of Christ when Christians poked fun at them instead of helping them to see the truth with gentleness? And what did children and youth learn when they saw “exemplary” adult Christians respond in such ways? Seriously, where is the love, the love of Christ?
Something to think about… by the way, yes, I know that Black Eyed Peas sing about this very subject… and yes, I still keep in touch with my friend via email after she got married and moved across the country. She’s still seeking…