“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians, your Christians are
so unlike your Christ.” –Mahatma Gandhi
I watched a movie that was a bit difficult for me to follow, because it rapid fired through many scenes, so you have to keep up with the characters and their stories. I’ll have to watch it again. It was stirring. It listed the 10 commandments and the story line was a demonstration of each, in a very compelling and real example of each. The movie is “I Am.”
It never ceases to amaze me how easy it is for me to pick out and notice when someone else is being hypocritical, but when it’s me demonstrating that behavior, it may elude me until sometime down the road. The hopeful part of me hopes that eventually I see with God’s heart enough to get it, or at least as well as a child may be expected to.
There was a movie scene where a guy and his girlfriend, attending his parent’s anniversary dinner, offered a toast to his parents. It was a beautiful toast, containing words from the Bible, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…” –1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Just moments earlier, this guy yelled at and shamed his girlfriend for keeping a secret from him (no small secret mind you), but it was an experience from her past, prior to meeting him. And even if it occurred during their time together, I would argue that love would extend mercy, not shame.
How often do we live our lives like that? Able to read a passage, or speak so eloquently, fluently and extemporaneously, seemingly enamored by the words, yet clueless. We circle the concept from the outside, thinking we are in its nucleus, yet we are merely miles away from God’s intent. No one is free from having ever done this, including me.
It is a human flaw, though we are of God, our “knowing” is limited in nature. Though we tap into God’s consciousness, we can never attain the superior Creator’s mind. We are forever chasing His understanding. And that is the best we will ever be. Anyone who purports attaining God’s knowing, is lying. They may exhibit qualities that are Christ-like, they may have a close relationship with God, but the ones who have a need to proclaim this, are the ones farthest from God. Arrogance is not from God.
The people who have come closest to being human embodiments and mirrors of God’s love, such as mother Theresa, have all shared one quality: HUMILITY.
Depending on where we are in our emotional and spiritual evolution (our walk with God), we will understand events, concepts, even scripture differently. No interpretation is less meaningful than another, because each person’s life is a uniquely crafted path. We hear what we are ready to hear, when we are ready to hear, if we are ready to hear. This is as it should be.
There have been times when in the company of Christians I am corrected for my interpretation of a biblical passage. I understand and appreciate them sharing any insight they have to the context and historical significance of the passage. But I also know, that Christ is for us all, not just the ones who have gone to Seminary school.
God speaks to us all where we are. And that is just as valid. I do not argue with them, it’s enough for me to know how God is revealing that passage uniquely to me. How He is connecting the dots for me. How He is revealing His love for me through His words. How they apply to my life in that exact moment. This is being in God’s zone, a close moment with God that no one can take away from us.
Sometimes people who make their living through religion, or who teach it albeit without compensation, can be so saturated with educational elitism that they turn others away from Christ by minimizing their interpretations/experiences. Their mental schooling blinds them to see with God’s heart. “This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” –Matthew 13:13
That’s why when religious zealots who go on the offense to attack others for not interpreting as they believe (and many will adamantly demand that they know exactly what God wants), I am flabbergasted. The arrogance of anyone to impose and condemn others for not interpreting as they do (or have been indoctrinated to believe). Nothing turns potential Christ followers off more than this arrogant behavior.
I remember a couple of years back when I attended an Art Festival. There were some religious zealots standing on a corner yelling at the top of their vocal chord limits and using a megaphone to boot, condemning and damning everyone who passed by (or within eardrum bursting distance). They were so sure of themselves and their assertion that they were going to heaven and everyone else to hell.
Of all the possible words they could choose to deliver, why are these the ones they choose? If they are truly Christ followers, why don’t they follow Christ’s example? During His time on earth, Christ “spoke,” not yelled, to hundreds who gathered at each event. What drew these people to Him? How did He deliver His message? Was it by belittling people? Was it by threatening fearful condemnations? I don’t find an accounting in the Bible of anything other than He spoke with Love. He drew people in because of who He was. He was the “Prince of Peace.”
“What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?” –1Corinthians 4:21
That day during the Art Festival, I moved away as quickly as I could from those zealots, and ducked into an exhibition. Though I tried escaping the abomination, it carried through the fabric of the tent, permeating it like a foul odor.
I am Christian, and in that moment in the tent, I was ashamed to be in any way affiliated with the label they were using. As the people in the tent giggled and shook their heads, “Crazy people,” I couldn’t help but think the same. In that moment, I too thought them crazy—Crazy wrong.
Their heart may be in the right place, to share the good news of Christ, but their approach was so wrong.
As I tried to ignore this, it was impossible to do so, since they kept on and on blasting their fear-drenched condemnations. At my saturation point, I decided to leave the tent and go far away down another road where their voices wouldn’t stain the air. But as I turned to leave, I looked at the artist and was compelled to say, “Christianity is not about that. Christ wanted to draw us nearer to our Heavenly Father, not drive us away. ”
As one of my favorite authors, Brennan Manning, a former Catholic priest, wrote in his book, Abba’s Child, “Our impulse to tell the salvation-story arises from listening to the heartbeat of the risen Jesus within us. Telling the story does not require that we become ordained ministers or flamboyant street corner preachers, nor does it demand that we try to convert people by concussion with one sledgehammer blow of the Bible after another. It simply means we share with others what our lives used to be like, what happened when we met Jesus, and what our lives are like now.”