Sometimes it’s hard to be taken seriously as a Christian, as so many Christians come across as painfully judgmental in their tone and overall intolerance- towards those who don’t believe exactly in what they do. We can be our own worst enemies when trying to encourage non-Christians see how Christianity really is an amazing way to get through this life, and that it just gets better! This age of so much communication being done between strangers with no interpersonal connection doesn’t help much. Reading comments about online articles, stories, etc. are horribly mean and hateful- and the Christians are among the worst at times. It makes me sad. I try SO hard not to be one of ‘those’ Christians (and also not to judge them– they have their reasons for their beliefs, even if I disagree with how they come across, at least with how I’ve perceived them in specific online conversations or about specific topics… and I’m not good at that). I want to be used by God, not drive people away from Him. That can be a lonely place. The ‘holier-than-thous’ have no tolerance for ME, and I don’t fit in anywhere because I see approaching people out of love and respect being more important than being ‘right’.
I’m very limited physically in how much I can interact with people (Christians and non-Christians), and so much of what I am exposed to is lacking the ‘in-person’ body language and non-verbal subtleties needed for complete communication. I base my fairly open and ‘cleaning my own side of the street’ approach to a lot of topics based on my belief that Jesus spoke much more about love than He did about judgement. Jesus loves everybody, and took the ragtag bunch of people around Him to be the ones He kept the closest to Him. He didn’t look for the legalistic Pharisees. He didn’t take the ones who could recite ‘rules’ twenty-five ways to Sunday. He chose the hookers, thieves, the poor, and later, even those who used to persecute Christians to help spread His message. Paul was a huge factor in the spreading of the message of Christianity in those early years, and he was horrible to Christians prior to his conversion ! Who am I to only seek out the superficially ‘acceptable’ people to care about? Appearances mean nothing, both good and bad. (I LOOK very unfeminine, and pretty ratty a lot of the time. Because of some medical issues that make having hair actually a safety issue, as it gets me overheated very fast, and that triggers a lot of unpleasantness, up to losing consciousness… so I look stereotypically ‘butch’, because my head is shaved, and I don’t wear a lot of girly clothes… a t-shirt with flowers is about as ‘foo-foo’ as I get… that’s just me. I’ve gotten a lot of nasty ‘looks’ and comments over the years about that). God can use anybody who is willing! Even if they don’t ‘seem’ like they’re capable of a meaningful relationship with Christ, or ‘look’ like a bonafide Christian 😉
It’s kind of a lonely place at times to not ‘tow the line’ in some very rigid manner. God meets us where we are, and I think we, as Christians, need to show the love of God in ways that fit the person we’re interacting with. I don’t ‘fit in’ with how I view some very controversial topics in the conservative Christian community. I believe in the Bible, and that it’s the inspired Word of God. I also look at the social, scientific, and cultural norms at the time the Bible was written, and look at ways to learn more about how that translates into today’s society. I am very aware that I don’t know everything. But no matter how I view something or someone, I feel an obligation to love the person as someone God created in the womb first, and do all things in a way that doesn’t make them run from any message I may have about how God can have a real place in their lives, no matter what any person’s beliefs, strengths, or weaknesses may be. What good does it do to judge someone, and push them away? That isn’t the goal ! Jesus told Christians to go into all the world and preach the Gospel… not judge those who will benefit from hearing it (as in everybody !). God didn’t appoint me, or any other human, to be judgmental. Matthew 7 is very clear on that. The Bible is also very clear on doing all things in love. Focusing on the good, and showing everyone the definition of love in I Corinthians 13, and the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians. Those are our standards.
God has been a huge refuge for me during some really hard times. When I was raped, He was Who I called out to (silently, in prayer) to give me the strength and wisdom to get through it, and escape. With the chronic medical disorders I’ve got, God is Who gives me the strength to just deal with another day, even when I just want to curl up and sleep until things get better (problem with that is that the disorders are chronic, progressive, and not going to get better). When I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia, my comfort came in knowing that no matter what happened, I’d go on in eternity if I died. I’d be able to reunite with fellow believers who have died, such as family, friends, and people I’ve read about over the years. I’d like to share that comfort with others. I’d like others to know that no matter how alone they feel, God is always around. When I was in the middle of the last eating disorder relapse, I’d ask God every night literally to just let me wake up in the morning. He answered all of my prayers during all of those times. I’m still here.
I don’t run around with my religion on my sleeve (though I do have a few cool t-shirts with messages on them ), but I will be specific about my beliefs when asked, or when I decide to write about it. I strive to live my beliefs (and I can always improve !). I believe that salvation is a choice. It is not possible to be ‘good enough’ or ‘earn’ a place in Heaven. Believing in Jesus, His death on the cross, and resurrection as a payment for our sinful nature -by simply being human- is how I believe people get in to Heaven. The Bible is very clear on that. But, there are no pre-existing criteria to ‘qualify’ as a Christian. It’s simply telling God that I know I’ve sinned (we all have, and anybody who is at the age of accountability- which varies with individuals and developmental stages and capabilities needs to make the choice for themselves to seek forgiveness), I ask for forgiveness, and I believe that Jesus died to pay the price for my very human nature and choices that have grieved God, and separated me from Him. I believe that Christ physically rose from the dead. I believe that He’s going to return one day to gather Christians still alive here on earth, as well as those who have already left this earth. A lot of really ‘good’ people will be left behind. I believe that when my earthly life is over, my eternal life begins. And I know that no matter how other people, including Pharisee Christians, see me, God knows my heart. That is more important than human acceptance. I don’t ‘do’ legalism… I cherish my relationship with the Lord, and other Christians.
I also believe that people have the right to decline God’s offer, and by not making a choice, they actually do make a choice. They have the right to their beliefs as I have the right to mine. My beliefs mean that I only see one way for someone to be ‘saved’, and eligible for eternal life. But it’s not my place to ‘judge’ someone for not wanting or believing that (I can be sad they don’t choose the same beliefs, but it is NOT OK for me to judge that person). Those who don’t believe as I do will say I’m being judgmental for saying that there is only one way to Heaven… my answer is this: what is in the Bible didn’t come from me. God made it a choice, whether to believe or not. He didn’t create us to be robotic followers. He gave us all free will. But He wants everybody… He won’t push anybody away for any reason…. so how could I possibly think it’s OK for me to judge anybody for making their own decisions? 🙂
Humans (often Christians) screw up the Bible, and how Christianity is perceived, more than any other factor on earth. The Bible itself is fairly straightforward, and with religious and historical scholars having written volumes on the various cultural, social, and scientific things, it’s easy to see that God’s plan for our salvation is timeless. It was seen as heresy when Jesus died and rose again- a conspiracy of major proportions. Some people still see it as such. Some just think it’s bogus. That’s their right. It saddens me, but I still accept that they have the choice to believe what they will. Faith comes with continued belief, and it’s different for everyone. God didn’t make us all identical cookie-cutter people (pretty great, eh?), so we all ‘do’ this journey in our own way. And, we can pray for those who don’t believe, and continue to be kind and compassionate towards them. How will they ever find Christ if Christians are the first to bail out on them?
To me, the requirements for salvation are absolute; there is only one way to become a Christian- BUT there are as many ways to BE a Christian as there are people… . It’s a choice. It’s an active belief, not a passive assumption. God can use ALL of us 🙂
I believe that God can use anyone who makes him/herself available to Him. He doesn’t demand perfection. He doesn’t demand we ‘speaketh’ in a completely unnatural way when we talk to Him. I am not a fan of religion at all (mindless rituals and rules)… God wants a relationship with every single person on this planet. 🙂 He waits until we seek Him, but then we are His forever. He won’t force Himself on anybody. He gave us free will. And, He has a single requirement for being with Him forever…. belief. Faith grows over time, but belief is a choice.
I can’t imagine NOT believing what I do. I can’t imagine NOT believing in Jesus, or His death and resurrection. I can’t imagine NOT believing that He is coming back. I can’t imagine NOT having the absolute assurance of Heaven when I die. To me, it takes a lot more faith in “nothing” than it does in a loving God whose Son walked the earth in human form over 2,000 years ago. I also don’t see humans as a lot who are higher up on the reliability scale. I couldn’t believe in a mere mortal. Just wouldn’t work for me. I’m glad for my upbringing in an evangelical church. I’m thankful that I had good experiences with how God was taught to me, and that I had several outlets that were wonderful experiences to reinforce what I’d learned (youth groups, summer camp, working at the same camp during 2 1/2 summers, choir, etc). I’m also very glad I read through the BIble cover-to-cover on my own a few times, so I saw what is in there for myself…. not JUST how a pastor saw it. I’m thankful for study Bibles with amazing notes from reputable Bible scholars to enhance my understanding.
I wish that for everyone. 🙂