“i spent my entire teenage years hating myself because of the shit y’all preached would happen to me because i was gay. so i hope u are mad, stay mad, feel the same anger you teach us to have towards ourselves.” -Popular Music Artist
As I debated about whether or not to edit out the profanity, I wondered who would be more upset about the profanity or the obvious heartache of a young man who felt the judgement and condemnation of Christians in his youth.
That quote was from an artist who released a self-titled video featuring him lap dancing with the devil after sliding down a stripper pole to hell. The video released over the weekend and is currently #1 on YouTube. The song is racing up the music charts and Christians are in hot pursuit of the artist, but apparently, Nike, too since he was reportedly wearing their shoes in the video.
As I read about the video, I am curious about the artist and a few questions came to mind:
- How did he come to the conclusion that God no longer loved him?
- Was his church a safe place for him to struggle?
- What did he hear from Christians that made him hate himself for so long?
Whenever I see comments like this young man’s quote, I wonder if this is part of the harvest of judgement and condemnation that we’ve sown thinking all along thinking that we were doing God’s work?
The sad truth is that Christians are known more for what we are against than what we are for. Let’s be honest, Christians know how to chew up and spit out people with judgmental comments and angry words.
I shudder to think how many seats in our churches are empty because we drove unbelievers farther from God away because we were too offended by their lifestyles to get close to them. Yes, people are accountable to God for their actions, but so are we.
We expect unbelievers to behave like Christians when they aren’t.
We put unbelievers’ down for their actions instead of putting the emphasis on the life-transforming power of the gospel.
Then, we don’t understand why unbelievers struggle to believe that Jesus loves them when as Christ’s ambassadors because our hateful words and actions are proof that we don’t love them as they are.
Maybe this artist’s controversial video creates the perfect opportunity begin new conversation where we can be a little more like Jesus. He knew how to listen and get close to people who were far from God.
During his years of ministry, Jesus sat in homes of the people that we gossip about and judge for their mistakes and moral failures. Jesus attended the parties of the people that we look at with side eye for coming into church with short skirts, live-in girlfriends, hungover or struggling with addiction.
You can be sure that everyone who invited Jesus over knew that he was a rabbi, a religious teacher. They probably swore and said, “Oh, Jesus. Excuse my language” or they said, “Wow, Jesus, I never thought that I’d see you in a place like this.”
Over a decade ago, I got a nose piercing because as very tall woman and Bible teacher, I knew that unbelievers often felt intimidated by my role in ministry. That nose piercing was one way for me to bring down a barrier. Unbelievers never questioned why a Bible teacher had a nose peircing but I’ve got many curious glances and questions from Christians. Long ago, a pastor wrote that we should become all things to all people so that we might win some to the gospel (1 Corintians 9:22). This teaching doesn’t give us license to sin in order to share the gospel, but it did inspire me to get my nose pierced. And it happens to look pretty cute.
More than once, unbelievers have remarked that my tiny little nose piercing made me more approachable. In fact, a former classmate who is far from God told me at a class reunion, “You know, I wasn’t going to come over and say hi to you. Then, I saw your nose piercing and I figured that you wouldn’t judge me.”
By his life, Jesus modeled for us that we’re to get closer to the people who are far from God, not shout condemnation at their lifestyle from our holier-than-thou soapbox.
Temperature Check: Look at your social media posts and ask yourself: “Do my posts build a bridge to Christ or do my comments set up a barrier that repeals unbelievers away from me?”
To be clear, Jesus didn’t excuse sin. First, he invited people to get closer to him.
Have you forgotten thatonce upon a time Jesus did that for you? Now, do it for the people in your life who are far from knowing the love of God showing through Christ.
Love connects. Love listens. Love invites. Love leads to truth.
Here are some helpful questions below that you can use when talking with people who are far from God or fallen away from faith.
This week, pray for an opportunity to ask these questions, prepare in the event that an opportunity for conversations comes up (you don’t need to force the conversation.)
Finally, a chance for conversation comes up, then FOR THE LOVE shut your mouth and listen to people. Don’t correct. Don’t defend. Don’t argue. God’s Holy Spirit doesn’t need you to get into a fight to be right.
Here are the questions that you can use as conversation starters:
- Who is God to you?
- Who is Jesus to you?
- How do you think that God feels about you?
- Why do you think that God doesn’t love you?
- How have Christians hurt you in the past?
- Can I share my story with you?
- Can I tell you about why Jesus is real to me?
- Can I tell you why I know that God loves you and hasn’t rejected you?
- Can I pray for you?
PRAYER: God, challenge my heart and expose the places where I’ve made my personal soapbox bigger than the importance of the gospel. Challenge me to listen to and pray for those who are far from You or are fallen away. Use me to draw people closer to You rather than chase them away with condemning words. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
COMMENT: What are some of the ways that Christians can love unbelievers better? What do we need to STOP doing?
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