I was struck today by something I read on facebook. Social media is such a double edged sword it is so hard for me to say much about it. At times I hate that it can so quickly bring misery to people by an unwanted photo circulating or words that are false appearing to be true. Other times I love that you can find quick and mostly useful advice, you can find a dog’s owner or you can advertise for a worthy cause and get support you didn’t know was available.
Today I found the former to be more relevant. Believing in God as I do I of course love when other people can see His grace shine through in their life. But in the world we live in there are many people who become immediately defensive when God is brought up into any conversation. I believe it is because these people have experienced too many others who are not necessarily “God” followers…but “religion” followers. There is such a difference.
What I read on facebook that set me off so much was written by someone who used to attend my church. When I am not serving Sunday brunch I attend a church here in my home town that is Christian based and calls itself “non-denominational”. The words that come from my Pastor’s mouth are taken from the bible and he teaches about love, forgiveness, service, faithfulness and prayer. One thing he always talks about is loving everyone and never judging. The words I read on facebook were judging another very well known Pastor named Joel Olsteen. They were saying that he only preaches about “the money-God” etc. and that he does not stay true enough to the bible. They were also backing their comments with bible versus saying they were “called to judge him”.
Bah. Ignorance. It’s times like this I hate social media because of all the people these ridiculous comments are immediately made public to. It breaks my heart. Not just because these people gave themselves a platform to judge and ridicule a man who is spending his life’s work teaching people about the goodness of God and how to be the best version of themselves they can be…but because of the people reading those words who may have already been wary of church…or beliefs…and now know for certain that if they enter a group with these people in it they will for sure be critiqued and condemned.
A saying that is easy to find…on many pillows and inscribed on many pictures…and a saying that is easy to sum up the bible…and a saying that I believe is so true…..”God is love.” Love is compassion, caring, acceptance, patience and so much more. If any person was wary of attending any service and read words that condemned a man who has given his life to serving God…how could they ever feel confident enough to join?
Most times when I encounter someone who is openly against God or any higher-power it is because they have had a bad experience with someone forcing religion on them. I choose those words wisely because it is only religion that can be forced onto someone, not God. You can force people to attend a service or mass at a scheduled time, force them to listen to a certain kind of music, force them to eat certain foods at certain times of the year for the sake of the bible. You cannot force God. What would it look like if you did try to force God on someone? You would shower them with love…you would support them the best you could and when asked for advice you would try to help guide them through a time without judgement or condemnation. You would emit happiness and radiate goodness and gratitude. You would show by example that even a sinner, such as yourself, can believe and trust that God is at work. Basically…forcing God would simply be forcing love.
Someday I do hope this blog gets a lot of reads. I hope the comment section fills up with supporters…and haters. I hope people post like I saw on facebook with quoted scripture explaining why I am so wrong. Because I already have something to say to those people. Do some research on the bible. The book itself. Find out when the first one was written. Find out when the books were put together…who decided which books would be “biblical” and which ones would not and would be destroyed (ah…yes…there were others). Find out how many hands were involved in putting this book together and how many kings tried to tear it apart and most likely succeeded at times to burn parts we may have never read. Based on what you find out…how can you tell me that the words you quote are the correct ones?
Everyone says that the bible is open to interpretation. This is why we have so many “religions” in this country….and I thank God for that. I really do. I’m happy that there are different groups out there who can meet and gather with others who believe the same interpretation they do. For myself and for the sake of this post…I will say that while word for word you could tear it apart…connotation is missing….context matters….so for me…look at the big picture.
As a whole there are many lessons shared and stories told over and over again in the bible. These are the stories I choose to believe are most likely accurate. If they were given on more than one account and managed to make it through the hundreds of editing hands…then they are most likely important. These stories are of love. These stories are of acceptance…compassion…grace….kindness….giving…faithfulness…and many more. These are the stories I revel in and these stories are the guidelines for which I choose to live my life.
I’m not naive enough to say I am right…or that there is only one way. But I will stand firm in saying that Jesus did not die so that all of His followers out there could live to “judge” and “call people out” when they are wrong. He died to show us love…and that is what I will try to emulate and show everyone in my life.
I hope the post of this terribly misguided facebook user becomes buried deep in peoples’ newsfeeds and hopefully will be missed by most. As for my part…I can only hope to influence the people around me and show them that whatever choices they make…there is someone who loves them and accepts them. I learned from the best…the One who loved and accepted the worst of the sinners…and the One who gave the most…the LEAST I can do…is do the BEST I can do.