A persistent church disease is that congregations behave like country clubs instead of field hospitals. The spirit of the Pharisees has never died. Good boys, i.e., respectable achievers with money, are desired. Bad girls, not so much.

Those quiet visitors to your church, who sit in the back and try not to be noticed, are there not because they are really successful and are looking for a wider audience … They are much more likely to be hurting and broken, looking for forgiveness and acceptance and hope. They know they need God, and they would love a loving community.

Unconditional grace. Genuine love. What do those terms mean, and why are they so hard to ‘give’? These are the things that have been on my mind a lot these past few weeks and months. The MercyMe song “Crazy Enough” has really hit home for me, with its lyrics such as:

Call me crazy but what if we learn
To love our brother for nothing in return?
Oh how the rules would change

To sing along when life’s playing their tune
And cry with them when their hearts broken in two
Have I lost my mind?

Today, in reading one of my devotionals, I ran across the paragraph that began this post. It caused me to think about several discussions I’ve had lately with some of my Christian brothers on how to love those far from God within the context of a genuine and unconditional (if there is such thing) relationship.

Whether it be the neighbor having an affair, the brother with the destructive drinking problem, the abusive and mad-at-the-world parent or the unrepentant gay co-worker. Do we dare offer them continuing love, and grace, and (dare I say it) forgiveness? Do they deserve it?

Or should there first be repentance? A turning of their ways? A “fixing” of their problems, before we can love on them in a “What Would Jesus Do” fashion?

What would Jesus do?

I suppose the answer depends on which Testament you choose to focus on. And which passage of scripture you choose to extract and magnify.

I’m sorry if it appears that I don’t have any more answers than questions for you here. I suppose my aim might merely be to spark a conversation. Whether it be here in the comment section of a blog site, there in the comfort of your living room with family or small group or even within the pews of your neighborhood church of choice.

After all, when it comes right down to it, what is the goal of Christianity?

Why did Jesus come, live and die? And is that a New Testament, or Old Testament question?

Is there a difference?

As far as I see it, one needs a lot of grace and patience; one needs a lot of stones.

Do you choose to extract and magnify a particular passage of scripture (or several)? Or do you choose to extract and magnify Him about whom the book is written?

One choice allows you the freedom to pick and choose what to follow, who to love, who to hate and glorifies the ‘self’ with an overwhelming, intoxicating feeling of “better than.”

One choice does not allow you to choose who to love; demands that you overcome hate; and glorifies through the actions of His followers. Glorifies the One who lived and died to show us “better than.” Not to point up our sins, but to show that we are more than the sum total of our sins. To show us – Jew and Gentile, God’s Chosen People and Heathens – that we can be “better than” our sin and our differences.

Is Christianity merely a “Get-out-of-hell-free card” for ourselves, our loved ones and, occasionally, when we get up the gumption to approach them, “those” people? Or is it an entirely different way of thinking about ourselves and each other? To see ourselves and others through the eyes of a God of “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” After all, “Against such things there is no law.”

“They” are not the heathens, people! And “we” can do better than this.

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