10 July 2009

Angry Christians In a Hurting World

I recently engaged in an email debate with an angry commenter here on my blog. I do not know this person, and it is very apparent (from his highly erroneous remarks) that he does not know me.
Don't bother looking for it; I've already deleted his comment.

I now seriously regret ever writing anything -- on his blog, or in response to his emails. I should have known that it would only lead to aggravation and a waste of my time.

You see, I believe there is nothing worse than a self-righteous Christian with a moral agenda.
And to take the bait and try and persuade or correct them is (usually) a lost cause.

I should know; I used to be one.
I used to have a lot of anger about a lot of things.
There's no need to go into it all here, but things from my childhood, my adolescence, and even some frustrating church experiences all fed the anger and bitterness I had inside. Hypocrisy in church leadership and anything-but-Jesus-like behavior from those who sat beside me each Sunday did little to extinguish my smoldering heart.

Because (I'd like to think) I am a kind person with a decent heart, I channeled my anger into noble causes. Rather than just be angry and hateful to everyone, I directed my wrath toward those who were racist, sexist, or in any other way, prejudiced. I denounced those who called themselves Christian while engaging in behavior unworthy of that title.
The blatant irony escaped me.

The problem was not in my noticing their wrong, but in my failure to look inside myself and see my own hypocrisy and poor example.
I called myself a Christian and I still believed in "loving my neighbor," but I had never learned the concept of "GRACE before justice."

For me -- and for most angry Christians -- JUSTICE is the battle cry.
It took years of pain and soul-searching for me to finally realize that God is not all that interested in justice. At least, not in the immediate sense.

If justice were His primary goal & concern, none of us would be given salvation because none of us -- no, not one -- deserves the gift He gave us.
We have done nothing to earn it.
Moreover, He has not given us what we *really* deserve!

While I agree that the Bible gives us a mandate to expose heresy and wrongdoing within our ranks, it does not grant us the right to damn everyone to hades or beat them over the head with our club of righteousness.
Really, what (exactly) do we think that will accomplish?

Anger -- in and of, itself -- is not a sin.
It's what we do in that state of anger that exposes the very nature of our own hearts.
Jesus, Himself, showed righteous anger in the temple.
But the story doesn't end with Jesus driving out the money-changers!
Indeed, of all the many stories and parables we are given to demonstrate how we are to live, righteous anger is only one small part.
Much greater in His teaching and example are the commissions to love one another, forgive one another, and extend one another the grace that we have been given. There are more examples of Jesus' COMPASSION than there are of His anger!

Now, instead of looking for the mistakes of others, I try to see myself the way others perceive me. Do they see Jesus in me or do they only see anger and a passion for justice? My prayer is that God would help me change the faults in my own heart, in my own lack of mercy.

Look, if we are filled with such vile contempt for our fellow man -- even toward those we think most deserve it (our errant brothers and sisters in Christ!) -- then how can we ever represent Jesus to the world who doesn't know Him?
If all the world ever sees is the back-biting and slander and poisonous arrows we fling toward one another, they will never believe our message of love, peace, and hope.
And who could blame them?
In the end, we become the biggest hypocrites of all!
Honestly, I'm surprised that God doesn't just "fire" us all for being such poor representatives of His love and mercy.
But there, again, is a testament to His grace.

What will the world see in you?

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