A love letter to all of my Christian friends

Dear Christian Friends,

Let me first say how much I love each one of you. It's amazing how brothers and sisters can be so different yet united under the banner of Jesus. I treasure all of the insights that you have given to me as we've had civilized discussions and a few healthy debates about various aspects of the Christian faith.I am eternally grateful for the men and women who have poured into and continue to invest in my life. Hugs.

But (and you knew that was coming, right?) I believe that we are missing the mark greatly in the area of love. And just to keep the tone of this letter fair, I am going to address all of you as "we" because I am in the same boat. I'm preaching to the choir, if you will, although I never really enjoyed choir and don't really have the voice to pull off anything special beyond the sanctuary of my car. In fact, I would go so far to say that the most comments I hear from those who aren't Christians about those who are believers is that, whenever they are around them, they feel judged, looked down upon, and essentially unloved.

I realize that this point can be sticky, so please read it very carefully before you label me some kind of heretic and unfriend me on social media. Bluntly speaking, we stink at loving people who don't know Jesus. We say that we do, we hold meetings and events at our churches inviting those who don't know Jesus to come, and we even leave gospel tracts along with our often paltry tips at restaurants so that our server with the tattoos and piercings can get to know our Jesus. How can I say that you don't show love?

I say this because we treat the love of God as if we can package it in a box and unload it on others when it's most convenient. I also say this because we are notorious for withholding love from those who need it the most.

Let me explain with an example. Mission trips are awesome. If you've ever been on one either in the United States or overseas, you understand just how much impact they can have on another community not to mention on yourself. We also look around at our local community and seek to fill the needs that are put in front of us, such as volunteering for a 2-hour block at the soup kitchen or donating clothes to Goodwill. It's such an awesome feeling to bless those who have less!

But you have no clue what to do with your friend who is struggling with homosexual temptations or has already give in to them. That guy at school or at work who is an atheist - we avoid him completely. Those freaks that we see walking around town with all of the tattoos, piercings, and ungodly swagger - well, I just pray that they find Jesus soon because it looks to me like this world is going to hell in a hand basket!

You see, whether we like to admit it or not, we really only want to love those who have, in our eyes, the potential to be lovely. And by doing so we exclude ourselves from much of the dirt and junk that plagues the lives of the rest of the world that needs Jesus. How do we do this? Sometimes we are subtle. We simply pray for "those people" to know Jesus while secretly believing that they might not ever and hoping that it won't be us who actually have to go tell them about Him. But if I leave a tract by a urinal in the bathroom that counts, right?

And sometimes we are not so subtle with our lack of love. Whether it's a preacher railing against homosexuality from he pulpit to a crowd of hetero-and-proud church members or boycotting an amusement park or food company because they support a questionable cause, all of that speaks to a spiritual arrogance that is destructive and unbiblical masked under the banner of "We're taking a stand against sin." Don't get me wrong, we are to love God and hate sin, yet more often than not we fail to separate sin from the sinner and just hate them both. But we'll still pray for them, right?

Look, we can do better than that. We are called to BE better than that. I realize that we live in a world that is full of filth and smut and greed and Democrats and Republicans. Times are tough, spiritually and morally speaking. Every time we go and elect a Christian politician and a great revival in our land doesn't follow suit, we edge closer and closer to the cliff of gloom and doom. So here is what I am challenging myself to do about it and what I am going to challenge you to do as well:
  • I challenge you to love Jesus more - Make Him your sole desire, your passion
  • I challenge you to love yourself less - If you get the above one right, this one will naturally follow
  • I challenge you to love others more than you love yourself - Yeah, this is hard. It's also biblical. And commanded. And modeled by Jesus (See: the crucifixion, the entire book of Acts, Philippians 2, etc.).
  • I challenge you stop loving your opinions and traditions more than you love the word of God - There I go meddlin'! But seriously, how much of what you believe about the love of God is based upon what you've been told or seen demonstrated over the years as opposed to what the word of God actually teaches? How many stones have you stooped to pick up in order to toss at others while ignoring the grace that God has lavished on you? (Ephesians 1:7) The answers depend on how willing you are to submit to the teachings of Scripture and not a bunch of opinions masquerading as godliness. 
Well, that's about all I have to say right now. I hope this letter finds you well and that you've had a great summer so far. I know you're busy, so if you don't get a chance to write back then that's okay. Take care and say hey to the family for me. LLL (longer letter later).

Your friend and co-laborer in Christ,
Sterling

1 comment:

barbkibler said...

Sterling, what a much needed message! Thank you and I pray that I truly love the un-lovely because after all, we all are un-lovely until Christ transforms us!!

Stripes and plaids DO go together!

I-40 from Wilmington to Winston-Salem has been a regular companion of mine the past several months. Road trips can be awesome, but I honest...