Monday, April 30, 2012

Would Jesus be a Christian? Part 3

Yesterday's sermon on being judgmental hit me in an interesting place.

Here were what I saw as some main points:

1) don't hold people outside the church to the same rules we hold those of us inside the church.
Ok- I'm pretty good about that. Check

2) the only (and I mean ONLY) way to share the gospel with people is within a relationship
Ok- I don't go around proselytizing to people I am not in relationship with.

3) place speaking the truth/holding others accountable on equal footing with sharing the grace and mercy of Jesus.
Ok - maybe not as good at this one. I tend to lean more toward justice than grace....

When Caz started talking about Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, I had a revelation. I have the spiritual gift of prophecy and have always looked at it with the attitude of 'it's the TRUTH...take it or leave it.'

And maybe at some point that is really the final stand. But in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul says if I have the gift of prophecy but do not speak it in love, then I have nothing. I am simply a clanging gong.

Now I know why my family (who I am always unfortunately the most brutally honest with) look at me the way they do sometimes.  It doesn't matter if I am speaking the truth if it comes out in a hurtful way with no grace attached.

If I am going to speak the truth in such a way that it an be heard and accepted, then I need to speak it in a way that is not shaming, or demoralizing. The truth is something that should bring healing, not pain. God's truth, in particular, should bring redemption and not shame.

I don't want to be a clanging gong for God. I want to be a person who reflects the grace that I have received.

I think I will be asking a few key people in my life to hold me accountable to that desire.

Chesney Szaniszlo

If I speak in human or angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1, 2 TNIV)


Monday, April 23, 2012

Would Jesus be a Christian - Part 2

The idea for this series started when we watched this video. If you weren't in church yesterday and missed it, take a look. Some people hate this video, some people love it. But it has definitely made a big splash and created a dialogue.

Personally, I love it. I think it makes a very pertinent statement to the Church. The non-Christian culture truly sees Christians as hypocrites and people who judge others. This is partly because the post-modern culture in which we live states that if an action isn't hurting anyone, then it is ok - no matter what "it" might be. This belief leads to the conviction that no one can judge another's behavior.

The other part of the belief - that Christans are judgemental and hypocritical - comes from the fact that we are sinners and we would rather 'fix' another's brokenness before we acknowledge our own.

These beliefs, however, are in firm opposition to what the Bible teaches. Even if a behavior or action doesn't hurt another person, if it hurts the doer or if it separates that person from God, then it is what Christianity calls a 'sin'. The Bible is also very clear that we are to not judge others before we have examined ourselves and found our own sinfulness. This is very different from going around preaching 'at' others about what they are doing wrong. Acknowledging and repenting of our personal sinfulness everyday puts us in a place where we are much less likely to point out the sinfulness of someone else.

Maybe in order to change the way people think about Christians, instead of justifying the 'Church' or blaming others, we each need to take a good look at ourselves and acknowledge how broken and sinful we are.



Monday, April 16, 2012

Would Jesus be a Christian?

What do you think? If Jesus walked into our churches today or listened to the way we pull and twist scripture to suit our needs, do you think he would approve?

I think Jesus would love us and give us grace but I am not sure he would approve of how we behave.

A survey by Trinity College in 2009 showed that 75% of Americans self-identify themselves as "Christian". That percentage was 86% in 1990. This precipitous drop does not surprise me.

We all know someone who has been hurt or scarred by a bad experience with the church or a person who was "Christian". We see the way that politicians use religion or the Bible to support their own agenda. If it leaves a bad taste in the mouth of someone who is a firm believer, what do you think it does to someone who is on the edge of belief?

When I was a seminary student I went home for the holidays and was out shopping. I struck up a conversation with the store clerk and he asked what I was studying. I told him I was in seminary to become a minister. Our light, happy conversation took an immediate nose dive. This man stopped, looked at me and almost spit as he said, "Christians. They are the only people that eat their own kind."

I was shocked speechless and paid for my purchase and slunk out of the store feeling ashamed and sad. Having half of my family be devout Christians (from Roman Catholics to Protestants)and the other half be either completely without faith or damaged by their church experience has given me an interesting persepective on Christianity in America.

It might not be fair for people to judge Christians so harshly for making mistakes: After all, we are the first (hopefully) to say that we need forgiveness. But, as a whole, I am not sure that as Christians, we live out our lives as people who know we are broken and in need of forgiveness. I think that many times we allow our pride to stiffen our necks when we would be better off bending. When we or our churches hurt people do we confess and ask for forgiveness or do we blame the person who was hurt? When we see a needy world do we turn away or do we care for it as Jesus asked us to?

Jesus asked us to take his message to the world but we can't do it if a negative reputation precedes us. If we are to do as Jesus commanded, we have to change something we are doing. Don't we want to be known as those 'great, loving people" not those "arrogant hypocrites"?

Over the next month, I would like to explore how we, as "Christians", can work to change the way non-Christian's or folks who are 'former' Christians view us and the Church.



Monday, April 2, 2012

Live Oak Lenten Journey - Tuesday, Post #6

I love Holy Week. (And yes, I get some wierd looks when I say that out loud.) It is my favorite week in the church year. I know not many people outside of the Roman Catholic tradition really 'get into' Lent and Holy Week, but I think the people who don't are missing out.

This is the week we follow Jesus from the heights of his triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to the agony of the cross and subsequently, to the joy of Easter morning.

There is no other time of the year that I feel my sin so greatly as I do on Good Friday. I recognize most clearly on this day that Jesus was crucified because of me. There is also no other time of the year that I recognize God's mercy as fully as I do on Easter morning when we celebrate Christ's resurrection.

Because, as Protestants, we focus so much on the risen Lord (no Jesus on our crosses) and the mercy we receive because of Christ's death and resurrection, I often think we too easily forget how costly that mercy really was.

This year, instead of moving straight from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, I encourage you to follow Jesus' journey to the cross. Sit with the disciples as they experience what turns out to be the "last supper" with Jesus explaining to them the sacrifice he will make on behalf of all humanity. Feel the power of Jesus as he willingly gives up his life for us. Know that the reason Jesus had to hang on that cross was because of you and me. Consider the sacrifice that Jesus made for you because he loves you so much.

Finally, rejoice on Sunday morning with the disciples as they discover that their Lord is not dead after all, but has risen, incomprehensibly, like he said he would.

This is, indeed, a Holy Week. Take the time to experience the journey.

Chesney Szaniszlo