What I’ve always wanted to tell my friends and family about my faith:
Please, don’t care about how much I know. Don’t care about what I think. Don’t care about where I stand on an issue. Please, please, don’t care where (or if) I go to church.
Care about how much I care.
I have had several experiences or conversations in the last few weeks that have pointed to a particular issue: Passing judgement based on faith. I have seen two sides of this coin. Let’s call one “Bobby and Mary,” and the other one, “Jane and Joe.”
Bobby judges Mary because he knows Mary calls herself a Christian. So he makes assumptions about Mary’s past and present choices. He assumes she has never had sex, doesn’t drink, doesn’t swear, doesn’t watch R-rated movies, and worst of all, he assumes that Mary will judge him for all those things and more. So he censors himself around Mary, and is afraid to let Mary see who he really is, or to move past his assumptions and see Mary for who she is.
Jane judges her brother Joe because she calls herself a Christian, and she feels that gives her the responsibility of passing judgement. So she focuses on Joe’s behavior, and tried to get him to stop drinking and swearing and watching R-rated movies. She tells him that if he brings his girlfriend to visit, they will need to sleep in separate bedrooms because she is a Christian and doesn’t approve of Joe’s choices.
Now let me tell you about myself. I am Mary, more so than anyone else in this little parable. I follow Jesus. And I’m not very good at it, but it’s not because of what I think about sex and alcohol and the F-word.
I’m an imperfect follower of Jesus because to follow Jesus is to follow him into LOVE. Complete and total love, and nothing but. And I’m just not good enough at loving. I want to be comfortable and safe. I want to protect myself. I want to keep my distance. I want to choose whom I will love, and who I will let pass by my life. I want to be in charge.
Does that sound familiar? We all do. That’s the imperfect nature of humanity. We are, on some level, selfish, self-preserving creatures. And that is why I need to follow Jesus. Because without him, I will gravitate toward selfishness, and with him, he moves me toward love.
I could tell you what I think about sex, and drinking, and swearing, and watching R-rated movies. And if all you know about me is that I follow Jesus, those conversations might shock your socks right off. We could also discuss the more serious “hot button issues.” But I don’t want to talk about it right now. Because there is only one thing you need to know about me following Jesus: My goal is to do the most loving thing, in whatever situation I find myself. And as I said, I’m not nearly good enough at it. But it’s what Jesus did perfectly, every time. It’s what he did for me. And for you. And I am following him.
I cannot, through any force of will or resolve, get better at loving. I can’t earn my way. The goal is too big and my humanity is too small. It is an inside job: God working inside my heart, before anything on the outside can change. I have, all week, been stuck on this prayer: “God, do whatever it takes in me to accomplish Your will through me.” It’s a dangerous prayer. Whatever it takes in me.
I am all turned around on many issues. I don’t always know where God would like me to stand, and sometimes I’m shocked to see where he puts me. And sometimes I’m shocked to find out that I thought it was him, but it was me who put myself on one side of a fence. So I don’t trust “take a stand” types of situations.
And I don’t think any of those issues matter as much as the two things I know for sure. One, judgement is not my job. Two, it’s all about love.
So, I hope you will never hear me telling you that Jesus wants you to quit drinking, or to vote for a certain candidate, or to try to change your sexual orientation. I don’t know what Jesus wants you to do. I only know what he want me to do: love you. And imperfect though I am, I really hope I can do that for him.