For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. ~ Romans 10:2
Allow me to apologize. I wish I could demonstrate grace more consistently with all - Please believe me when I tell you that I truly, honestly, and consistently try - I really do. While He sets the perfect example, my attempts to follow that example frequently fall short. I'll keep trying, and with His love and strength, I know that it is possible to forever grow. It is with this humble confession that I must tell you where my heart is presently struggling. For that matter, it's where it's been struggling, for quite some time now.
As an evangelical Christian, I'm quite used to feeling the sorrow and even the wrath of those who view life differently. I am more than O.K. with this, and I don't remotely feel persecuted because of this. In fact, I feel quite fortunate to not face the challenges those who live elsewhere must survive while claiming to follow Christ. I get to profess my faith openly, and for that I am very grateful. Indeed, I feel blessed to even have the opportunities to struggle in conversation with those who believe differently than I do, for it gives me an opportunity to learn, and to share, and to love. And that, my friends, is where I'm struggling.
I desire to live a life that is different. I believe I'm actually called to do that, but I truly do desire that. The pain and the sorrow I am experiencing in my attempts to do that fall intensely short of the pain and sorrow others are experiencing because of the attempts by my brothers and sisters to do the same. Dear fellow Christians, many of you are missing the mark so drastically, I truly feel compelled to call you out. With this I risk demonstrating that I think I know best, or that I am misguided, or that I need to be called out. However, it worries me not if it will possibly mean more love for all.
Now, I've read my Bible from cover to cover, and I've done so on more than one occasion. I will not profess to know more about God's word than others, but I will also not pretend to not have a pretty good handle on His love story for all of us. There was a phrase that became enormously popular for a while when I was younger, and that was, WWJD: "What Would Jesus Do?" I firmly believe that Christians share the intent of this message to truly know, comprehend, and live out life as Jesus has shown us. He is the ultimate example, and I truly believe we all think that. I also truly believe we all know what He did for us. I also truly believe we all want to walk with Him forever. So, with that, I implore you: Stop doing it wrong.
Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. ~ Romans 10:3
Stop pretending that love doesn't win. Stop acting like there are conditions around serving others. Stop making excuses for not doing absolutely everything in your power to help others. Stop desecrating the grace shown to all of us for all of our sins. Stop using scripture to punish others. Stop using the poor example of communication by some as an excuse for yours. Stop saying to people - through your words and/or your actions - that "I love you, but ..." It isn't "but" anything. It just is. So with that, I implore you: Start doing it right.
Start reaching out to everyone with open arms, an open mind, and an open heart. Start showing others that even though you are a sinner - and you are, we all are - you are dearly loved. Start making people say, "Wow, that person loves everyone." Start helping others realize that they are valued for exactly who they are, and they are loved for exactly who they are, and they are forgiven for exactly who they are, and they are redeemed for exactly who they are. Start recognizing that perception is reality, and we are called to love God, love others, and spread the good news.
Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. ~ Romans 10:4
Jesus junkie, husband, and father, Tom Altepeter is a former elementary school principal and present middle school assistant principal in Loveland, Colorado. He is passionate about God, family, intercultural responsiveness, and social justice. He blogs at Intercultural Responsiveness, Maranatha, and Tom's Posterous. You can follow him on Twitter @tomaltepeter.