Misunderstanding the Message

Would you go on a short journey with me? As you look at these pictures, try to see past political agendas and moral differences, and instead think about why people feel the way they claim to feel.

Obviously she’s referring to the issue of homosexual activity; what are we saying or doing that makes her believe we’re teaching our kids hatred and lies?  I doubt anyone intends to send that message, yet somehow that’s what’s coming across.

How does the belief that mothers are important and necessary turn into a Satanic ploy to rob women of hope? What are we saying or doing that’s perpetuating this confusion? Do people outside the church really believe we want to oppress women?

the comment with this picture was, "if only..."

You’ll have to take my word for it, but if you saw the collection of pictures and comments on this fb account you would know he is implying that Christians are the ones violating the message on the shirt. Are we contributing to his belief that Christians, and therefore Christ, is hateful? Why do people interpret the church’s message the way they do? (I chose the word church intentionally, by the way.) Why is there such a disconnect?

Finally, I came across this video. I don’t know what happened before the camera was turned on, but the video shows the riot police escorting a Christian group out of a neighborhood known for homosexual activity while being challenged by the residents. Footage of Castro District protest. (the language gets pretty rough at the end)

The questions stirred once more. Why were these people so mad? They wouldn’t be angry if a group of baseball fans were gathering in their neighborhood. Yet somehow, the existence of a group of Christians set them off. My guess is the Christians weren’t there to preach hate, but it must have come off that way. Pardon the metaphor, but if this were a marriage, there would be serious need for some communication counseling.

The message is getting confused, and I had similar feelings after writing my article about Komen and Planned Parenthood. There was a disconnect occurring between my ideas and they way they were being interpreted. Apparently I’m not alone. Jesus had a message to share with the world. It wasn’t primarily about feeding the poor. And it wasn’t primarily about rejecting homosexual behavior. Jesus’ message was that He is the means of salvation for mankind and we need to believe in Him. Somehow, the message of Jesus is being confused with the agendas of the church, and the church is losing her effectiveness.

Here’s where I see some problems:

1) The church (collection of individual believers) is not being consistent in their personal application of Biblical truth. We protest the idea of gay marriage and turn our heads to the epidemic of divorce and remarriage. When Jesus spoke on marriage, and He defined it as one man and one woman (our justification for heterosexual union), He also said it was for life. We cannot keep fighting for half the message. (There are plenty of other examples, but this is the most obviously inconsistent.)

2) The church is in rebellion when it comes to discipline and doctrine. We’ve become so enamored with “church growth” and being “seeker friendly” that we’ve compromised the truth. Our pews are filled with Hypocritical Christians like the ones I described in my first point. They are also frequented by Theoretical Christians. These are the folks who proclaim Christ, but have no idea what their proclamation means. They’re ignorant of the Bible, and content with that reality. They don’t understand what God has said, yet boast as if they are fully aware. (Don’t confuse the new believer with the Theoretical Christian. The Theoretical Christian has been around a while, yet still is spiritually immature.) Unfortunately, their leaders are content to let them remain as they are. Both the Hypocritical Christian and the Theoretical Christian are corrupting the message of Jesus, and the problem is feeble church leadership. Pastors, elders, bishops, or whomever is providing leadership in God’s church need to stop being cowards, stop worrying about budget needs, and start preaching and applying truth.

3) Stop hiding. Somewhere along the lines of history, we’ve bought into the idea of playing life close to the vest. We’re afraid to let anyone know we’re not perfect, and we’re afraid to share our lives with people. We scurry to work, race back home, make an appearance at a church, speed home again, and make sure not to develop any true friendships along the way. Why can’t we talk about our marriages, our money, our kids, or our hopes and fears? This is a major factor with my second point, and it hurts our witness. The Bible says they will know we are Christ’s disciples by our love for each other. How’s that look in your life right now?

4) We’ve got to get to know people. There’s a time and place for sidewalk preachers, public prayer vigils, and silent protests. However, the critics are right when they point out Jesus’ friendship with sinners. Christians, we must develop relationships with those who don’t share our hope. Very few people have a testimony of coming to faith after a sidewalk confrontation. While many of us tell of people who loved us, listened to us, answered our questions, tolerated our nonsense, shared truth with us, and led us to the message of Jesus. I understand, and totally support, the idea that people must understand sin before they will accept a savior. We cannot present a false message of sin tolerance. However, we are not tolerating sin by being someone’s friend. There are times when I pray for my friends, times when I debate with my friends, and times when I play with my friends. Some conversations need to be about Jesus, but not all of them. Don’t be afraid to share the truth, but also be willing to share a pizza.

5) We must pray. We can debate, preach, admonish, protest, and lobby till elephants learn to type, but it will always be the Holy Spirit’s job to convict of sin and righteousness. Paul didn’t shy away from an apologetic sermon, and he wasn’t afraid to confront sin, but the man prayed like a pregnant woman eats pickles – constantly. I’m not saying to be silent. How can they hear if no one tells them? I’m just saying don’t forget to pray for them.

6) Stop inviting and start being. I speak of our flipped-turned-upside-down view of evangelism. Stop inviting your friends to church, and start being the church to your friends. The Bible repeatedly teaches to “love your neighbor as yourself,” well… do it. Bake some brownies, walk next door, knock, introduce yourself, give them the brownies, exchange phone numbers, and invite them… INTO YOUR HOME. Share a meal, share your stories, and develop a friendship. You’ll get a chance to invite them to church, once you show them the church is worth knowing about.

Will doing these things change the world tomorrow? No. But maybe if we began applying these ideas, Jesus’ message wouldn’t be misunderstood so much. Maybe people wouldn’t see the church as an agency of hate anymore? People will always disagree with God’s standards; if Jesus wasn’t immune to it, neither will you be. But, we want people resisting the message of Jesus, not resisting the agenda of people claiming to represent Him.

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5 comments

  1. I really enjoyed this article. You hit on some great points. I esp. like the point about praying. And I think that hits on a big reason why there is such offense when people encounter Christians. Jesus did offend people, but those he offended were the ones that didn’t want to admit they were sinners, those he befriended had very few illusions as to their sin. Jesus was magnetic and His love for people drew the masses, but His hard words often repelled the masses, except for a few. The love of God is a gift of the Spirit and mostly, as Christians, we think we can do this God-thing on our own, in our own strength and effort- after all, we’re saved! Unfortunately, we can be forgiven but still walk as “mere men”.
    To answer your question, why are people so often offended by Christians? Sometimes we are speck-plucking eye-pokers with no compassion or real desire to help people. We’re doing our Christian life with the same sludge leftover in the bottom of our hearts that washing the dishes gets. But sometimes people are simply offended at what they see in the mirror when the Truth is held before their eyes, and the natural deception of sin turns into an arrogant self-defense. Their hearts are hardened and they don’t like ANY implication that they might be missing the mark. Ironically, the vehement and hateful backlash that non-Christians often exhibit only further displays the sickness of heart.
    Finally, Christians will be hated no matter what the reason might be, Jesus was clear about that- He was killed after all. But I pray that we would be hated because of the world’s disdain for God, rather than our own fleshly offensiveness.

  2. It really Is about relationship. Relationship with God. Relationship with family. Relationship with others. In that order. When Paul spoke about leaders having their house in order it wasn’t that everyone was perfect, but that the relationships were all right. Having one’s home in order comes from having one’s heart in order.

    Pretending you have it all in place only leads to dead works.

  3. I enjoy your posts…was referred by a friends a while back.

    You reminded me of something I read recently by AW Tozer where he was lamenting how we Christians are struggling with living in two worlds, the sacred (spiritual) and the secular (natural). We have a hard time understanding that if Christ is living in and through us that even eating and drinking (according to apostle Paul) can be done to the glory of God.

    You mentioned in your post that Pastors shouldn’t be so concerned about budget needs and stop being cowards. Later in the post you suggested that we really need to develop closer life sharing relationships and consider having people in our homes before inviting them to church. I would suggest that the model of the western church that most Christians accept as normal tend to go against these ideas. In other words, we can’t keep doing things the same way and expect different results.

    Why have an organization with its financial obligations and then tell the leaders to pretend that numbers don’t matter? Why tell people that they ARE the church and to live in shared community then suggest they leave their home environment and go to a separate place to meet with God and his people?

    I think you touched on some great issues. I think the solutions don’t fit in the box that most will accept.

    1. You’re right, much of this doesn’t fit in our current model, especially in the campus-centric, personality driven churches. We’ve got a tendency to let the “professionals” do the ministry, and be content just showing up; this simply won’t suffice. It starts with you and me though. Knock on your neighbor’s door, introduce yourself, invite them to dinner, and see where God takes it. Be the solution! Thanks for reading.

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