I love Jesus. I do. And I want to teach my daughter to love Jesus, too. I want her to meet this awesome Power that has literally changed my life. I want her to know that her being an intellectual, a critical thinker, is not, in any way, at war with her being a woman of faith. But recently, as I’m subject to such foolishness as this, I find myself wanting to teach her that she can love Jesus without hating anyone else.
Does my faith teach me that there are certain behaviors and ways of living in this world that align with the will of God and others that don’t?
Sure it does.
Is it okay that there is (or at least should be) a way of living that followers of Christ are asked to adhere to that is significantly different from societal and/or cultural norms?
I’d like to think so. The early apostles who preached Jesus in the midst of Roman rule and Greek philosophical perspectives are models for this very thing.
But so many of my fellow *cough* brothers and sisters (hey, the ignorant need grace too!) have jumped the shark in their efforts to rep for our Lord.
It’s a prerogative of mine (and yours) to believe that our “way” is the only way. In fact, I would certainly hope that anyone who invests both heart and life into a faith-driven lifestyle would do so. What would be the point otherwise? But at the heart of the gospel is the idea that I am the hands and feet of Jesus on the Earth. That, although terribly imperfect, I can somehow be Christ-like, particularly as it relates to others.
I guess the Westboro folks (and those like them) didn’t get the memo.
Or maybe they haven’t really looked at the Christ of the Bible lately, because their version of Christ-like behavior looks very different from what’s on the pages of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And trust, there is no translation discrepancy here. I don’t see their Jesus in the NIV, the KJV, the NASB, the ESV, the Greek, or the Aramaic. He just isn’t there.
See, the Jesus they are presenting to the world would have rolled up on the Samaritan Woman and said, “You’re a whore! You know you are a whore. Now stop whoring and follow me.”
Or, when considering Matthew, the tax collector, for “membership” into the disciples crew, THEIR Jesus would have said, “Yo, you’ve been ripping people off. You’re a swindler. I don’t know if you are a ‘fit’ here.”
(Actually, the only time we really see Jesus going off is when He’s coming for the religious of the day. Yeah, I said it.)
In the case of the Samaritan woman, the Christ I see in scripture actually engages the woman (who, by the way, society said was not worthy of his time, him being male, Jewish and a Rabbi and all) without judgment or harsh words. He doesn’t validate her behavior but he doesn’t condemn her either. What he does do is extend to her an invitation to get to know Him. He showed love to her and graced her in her past transgressions.
Oh and Jesus didn’t run up on those fishermen and farmers and the tax collector and lay out his 10-point criteria for being in His crew. He didn’t make Peter feel bad because he smelled like fish. He wasn’t trippin’ because Matthew was in what was then a dishonorable profession.
He just said, “Follow me.”
There was something about Him so amazing, so intriguing that it made them all drop everything and see what this faith thing was all about.
One thing is for sure: What drew them (and what draws most of us) was NOT horrific, insulting signs, yelling outside of funerals, Twitter beefing with Blake Shelton or lessons on how to troll the Internet looking for gay people to shun.
*puts on my mommy lenses*
There are things my daughter will learn from me and there are things that she will “catch” from me. Lord knows that as much as I want her to get some Jesus way down deep in her soul, the last thing I want for her to do is to roll up on her fellow kindergarten classmates screaming, “My mommy said that Jesus said that you shouldn’t lie on me (or wear that shirt or steal the chalk)!” We all know how that will turn out, right? And then I’ll end up needing bail money because some child has hit my baby and some mother or school is apathetic. I will have to hang my Holy Ghost on the shelf and… well, let’s just say that it’s better for all of us that she learns how to love her neighbor.
At the end of the day, it’s best that she catches me loving Jesus by loving others… regardless of whether or not they believe what I believe. Modeling love and peace and grace is what draws people. It’s what makes them drop everything and see what this faith thing is all about.
You can never go wrong with love. You can never err by extending grace.
Even to the ignorant, I suppose.
Tracey Michae'l is a writer and educator based out of the Philadelphia area. She is a wife to William and a mother to a beautiful two-year old little girl. You can find her on the web at www.traceymlewis.com.