Ever give something valuable to someone and then find that they didn’t take care of it or appreciate it?
Sometimes I think that’s the way God must feel about Christianity.
The premise of Christianity is actually very simple; it is the enduring “Good news” that restores and invites people to renewal, forgiveness and literally a new life.
The Bible tells us over and over what this looks like – and clarifies what our part in it is; we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, be ‘ambassadors’ of God’s kingdom in our lives and live out the ‘golden rule; we are to treat others the way we would like to be treated
It’s actually not that complicated.
But we just won’t do it.
I hear many Americans use the term “we want our country back!”
I understand that – but I want my faith back.
I want a Christianity that opens, not closes, I want a Christianity that forgives, releases and restores, not that condemns, judges and excludes.
I want a Christianity that welcomes and invites, not threatens and fears.
The word for ‘love’ (as in love your neighbor) literally means to welcome. The word ‘hate’ in the New Testament comes from the word ‘shun’.
As Americans, and as Christians, we have become masters of ‘shunning’. We have laws, rules, guns, walls and border fences in abundance to let the world (and God) know that we will protect what is ours from anyone who we decide is not worthy of it.
God tells us on almost every page of the New Testament to open our hearts, our wallets and even (gasp!) our homes. We are urged to give cheerfully (a better definition would be ‘hilariously’).
But we don’t want to do it.
We don’t want others to treat us they way we are treating them.
We don’t want to do the basic human courtesy and decency of caring for a stranger in need (like the good Samaritan).
And we certainly don’t want to do what God explicitly tells us to do.
We’d far rather be selfish, possessive, controlling and fearful.
I can’t imagine how we got here.
In the summer of 2015, the government of Austria put up a huge fence to keep out desperate Syrian refugees.
Their official explanation was that they were ‘defending their Christian heritage’.
What kind of “Christian heritage’ requires, justifies or even tolerates blocking people from refuge, keeping them from food, shelter and safety?
What kind of ‘Christian heritage’ is actually cheered by a fence that ensures that families will be exposed, vulnerable and will almost certainly suffer and die on our doorstop?
We do the same with laws that keep poor people from voting, that keep some people from getting married and forces immigrants to live in constant fear.
When children cross our borders for even a glimpse of freedom, safety and opportunity, do we welcome them or do we add to their pain and suffering?
It is obvious what God calls us to do.
It is obvious what any civil human being would do.
It’s obvious what we would want done if we were in that position.
But the walls keep being built. Laws and prisons and restrictions seem to multiply before our eyes.
Call it protectionism, call it nationalism, call it patriotism, call it protecting what is ours. Call it anything you want.
Just don’t call it Christianity.
Don’t tell me that God loves your country more than my country.
Don’t tell me that God loves your people more than my people.
Probably the most widely known Bible verse, John 3:16, puts these two ideas together; God loves the whole world and because of that love, eagerly, gladly and generously gives sacrificially.
We as believers, and as disciples, are also called to love and give sacrificially.
The “Good news” is immediate, practical and situational – and it is in our hands.
But if there’s ever a hint of coercion, shame, blame or persecution, call it what it is.
But don’t call it Christianity.
If it brings out the worst – not the best – call it anything, but don’t call it Christianity.
If it confirms self-righteousness, personal biases or justifies disrespect, call it what it is, but don’t call it Christianity.
If it doesn’t encourage, lift up and restore everyone it touches, it’s false, fake or toxic.
Don’t call it Christianity.
If you profit from it and it costs you nothing, it isn’t Christianity.
And if it doesn’t fill you with delight, hope, patience and compassion, don’t call it Christianity.
You can call it fascism, millennialism, Communism or any other utopian or dystopian fantasy, just don’t call it Christianity.
You can call it imperialism, colonialism or xenophobia, just don’t call it Christianity.
A few years ago, a popular Christian concept was to ‘think Christianly’.
I am not at all convinced that is anywhere near what faith calls us to. The real “Good news”, if it is to mean anything to a waiting, broken world, is not ‘thinking Christianly’; it is ‘living Christianly’.