taking the words of Jesus seriously

Lately, some Christians are seemingly downplaying—and encouraging others to do likewise—the attributes of God’s love and grace.

To counter the growing number of Christians who are abandoning traditional fundamentalist stances relating to issues such as gay marriage, homosexuality, abortion, environmentalism, gender roles, politics, and a litany of other topics, many evangelicals are responding by attacking the very concept of God’s love itself—rejecting and diminishing God’s inclusive love and replacing it with a message of shame, guilt, fear, and judgment.

Many see these cultural and ideological shifts as a sign of moral decline, a failure to address sin, a lack of spiritual accountability, and a foreshadowing of the end times. They derisively label messages about God’s forgiveness, grace, mercy, and love as “superficial rhetoric, ” “the accommodation gospel, ” “fluff, ” and “seeker-friendly nonsense.”

Inspirational and hopeful stories about Jesus are denounced and met with dire warnings of God’s vengeance, wrath, and “justice.” Instead of promoting the attribute of God’s love, they push His “justice, ” “righteous anger, ” and “wrath.”

Unfortunately, the definitions of salvation, repentance, sin, and what’s considered right and wrong are often self-righteously promoted by prideful religious leaders who think they are the exclusive arbitrators and owners of truth—they’re not.

Related: RIP, Rob Bell

In reality, they’re afraid to lose their influence, power, and control. After years of being the moral majority, extremely popular,   and authoritative, they’re no longer considered prominent, and many of these Christians have responded with hate, anger, defensiveness, bitterness, and fear.

Change is hard to accept for the privileged, and they’ll do anything to stop, fight, or slow down shifting doctrines that will weaken their institutions, organizations, or agendas. Thus, the revolutionary new wave of Christ-followers who are promoting love and grace and the goodness of God are seen as enemies—often not even considered “Christians.”

“Unbiblical, ” “heretical, ” and “dangerous” are terms used to describe believers who are loving those who haven’t traditionally been accepted within the church during the past.

Gays, Liberals, the Poor, and Evolutionists are being loved?! Women are being allowed to lead?! Environmentalists are preaching sermons about saving God’s creation?!

For many, these new practices are perceived as apocalyptic, rebellious, and sinful. But are things really getting worse? No.

In fact, fundamentalists tend to be revisionist historians, and they deceptively misrepresent past history as a glorious era for Christendom—it wasn’t.

Not too long ago that many “Christians” within America wiped out the Native American population, supported the Ku Klux Klan, participated in racial segregation, promoted racism, practiced sexism, and were involved in horrific abuse scandals (among other things).

Yes, there’s still a long way to go, and horrible things are still happening, but are we really worse off than we were in the past. Things are changing, but what if they’re actually changing for the better?

But the notion of Christianity moving forward in a positive direction is routinely demolished by pastors, theologians, and other Christian leaders who are seemingly obsessed with its failure—the moral downfall of Christianity and humanity.

Therefore, the message of the gospel, of Christ absurdly serving, sacrificing, and loving people so much that He would die for them, is drowned out by morbidly dark warnings, shame tactics, ruthless accusations, angry rants, manipulative sermons, fear mongering, and vicious attacks.

When this happens, shame trumps freedom, hell trumps heaven, judgment trumps grace, anger trumps forgiveness, fear trumps hope, and hate overcomes love. Christianity becomes a religion based on dos and don’t, rights and wrongs, and is a dangerous battlefield filled with land mines—explosions just waiting to happen.

It’s not as if Americans are just overcome with awe over how generous, kind, wonderful, and loving Christians are. Followers of Christ don’t exactly have the best reputation right now, but is it because we aren’t promoting enough of God’s justice, wrath, and disdain for sin? Sadly, we’ve promoted this too much and for far too long.

But loving others? We’ve failed to love as Jesus commanded us to, and we’ve applied so many conditions and prerequisites for our love that it’s become almost impossible for anyone to receive it.

The sad truth is that Christians are hurting themselves. When people “abandon Christianity”, many aren’t necessarily ashamed of Jesus, they’re just tired of being repeatedly hurt by people, organizations, institutions, communities, and the many different things that represent Him.

Christians are their own worst enemies when they try to replace God—judging, ruling, and craving power and control. When we want authority over others instead of sacrificially serving them, we’re idolizing ourselves.

Also by Stephen: Six Things I Wish Christians Would Stop Doing

God is a God of justice and judgment, and He despises sin, but of all His divine attributes, He chooses to identify with love the most. God is love. All of His other characteristics should be viewed through the perspective of His supernatural, everlasting, and limitless love.

The problem is when Christians promote characteristics of God without attaching them to His radical love. Without love, these things are meaningless, hurtful, and even hateful—the truth of Christ is subtly replaced with a lie (often under the guise of religion).

Christians are starting to promote God’s grace, mercy, and love more than ever before, but it’s ironic that Evangelicals are the ones who oppose  this the most.

Throughout the New Testament we see Jesus making His disciples extremely upset by loving those who are beyond their social, economic, religious, and cultural norms—they are forced to  go way beyond their comfort zones. Can we follow Jesus similarly, and love others as He loved us? God help us.

About The Author


Stephen Mattson is the author of "The Great Reckoning: Surviving a Christianity That Looks Nothing Like Christ." Follow him on Twitter (@StephenMattson_)

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