So us Americans (or as us culturally relevant say, ‘Mericans) just put our patriotism on full display this past Monday. 4th of July is our day. We proudly stand up. We wear red, white, and blue tank tops; cutoff jean shorts; and our boots. We cook meat. We light stuff on fire and watch it explode. Why? Because, AMERICA! We celebrate this day to remember our day of final achievement in creating one of the greatest countries to ever be named in a history book. Our independence has come, we are one, we are America.
Freedom. Through years of turmoil, change, loss, death, we had final won our independence from Great Britain. “Dude, quit with the history lesson.” Sorry…may bad. Back to the Jesus thing. One of the few things Americans agree on is our freedom is the most prolific thing about this country. One of the few things most Christians agree on is our nation needs Jesus. “Okay, I see where you’re going. Jesus is freedom.” He ABSOLUTELY does (1 Peter 2:16, 2 Corinthians 2:16)! But no. I appreciate your effort to try to jump ahead though. While Jesus brings freedom, our nation gives us freedom to believe in Jesus, or anything else. See where I’m going, yet? Good.
There is a major issue in our country and our world. I name them two ways. Acceptance and tolerance. (They are different.) Acceptance: the action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered. Tolerance: the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with. As the Church we understand that we are at war with the world. We often complain that we feel Christians are being prejudiced against and our rights as Christians are being taken away. We aren’t necessarily wrong. But we have to understand that for us to have the freedom to worship Jesus, others have the freedom to not worship Jesus. Deep, I know. With the recent attack in Orlando we saw a specific group attacked for what was a violent act against the LGBT community. And apparently there are churches and “believers” that are almost praising the attacker or justifying this act as “judgement on gays.” To the LGBT community, the Church is hurting for you. This is not something we wanted to happen. This is not something we have prayed for. This is not something we take joy in. Christians if you could, imagine if this happened to a group of us on such a large scale? Or smaller? Charleston, South Carolina. June 17th, 2015. Nine people were killed during a prayer meeting. How we hurt for each other! We hurt for that specific church. We hurt for their families.Our faith was being attacked at home.
“What are you getting at, Samwell? Dumb name btw.” I know it was all I could think of. but listen to me Church. You want people to love us?
Simple, I know. But the power our love carries is often overlooked. How is acceptance and tolerance different? You as a human being do not have to accept and adopt the beliefs of everyone you met. Could you imagine how crazy that would be? But we must understand that as much as we disagree with a person, religion, lifestyle, whatever the case may be, if we do not allow them to have the freedom to do so, we preach a gospel of hate and damnation. Not the gospel truth of hope, love, and redemption. Take a look at Matthew 22:
“He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”
Pharisees (the bad guys of the New Testament) asked Jesus what is the greatest command from God? What a pickle they put Jesus in, eh? HA! Nah. Jesus’s response was to first, love God, and second, love people. Jesus said the whole truth of God’s word depended on these two aspects. Sure we love God. I go to church every Sunday. I read the Bible the other day. I pray over my food. My current Pandora station is All Sons & Daughter radio, after my Taylor Swift station, of course. (No one else? Oh.) Heck, I even teach a small group. But…do we truly love people? Do we truly love the things created in God’s image? Jesus was saying the truth and devotion of our lives to hime depend not only on our love of God but our love of people. We can love people. We can hang out with people that do not necessarily love Jesus, church, the Bible, yada yada yada. We can have Muslim friends. We can have gay friends. We can have Hispanic friends. We can have tall friends, short friends, and in-between friends. Immersing ourselves in a false sense of Christianity doesn’t get us into heaven. Loving the “unloveable” and caring for all is our reciprocation of Jesus.
Am I saying to accept beliefs and values contrary to our own. NO. Our beliefs are based off of the truth of Jesus Christ. Am I saying that if they don’t believe Jesus make them accept Him? NO. You can’t do that. Love people. Spend time with people. Love Jesus.
Remember, just as people have the freedom not to believe in Jesus, we still have the freedom to glorify His name and proclaim it to the nations.