A Place to Belong

There was once a guy who taught great things and changed the lives of millions. He meditated day and night, taught his followers all his ways and spread the gift of love, understanding and acceptance. We’ve all heard the stories. We all know his name.

Some of us cringe at the thought of walking in the church doors, other feel at home in the midst of it all. The Christian church has become stigmatized as a judgmental, strict, uncaring, closed minded entity that has no care or concern for those who don’t, or refuse to live their lives according to the “rule book” that is the Bible.

To those people who believe that Jesus or Christianity is about any of those things, I apologize from the bottom of my heart for the circumstances, people and places that led you to believe this is true. This was NOT the way that it was supposed to be, and I guarantee you those that preach hate are not representing the God they think they are.

Christianity was meant, from the beginning, to be about love, acceptance and freedom. If God wanted us to be perfect beings and to never make mistakes, he would have made us robots. There are few churches that I’ve found representing every Christ-like ideal. Although perfection will never be warranted, there are many things on which we can improve. The places that have it right are the ones that emulate love; they’re hard to miss once you’re in, but may be hard to find due to their humility.

I went to a church in college that practiced full acceptance. They turned no one away, welcomed every walk of life into their doors and treated everyone like family. The pastor taught a sermon on evangelism one Sunday that contradicts what many churches practice today. He emphasized a particular pattern of growth as a Christian.

Belong. Believe. Behave.

Now, before we jump to conclusions about what any particular word entails, let me explain. A person who checks out the whole “church thing” is probably nervous about entering a new environment with new people. The church’s responsibility is to give them a place to belong. Welcoming them, whomever they may be, into their church, their homes and their lives.

After spending time with people who exhibit God’s accepting love, the person may begin to believe in God and the Bible. The new Christian has now begun a relationship with God. This is where many churches begin to lose focus. Believing in God does not mean that a person’s behavior will automatically change. Many Christian organizations preach that God changes hearts when a person commits their life to believing in Him.

While I believe this is partially true, I also believe that God created humans with human nature. We want what we want, no mater what the cost and we want it now. If a person commits to believing in God, and eventually wants to begin a lasting relationship with Him, their behavior will not change because of a set of commandments that the Bible lays out. Their hearts will want to become closer to God, and in doing so their behavior will be molded into a healthier, more substantial way of living.

God changes hearts. Not books, not people, not churches. God. And if Christians are willing to put their time and effort into living a life led by their Creator, it should be one that exemplifies His love, His kindness and His compassion.

In today’s world, it’s easy to turn away from the God of the Bible. Too many people share their faith in that God by being judgmental, using shocking imagery and preaching hate. None of these examples exhibit humility, which is one of the prime characteristics of a godly man or woman.

There are many criticisms of God and the Bible; however, I honestly believe there would be less if more Christians started acting more like Christ. No matter how hard we may try, perfection will never be attained by man, but there is one thing that is for certain: unconditional love is a good place to start.

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