Sunday, 3 February 2013

I’m A Christian And I’m Sorry: An Open Letter by Joel Spencer

INTRODUCTION

1 Corinthians 12:12-14 “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many.”

Who is this mysterious “Body”? What is She speaking as an entity in this hour? As I look around and see what the Christian majority say and do, I often feel like the Body of Christ has a severe identity crisis. She says one thing and does another. She condemns and calls out yet continually fails to love as She’s been loved-unconditionally. She critiques and judges but when the tables are turned She declares “How dare you!?!?” I believe that the entire world is watching and wondering what Christianity is today. What brand of Christianity is the real one? What denomination has it all right? Why do Christians have so much division, within themselves and with others outside of the Church? What moves Us, motivates Us and drives Us to speak and act as We do? Do We really think that We have all the answers and need to demand all others follow or else they’re damned? Is Our primary motivation releasing God’s Kingdom upon this earth or is it tradition and personal preference? Arrogance, pride and elitism seem to drive Us as a people and I believe that it grieves the heart of God.

I often get frustrated and ultimately saddened as I talk with people about the American brand of Christianity. It’s extraordinarily popular (not at all a narrow way that few are finding) and is primarily rooted in advancing a “Christianized” kingdom of men. It demands following a set of guidelines that almost always contradicts the teachings of Jesus. It calls you to elevate yourself (and your nation) to be a strong-willed overcomer that leads all others and never backs down from a confrontation. Most Believers hate to discuss this and over the years I’ve learned that offense is an absolute surety. I’ve received more verbal condemnation and experienced more juvenile name-calling from other Believers over questioning their personal beliefs than I’ve ever received from non-Believers when discussing Christianity. Some friends and family have clearly chosen to distance themselves from my wife and me for what we believe. It’s this lack of willingness to admit any possible error or to even discuss how biblical Christianity may differ from popular Christianity that I believe is leading the Body of Christ down a deeper and deeper pit of false representation of Jesus Christ. I will never be the absolute source for all that is Christianity. I’m flawed and only by God’s grace will I ever be empowered to share His truth accurately.

Where We all go from here is the challenge. It’s a challenge because it’s an individual decision to embrace the all-others-before-myself life that Christ modeled for us. It cannot be adopted as a church requirement or membership guideline. It’s not something that just happens either. One must deliberately choose to die to their own selfish desires and willingly abandon all that this temporal world has to offer our carnal pleasures for control, power and status. It’s appalling that the patterns of this world have simply been adopted by Christianity. Bigger, better, stronger is the Christian motto of the times. Be your best you! Win! Lead! Be the superior one in all you do! When I study the teachings of Christ, I just can’t buy into it. The world, this nation, our cities, our neighbors see Us as egotistical and judgmental and We’re somehow entirely OK with that. When do We embrace humility and become servants of all?

So I wonder, where are the ones willing to lay down their lives for others? Where are the ones who eagerly take the lower position in order for another to be lifted? Where are the Believers that would even consider setting aside their personal preferences for a moment in order to study and see if it is in alignment whatsoever with the Word of God? Where are the ones who are willing to openly assess whether or not their personal belief system and the actions that come out of it line up with what Jesus commands and instructs the Believer? More and more I’m arriving at this destination: I cannot and will never be able to do anything about majority Christianity’s actions. Although compelled to address them since they say with their mouths that we share one Body, I’m beginning to call it what it is and tend to my own pursuit of dying to self and pursuing Christ-likeness. So with that in mind, I compiled a list of what I would like to say to others outside of the Church, moreso with my life than with my mouth. But I will start here and venture out to redefine who people have been led to believe the Body of Christ to be.

If the Body of Christ continues down this same path, unwilling to honestly and openly assess who We are and how the world sees Us, generations to come will grow more and more disinterested in the God that we profess to know and the Jesus that we claim to represent. Friends, we must fall to our knees and implore God to strip away all pretenses that hold us back from properly embodying His agenda in our generation. We cannot continue in our arrogance and pride as this age approaches its culmination.

The following posts in this series will address, categorically, how I’ve personally witnessed the Body of Christ respond to several issues and specifically, people groups for nearly forty years now (myself included, for many years). That’s followed by what my personal, deliberate response to these issues will be going forward. I implore you to take the time to read the Scriptures listed. If you skip over them, you miss the entire motive behind every topic addressed. If we Who profess to live as Christ do not adhere to His teachings above all other laws, teachings and traditions, we’ll be destined to continue failing to effectively show Christ to others as we have in the past.

PART 1

To the Homosexual, yes, I am a Christian but I’m sorry that we’ve judged you and treated you as though you’re entirely objectionable and vile. I’m sorry that we’ve rallied against you and stooped so low as to enter into childish arguments with you that just make us look conceited and foolish. I won’t fear you or condemn you just because I’m incapable of properly understanding you. I have been shown unconditional love by Jesus Christ and I now intend to show you the same. I do believe that homosexuality is a sin, just as are many things that are in my own life as well. With that in mind, l will choose to establish love for you in my innermost being before even considering to address your sin issues for I have enough of my own.

1 Peter 3:8-9 “All of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.”

Philippians 2:3 “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.”

To the men and women who live in the streets of this nation, yes, I am a Christian but I’m sorry that We’ve neglected you. We’ve belittled you because when we see you, we cannot relate to your circumstances. We’ve said under our breath that you somehow must deserve your current condition and that has been haughty and prideful of Us. I’m sorry we’ve created sterile environments within our buildings that aren’t welcoming or inviting to you. Perhaps most of all I’m sorry that our heated and air conditioned buildings sit primarily empty 140 hours a week yet you cannot stay within them. I choose to see you. I choose to take time out of my daily routine to stop and get to know you, not because I pity you but because you’re beautifully created in God’s image and you have value. I choose to help you anyway that I can, financially or otherwise. My Jesus sees you and is close to you, no matter what your circumstance.

Luke 6:34 “If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount.”

1 John 3:17 “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?”

Mark 9:41 “For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward.”

Luke 14:7-11 “And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table, saying to them, ‘When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

If the Body of Christ continues down this same path, unwilling to honestly and openly assess who We are and how the world sees Us, generations to come will grow more and more disinterested in the God that we profess to know and the Jesus that we claim to represent. Friends, we must fall to our knees and implore God to strip away all pretenses that hold us back from properly embodying His agenda in our generation. We cannot continue in our arrogance and pride as this age approaches its culmination.

To the Murderer, yes, I am a Christian but I’m sorry that we’ve raised handfuls of stones in anger and retaliation to take your life because you took someone else’s. I’ll be the first to admit, it’s hard in an age and culture so corrupt and vile to know how to respond correctly to what you’ve done but just discarding you like trash, only worthy of death cannot be the only solution. If I get the chance to talk with you, I’d like to discuss how every action of man is led by a deep-seeded will that’s guided by forces unseen. I believe that my wrestling is not against you, but against those in high places who persuaded you to act out of an evil heart. I too have been under the curse of these and have been set free by Jesus Christ. I believe that, because the Word of God tells me such, that there must be a way to overcome evil with good. I honestly don’t have a good response to recompense properly what you’ve done but I will first choose to love you as Christ has loved me, one ranked among the greatest of all sinners. (Christians rally against abortion to no end, clearly stating that it’s murder. Despite this, I’ve yet to hear of anyone attempting to justify chasing down the young women who have them, demanding they too be given the death penalty for doing so. We’ve embraced double standards for far too long.) I will love you for I too have housed murder in my evil heart of stone before Jesus exchanged it.

Romans 12:18-21 “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. ‘But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

PART 2

To the elected leaders of this nation, yes, I am a Christian and I’m sorry that we’ve failed to pray for you with an honest and pure heart. I’m sorry that we constantly tear you down with our words and primarily only discuss you as juveniles with scornful Facebook messages and hate-filled rhetoric. I will pray for you whether I agree with your decisions or not. I will believe that Jesus Christ Himself will visit you and lead you to a knowledge of Who He is, should you open yourself to Him. I won’t blindly and ignorantly assume that one’s involvement in a political party somehow determines one’s personal spiritual condition. I commit to pray for you whether I personally agree with your agenda or not.

1 Timothy 2:1-4 “I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

To the poor and hungry that live throughout neighborhoods all over this land, yes, I am a Christian and I’m sorry that Our priorities are primarily self-centered. We’ve chosen to erect luxurious buildings and fill them with flat screens, elaborate sound systems, light shows and entirely unnecessary comforts. We spend our personal money on electronics and nice cars. We buy our elementary-age children iPads, wear designer clothes and live in high-end housing while you’re passed over and thrown occasional bags of cheap, canned food (if you meet certain criteria). I’m sorry We’ve not taken care of you like Jesus instructed us to. In doing so, we’ve not just neglected you, We’ve neglected the very One that We claim to represent. I will share my food with you. I will strive to live a less “me” oriented lifestyle. I will choose to continually let go of the comforts of this world so that I might better help care for you. Jesus is your friend and knows your every need.

Deuteronomy 15:7-8 “If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks.”

Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because he has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor.”

Luke 14:12-14 “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Luke 12:33 “Sell your possessions and give to the poor; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys.”

To the atheists of the world, yes, I am a Christian and I’m sorry that We as a people are largely biblically illiterate and can therefore only respond to most of your questions with “it’s all about faith”. We’re threatened by your knowledge and ability to debate your side and therefore resort to name-calling and religious pride to hollowly “defend” ourselves when We feel threatened. I choose to admit that I don’t have all of the answers and I never will. Furthermore, I’ve studied for myself the origins of this nation and I don’t believe that they articulate whatsoever a biblical foundation upon the teachings of Christ. Therefore I don’t believe it should be demanded of you that you believe or else you’re not “patriotic” enough for this falsely-monikered “Christian” nation. Man-made religion is not the answer to everything and your non-belief is your freedom just as believing is mine. Many of you are more moral and actively pursuing good than Us and that’s surely an embarrassing matter that We must address. I won’t fear you or write you off as evil just because you don’t believe like I do. I will be determined to study the Scriptures more so that I can be better equipped to respond to challenges and questions that you might have. I believe that discussions with those possessing differing opinions is actually extremely healthy and beneficial for a thriving spiritual life.

Ephesians 4:1-2 “I implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love.”

PART 3

To the martyrs and saints who have gone before Us, yes, I am a Christian and I’m sorry that We’ve seemingly forgotten the legacy that you intended to leave behind. We’ve forsaken even the slightest possibility of persecution and traded it in for conformity and comfort. We know not what you endured outside of topical reading and fond recollections in sermons. We teach Our children about you and what you did for the cause of Christ but then encourage them to never ruffle feathers or ever go against the grain. We dishonor you by living lives of silence and secret. I choose to remember what you did Stephen. I choose to meditate on your death and how you were full of the Spirit until you breathed your last breath. As you I choose to keep my gaze on Christ and off of the coming persecutions of this world, even those that will and already have come, from the mouths of those Who claim to follow my Jesus.

Matthew 5:11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Hebrews 11:35-38 “Others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.”

Romans 12:14 “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”

To the other nations that We’ve proudly invaded and eradicated in the name of global peace and our own safety, yes, I am a Christian and I’m sorry that We feel the need to play the role of God throughout the entire globe for our own personal expansion. Wars waged in God’s name produce financial gain and flex global muscle and might for this nation whilst pilfering the lives of our (and your) sons and daughters. We call it patriotism and giving the “enemy” what they have coming to them as well as coming to your aid, even if you don’t desire it. Bible verses that state phrases like “be strong and courageous” have been misconstrued to justify carrying out military agendas in natural strengths. In fact though, such verses are speaking of spiritual might and valor not earthly gain. We’ve sworn our allegiance to a flag instead of to the teachings of Jesus, Our one true King. This nation is not God’s favorite and I don’t expect you to look to Us to be your role model. I understand that biblically, global peace is not in the future of any of the kingdoms of men. Wars and rumors of wars will continue to affect us all until this age comes to an end. That being said, I will choose to lay down any vengeful, wrath-induced desires to eradicate you from existence that may want to rise up within my flesh, induced by patriotic “rights” that I’ve been led to believe I must execute at any cost. You too are created from dust as I, held together by God’s hand. Only His lovingkindness and mercy can save either of us.

1 Thessalonians 5:13-22 “Live in peace with one another. We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.”

To the illegal aliens of this nation, yes, I am a Christian and I’m sorry that We have treated you as though you’re not welcome here. We double-speak as we revel in the arrival of past generations to this land of freedom yet we despise you and (especially) your children in our schools. I’m sorry We forget that you are created in God’s image as We are yet We treat you as a lowly detriment to our society. I choose to be more concerned with whether or not you personally know Jesus Christ than I am for paying for your health care. I will take steps to get to know you when given the opportunity, despite our differences and cultural discrepancies. Jesus recognizes no races and creeds.

Romans 12:16 “Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.”

Matthew 25:40 “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.”

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