Tuesday, September 7, 2010

They'll know we are Christians by our ... rage?

For the past three years I've led a prayer meeting at work every Tuesday afternoon, originally in response to contract negotiations but which has since become more general in focus, and we pray regularly for the state of the nation and the church. After today's meeting one of my co-workers, in reaction to the anger demonstrated by some who call themselves believers, made the above comment.

I have to agree. For the past 30 years, I've noticed that many of us who claim Jesus Christ and Savior and LORD have nevertheless seemed to get very, very hot at a moment's notice. First, that rage was directed toward the "secular humanists"; later it was "liberals" and the Democratic Party, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, the U.S. Supreme Court, Congress, Muslims and others have become targets of our ire. You may have heard about the church in Gainesville, Fla. that intends to hold a Qur'an-burning ceremony on Saturday -- of course the ninth anniversary of 9/11.

Why is this?

Well, I would say because we've become too "worldly," believing that everyone else owes us allegiance -- to our culture, our values, our ways of doing things to a point that we expect everyone to bow down to us and when they don't ... Indeed, a story in Psychology Today last year focusing upon right-wing pundit Ann Coulter brought out that the people who tend to blow up so easily are those who feel entitled (as opposed to the trod-upon). Frankly, it sounds as though people want vengeance.

We should understand, however, that demanding our rights -- and especially since we generally don't agitate or work for the rights of anyone else -- can actually turn people against not only us but also Jesus; in fact, I think it's already done so in many cases. Already Gen. David Petraeus has warned that the church's plainly foolhardy stunt might, and probably will, cause problems for American troops in the Middle East.

This is also why I have grave concerns about Christians' participation in the "tea-party" movement, which has always had a tone of anger and blame to it. It's not that they don't have a right to their opinion, but I don't seem them doing anything but venting -- no specific plan, no consultations with those who disagree to try to work things out. (Some have even denounced the "Coffee Party" precisely because it calls for civility in political debate.)

Anyway, what's missing is a sense of grace. You know, that five-letter word without which we don't get into the Kingdom of God in the first place and consequently how we're supposed to regard others. It's easy to do that with people you're already close to, but what about those we see as enemies?

Well, what would Jesus do? Well, we have in idea. Remember that He was unjustly executed for sedition because He claimed to be a king -- and took the punishment. Yes, ultimately for our sins, but keep in mind that on the cross He also said, "Father, forgive them, because they don't know what they're doing." And I'm not so arrogant to believe that, were I a first-century Jew, I wouldn't have been calling for His death.

I think that's what we need to reconsider. One of the slogans in 12-step culture is "But for the grace of God ... " If we would become a people of grace, the kind that Jesus demonstrated toward people who just didn't "get it right," perhaps we would get people to consider the claims of Christ on their own. (Or perhaps more accurately, let God draw them.) Displaying constant rage, on the other hand, just won't cut it.

1 comment:

James Watkins said...

Amen, brother! (I think Jesus spends his day just shaking his head.)