I recently read this critique in a book addressing what God is really like:
“If you’re a Christian that supports killing your enemy and torture, you have come up with a new name for yourself…
’Capping the enemy’ is not exactly what Jesus would do.
For almost two thousand years, Christians have been lawyering the Bible to try to figure out how ‘Love thy neighbor’ can mean ‘Hate thy neighbor…
If you’re endorsing revenge, torture or war,… you cannot say you’re a follower of the guy who explicitly said, “Love your enemy” and “Do good to those who hate you”…
And not to put too fine a point on it, but nonviolence was kind of Jesus’ trademark – kind of his big thing. To not follow that part of it is like joining Greenpeace and hating whales. There’s interpreting, and then there’s just ignoring. It’s just ignoring if you’re for torture – as are more conservative Christians than any other religion. You’re supposed to look at that figure of Christ on the Cross and think, “How could a man suffer like that and forgive?”…
I’m a non-Christian. Just like most Christians I have met.
If you ignore every single thing Jesus commanded you to do, you’re not a Christian – you’re just auditing. You are not Christ’s followers you are a fan. And if you believe the Earth was given to you to kick ass on while gloating, you’re not really a Christian – you’re a Texan.”
This satirist hits in places that can make a Christian uncomfortable, angry, defensive, and reactionary. But his hatred is directed toward un-Christlike perversions of God, the projections of religious fundamentalists. His audience finds these thoughts both comedic and tragic. But, as I consider this description, I too have to reject any portrait of God that doesn’t look like Jesus Christ. Time and space do not allow for me to unpack the full scope of the unfolding revelation of God, except to say Jesus is that full unfolding – “He who has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9).”
About every other week I am asked by someone – usually someone much younger than myself – “What does the church think about this political decision or this political statement?” The question goes toward what is your God like? What are the values by which Christians should live? What are your values?
To keep some of us from getting too derailed, I know this satirist is not anti-military, nor anti-armed forces, nor opposed to protecting our freedoms. He realizes our national freedom of speech allows him to say what he says in order to make a point and not be in fear of being imprisoned.
Just this week I was asked, “What is the church’s position on Muslims who have entered U.S. airports being detained?” The question is a variation of a certain type of question that has been asked about the church over the last fifteen years. There is a question behind the question. The searching question is, “Are you a Church that excludes and hates, or are you a church that includes and loves?”
When Jesus was challenged with this kind of question, He gave a parable. The parable was about a Samaritan who saw a Jew (his ethnic & religious enemy) who was beaten and left for dead. The Samaritan cared for, healed and had compassion for the Jew. We know the story. The man addressing Jesus was trying to justify his prejudice against others. Jesus would have none of that. He, in essence said, take care of and be compassionate toward the one not like you.
The Apostle John in his early time with Jesus was willing, along with his brother James, to call down fire from heaven on those who opposed Jesus. John, in time, became known as the Apostle of love. He wrote, “He who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him (1 John 2:11).” And, “He who loves his brother abides in the light (1 John 2:10).” I believe John got a better revelation as he walked with Jesus.
We have sent missionaries from our church to the Middle East. Those who have gone have learned the language and the culture. They have befriended, cared for, and eaten meals with Muslims in their homes. They have conversed about the Koran and about the Bible. They have had discussions about mutual and different beliefs.
The question I raise for us is: Why would we not treat Muslims in the U.S. the same way our missionaries treat Muslims in their homeland – with care, concern, respect, and hospitality? Interestingly, our missionaries have found the Muslims in the Middle East to be hospitable, warm, and welcoming. Why should it be reversed when they come to America?
Jesus said, “For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me (Matthew 25:35-36).” The listeners asked, “When?” Jesus said, “When you did it to the least of my brethren you did it to Me (Matthew 25:39-40).”
Wow! Could Jesus’ identification with those on the outside be any clearer?