“And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Brennan Manning said, “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
I was a teenager in the 90’s, and I remember when DC Talk released their album “Jesus Freak” and popped this quote at the start of their song, “What if I stumble.” I was a fan. (I'm not alone, right?). It was a Youth Pastor's dream come true! Haha! And many used it as a segway to deter their young people from sex, drugs and rock and roll, because, after all, “we don’t want to turn people into atheists by not being Christ-like, right?
If all the gospel does is turn us into perfectly behaved and well-dressed people, cookie cutter, all the same, then I am out!
Here's the thing. I’ve been a Christian since I was a kid. My parents were Senior Pastors. I went to church every Sunday. I attended all the conferences, all the concerts, all the camps, I responded to all (ok, most) of the altar calls. I went to Bible College. I read and highlighted my bible every day, I prayed, I witnessed, I repented… and you know what? I still sinned. And I still do.
“Behaviour modification is not the point of the Gospel. Resurrection is.”
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Healing. Wholeness. Grace. Awake and aware of the Divine and his love for us and all of humanity. That's the point.
What causes people to question God more than anything is not when we drink a little too much at a party, or tell a questionable joke, or we hurt a close friend, or betray a loved one, or swear, or lie, or stuff up… this stuff doesn't make you a bad christian (whatever that means), it makes you a human. Underneath all our actions and behaviours are certain beliefs about ourselves and others; certain offenses and misunderstandings; certain ideas and truths, that influence the way we live and walk through our lives. What causes people to doubt God's existence more than anything are those underlying features: hatred, division, segregation, racism, misogyny, consumerism, fame centred gospel, greed… when we say we love Jesus, but we turn away widows, orphans and the poor. When we say love Jesus but we refuse to cross party and boundary lines and show his love to those who hold to other faith traditions and convictions. When we say we love Jesus, but we don’t listen, see or even acknowledge the outsider, the foreigner, those who are different. When we say love Jesus but we refuse to love our enemy or to cross the street to help someone in need no matter who they are or where they have come from.
It's these things that the “unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
Now, I’m not saying that rapists and murderers and child abusers, and people who steal and lie and cheat and hurt other people should get off the hook because “Justice, mercy, humility.“ It's important and right that people take responsibility for their actions and how they affect others. We need to keep our children and society safe, and sometimes that means removing people from society. I get it. So does God. He's very practical that way.
But he still loves those people. His justice and mercy extend to them. His grace abounds towards them, and he offers his forgiveness and inclusion to them. We always have a choice when faced with darkness and evil, hurt and pain. We can lash out back at them, or we can forgive. Or walk the road of forgiveness.
There is probably nothing harder to do in life. I know. But there’s also probably nothing that best reflects the cross more, both in its example and in its power.
Take a moment today to consider justice and mercy and how you walk through life. Don’t let your relationship with the Divine be lip service. Let it change the way you live in a healing and humble way so that you too, can reach out with justice and mercy. Always learning, always growing, always walking.
Written by Liz Milani