There I was, minding my own business downtown in a big city when a guy walks up across the street, pulls out his bullhorn and starts yelling all sorts of horrible, hate-filled, hell-fueled words at everyone who was walking by.
I cringed, sunk down in my chair, and hoped no one recognized me as a minister of the religion the bullhorn guy was claiming to represent.
I wanted to walk across the street and debunk every misquote. I wanted to yell over him the loving words of Jesus “Come to me all who are tired and overburdened and I will give you rest.” I didn’t because I didn’t want to start a public fight as an opening act to his concert of hate.
But, he was quoting the Bible right?
Well, yes. There are a handful of random verses that you can pluck out of their context and use to slice and dice people as they walk by on a street corner, but when you take the whole of Christian scripture the vast majority Christians discover a God of love not hate, a God of healing not sickness, a God of acceptance not rejection, a God of hope not despair, a God of forgiveness not condemnation.
That is the God that the Christian next door or in the cubicle across from you serves. That is the reason they wake up early on Sunday and spend some of their vacation days serving at the soup kitchen downtown.
That is why they keep going when they mess up and ask forgiveness when they hurt you.
So, I’m sorry if you have been hurt by one of these rogue Christian knock-offs. I want to apologize for all the times you may have been yelled at by the bullhorn guy, accosted by the hellfire pamphlet person or disgusted by a tear-filled preacher asking for money on TV.
Know that we are as irritated as you are by all those twisted versions of our love and grace-filled faith. And, if you are willing, we’d love a second chance. We’d love to have the opportunity to introduce you to the faith that billions of people find transforming and empowering.
We’d be honored to let you see the supporting community inside our churches and let you experience our love. Because it’s love that Jesus told us should be our hallmark. It is love that best expresses the truth of our faith.
That’s why Jesus said “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35) So please, seek that out. Judge us by love. When you find it, you will know you have found true disciples of Jesus Christ.