I am a straight white Christian male from the Buckle of the Bible Belt, but I swear I’m not an asshole. Please don’t stop reading. There are lots of other straight white Christian males who are acting anything but decent, and they’ve given the rest of us a really bad name. For that, I sincerely apologize.
If you know a Christian who regularly acts like a jerk, send this article their way. I used to be one, but I’ve learned a thing or two in the past fifteen years, since dropping out of ministry school. Here are three things I’ve done to be a Christian without being a jerk.
1. Look beyond the labels.
Love your neighbor. If those are three of the most famous words Jesus ever spoke, why isn’t our entire theology based on that? Why aren’t we looking at the command to love our neighbor as a theological argument, instead of just a pleasant “Christian attitude” or posture? When Jesus gave the command to love, he was calling us to faithful action, not social politeness.
The overall balance of Scripture points to loving, caring for, and supporting our brothers and sisters — our neighbors, especially our friends in different cultures and with less political and religious power than us — above all else. Aren’t we called to show mercy and love because Christ first loved us? The character of Jesus is one of compassion and love. As his follower, I never need to justify my love for my neighbor.
Jesus was far more concerned with love than judgment. Plenty of people live sterilized religious lives and can quote the Bible cover-to-cover, but don’t give a damn about their neighbor. Once we stop arguing our dogmas long enough to see the person behind the labels, all the cultural norms, and political or theological debates don’t matter. Jesus is calling us to see each person as a human being who was intricately formed in their mother’s womb by God, who has an identity and a purpose in Christ.
2. Stop talking and just listen.
Even if you don’t like the person across the aisle or on the other side of the screen, even if you vehemently disagree with the political ideologies of your neighbors or “friends” on social media … can you hear them?
Can you slow down long enough to allow respect for the humanity of another person? Can you choose decency over pride and ego? Can you choose silence long enough to make eye contact, remembering that at the end of the day, none of us have this thing all figured out? Can you choose to be kind, when you are dying to be right?
3. Love the person in front of you.
Loving those we disagree with is tough work. And yet, I think Jesus was acutely aware of the struggle when he commanded us to do it anyway.
Love compels me to go to the outskirts of society and welcome everyone. Love expects me to act with kindness toward those who don’t think, act, vote, talk, dress, worship, or look like me. Love reminds me that a lack of compassion is in direct opposition to the message of Jesus. Love demands that I put aside childish pride, to serve everyone
Love calls me to embrace “the least of these, ” and that includes difficult people and the ones I just don’t understand. Love makes space for differences, dysfunction, disease, and doubts. Love beckons me away from the Christian Machine and empowers me to walk my journey of faith with boldness. Love is the Divine Call to Action; it comes with no strings attached and no exceptions.
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