10 Ways American Christians Are Compromising Our Own Testimony In The World

Great article!

john pavlovitz

Not listening

If this were a prize fight, organized Christianity wouldn’t quite be knocked out yet, but it would certainly be on the ropes and we’d be way behind on points coming to the bell.

It’s no secret that people are leaving the Church in record numbers and although they may not all be rejecting Jesus, they are surely saying no to the faith that bears his name—and for many good reasons.

I spend a great deal of my time each day listening to many of these good folks and they educate me. Based on what I see from where I am and what I’ve learned from nearly two decades in church ministry, here are some ways we Christians are obscuring Jesus and hurting people, and severely damaging our testimony in the world in the process:

1) Vilifying non-Christians.

In the face of attrition and growing public ambivalence, too many Christians and Christian leaders lazily lean back on attack language…

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Take it out on me

Hesitantly, I publish this….
A year ago, even a month ago, I wasn’t in such a mindset to really even consider such things. I’m starting to learn more to live loved by Jesus and that’s doing crazy things to my heart. I’m beginning to hurt for those that are being hurt by rigid stances and religious rules that promote hate. I told Jesus a couple of weeks ago that I don’t really love others like he does, asking him to help me out, and my heart has been tenderized immensely since then in unexpected ways. I know many around me may not notice this going on, other than me being even more contemplatively quiet. The majority of my thoughts and emotions tend to be turned inward and the primary way I can organize them to be understood externally is through writing.
So…I’m providing this opportunity for anyone who feels the need to direct hatred at someone else, for any reason, to take it out on me instead. Use the contact form to say whatever you need to say. I will keep your info through the contact form private (appropriate comments below will still be displayed). I will not report you or retaliate against you. If you need an outlet but cannot bring that hatred to Jesus, then take it out on me if you must.
Call me demonic, baby killer, gay-lover, heretic, backslider, or whatever term you may feel like assigning to me or someone else. Jesus was called similar things so it will be good company. With Jesus’ help, I will absorb that hate.
I’m not trying to be a martyr. I’m not trying to be self-righteous. I’m not trying to equate myself with Jesus’ sacrifice. I’m only trying to bear the cross it seems Jesus wants me to take up—to be a shield for those who don’t know the love of Jesus because they’ve only ever been shown the hatred of a cold, loveless religion. I don’t know what else to do. It hurts my heart either way, so I’ll try do what I can for the benefit of those who know no other way to deal with it.
There’s far too much hatred in the world and the circle just keeps going. In many cases, this is propagated by Christians. We are called to be the salt and light of this world. I will do what I can to fulfill that because of the amazing love Jesus has shown for me and that he has for everyone.
There is only one thing I ask in return—let the hatred towards others end there. Say everything that you need to me. Empty yourself of hatred so that you can learn to receive Jesus’ love and show others that instead. Use any vulgarity and slur that you need to. It doesn’t matter who you are, whether my best friend or a complete stranger, I will not hold any of it against you. I will attempt to absorb it and let Jesus dissipate it.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want this. I’m no glutton for punishment. But it seems this type of love is the only thing that changes the world for the better.
To those who are being hated, hold on. Don’t let that hatred do harm to you or others. If you’ve never known Jesus as love, I’m telling you he is and he can remove all of that pain. I will do my best to redirect that hatred to myself to prove it, even though it could kill me.
Perhaps this is just a small step, especially compared to what Jesus took on himself. Maybe this is the only thing God wants me to do in this regard or perhaps this is just the tip of the iceberg.
I know that this might not sound like me. I know this is asking something strange. I pray I know what I’m asking for here. God please heal the brokenness and hatred of this world. Help me to follow you Jesus…no matter what the cost may be.

Is it love?

The more I walk and talk with Jesus, the more it seems he is focusing me on this concept. When I see situations where I’m provoked to respond, he asks me if my response is that of love. Often times this can be a humbling experience, but I wouldn’t change the beauty of this relationship for anything.
I was in a discussion with a few people and the question came up about war. My first thought, having been a soldier, was to think that we should defend those that are being attacked as it would be justified. Before I could respond with that though, Jesus interceded with, “Is that love?” I hesitated and begin to think of the ramifications of my first thought. After a few moments and a few hundred thoughts, I remembered the situation during Jesus’ earthly ministry. The Romans were torturing and murdering any who tried to threaten Rome’s dominance. Thousands of angels were at Jesus’ call (Matt 26:53). Crowds attempted to crown him king (John 6:15). Rebels and zealots were at the ready to attack the Roman occupiers.  Palm Sunday attendees cried out Hosanna (Matt 21:9), pleading with Jesus to save them from the Romans. The stage was set. The rebellion was about to being. All the players were in position. The Messiah had come.
Jesus, though having the power to demolish the Romans…..didn’t. He chose a different way. He chose to love them instead. He even chose to die to prove his love rather than start a war. And he calls us to love our enemies in the same way (Matt 5:44) and to pick up our cross and follow him (Matt 16:24). He calls us to be love to those who only know hate but not because we have to. As we fall more in love with him, we have the desire to. We get to be part of Jesus’ plan to show the world love. And that is something worth dying for, even daily (1 Cor 15:31).
No matter the theological dance we do to justify our stance in defending God or the Bible, claiming “just” war, excluding or harassing others because they don’t conform to our standards, justifying our denomination/doctrine/political affiliation/bias, or trying to make ourselves appear more righteous/moral/superior—it is beneficial to first ask if our actions are love or just attempts to justify our hatred. When we search the Bible to find scriptural ammunition just to defend our position, asking if our preconceptions are out of love or justified hatred is the best step towards our conclusions. The religious people of Jesus’ time also justified their stances with Biblical backing but their way was to destroy their hated enemies. In this, they were looking for the Messiah to come and do just that. Additional, we can form infinite “what if” scenarios, redirect our efforts towards sin management, and attach “but” to our love statements to dance around our deficiency under the guise of theology. However, Jesus tells us not to be anxious (Matt 6:24) and just pursue love (Matt 22:37-40). When we truly fall in love with Jesus, our love for others naturally flows from that.
It can’t be mandated or obligated, then it is no longer love. Love is a choice. The choice to receive it from God, return it to him freely, and heap it on others.

I Want to Get Dirty

I want to go to where they are.
I want to have that courage to love those that are so often marginalized.
I desire the courage to walk up to a woman coming out of an abortion clinic, hug her, and tell her Jesus loves her while others may yell that he hates her.
I want to stand by the person who has been rejected by his family because of his sexual orientation.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not condoning any of these things. However, I’ve seen the first response in these situations to be hate. Jesus’ response in such situations was love.
We’re too afraid to get dirty. Instead of loving someone in their darkest times, we invite them to a meeting where they are made to feel guilt and shame. Jesus took such guilt and shame onto himself. He wasn’t afraid to get dirty. Regardless of what the religious people of his day thought, he went to the outcasts. He challenged the social mores and turned the tables on the “righteous.” He established an upside-down kingdom where the lowliest servants were the most treasured.
Often, I see the religious holding up a set of rules to show their righteousness while condemning others. We judge those who don’t act like us while carrying the mantra of “don’t judge” when the tables are turned. We use condemnation, the type of judgment Jesus heeds against, while denying others discernment, the judgment Jesus prompts us to so we aren’t deceived by wolves in sheep’s clothing. We are labeled as divisive if we question, yet we only grow spiritually when we are allowed to seek truth.
We’re afraid to get dirty.
We’re afraid to soil our reputation.
We’re afraid to lose our physical comforts–job, car, house, etc…
We’re afraid of ebola, terrorists, immigration, economic collapse, and our political party losing.
Most of all, we’re afraid to just trust and believe in Jesus.
Help me to trust you, Jesus, and not be afraid to let go of worldly things.
Help me not to be afraid of getting dirty.
Jesus, I believe, help my unbelief!