"Mom?'" My teenage daughter wanted to talk to me... Before I skipped a step and started dancing about the room I took a chill pill and a deep breath. Don't move too fast - She might change her mind.
"Yeah?" I answered nonchalantly (I hoped).
"Do you know any false Christians?"
As usual, her question hit me like a sucker punch from behind. False Christians? Was I even equipped to answer that? It was too late to even make like I had all the answers. She is a teen now and I am arguably the stupidest person on the planet. I better not squander this opportunity to make at least some sense on the subject. I spit my Bubba-teeth out for this one...
"I guess my first question is: what do you mean by false Christians?"
"You know, like there are these kids at my school..."
She went on to describe a Christian club at school that has gotten into the habit of being exclusive with its membership. They mean well, but in their desire to be Godly they shut out kids who are on the edge, who don't look the part, sound the part and can be swayed into behaving badly because it's a natural part of just being a teen. That rebellious, "Don't tell me what to do or how to act" kind of reaction. Would I call them false Christians? No. In fact, I am certain that their love and devotion to Christ is what drives them to make silly claims and decisions about their fellow students. Unfortunately, I know quite a few of these folks in my adult life. I am one.
The conversation with my daughter got me thinking about my own perspective and how it looks to the outside world. I have often told my kids, no matter how big or old my body is, I make the same silly decisions as an adult that a teenager, grade-schooler, or even toddler would. At my core, I am still God's child, and sometimes that comes with an immature attitude.
The kids my daughter was referring to have only part of the equation as do some adults in the same situation. Christ does call us to associate with our fellow Christians regularly, going to church, meeting in study and pursuit of Christ-knowledge, getting together to help out our community by building houses, cleaning up our neighborhoods, etc. He wants us associating with each other to make us stronger, keep us accountable and enlightening us to differing perspectives within our circle of close friends. What He doesn't want is for us to do is decide that only our circle will do. Christ wants us to be open, soft, pliable to the plight of others. Christ wants us to reach out to those not in our comfort zone. If we truly love Him as we should, we cannot be tainted by unbelief or somehow lose our salvation because we kept company with someone who doesn't live the way we do.
Christ Himself associated with some pretty rough characters. He was found with prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers and, at the end, even outright criminals. Christ didn't exclude them. He alone understood that the roughest of folk can come to Him (if even at the last moment) and believe in the need for their own salvation. Not that I am saying we should head out into the inner cities and start sleeping in the streets or put ourselves into obviously dangerous situations. What I am saying is don't make an assumption based on race, creed, looks, clothing, sexual orientation or music choice that the person sitting next to you doesn't want or need or even already love the Lord. You cannot pretend to know the intent of someone else, unless they outright tell you so. You cannot make an assumption based on the outward appearance when God alone is the one who looks into the core of man to determine their heart condition. Don't even try. It will only hurt you in the end. It will out you as one with the more desperate need of forgiveness.
See, the Judgement Seat has room for only one butt, and it is God's. When we try to crowd in there, asking the Creator of Heaven and Earth to scooch over, we make a mockery of the matchless grace He sent to us in the form of his dying, bleeding, bludgeoned Son. He doesn't need our help. He already knows everything He needs to know about our neighbor, our pastor, the gay couple down the street, and ME. Yes, He knows all about me and my issues. The times I have been exclusive, hateful, judgmental, self-righteous and spiteful. All of it. So I have to be very careful when I start tossing around all those pretty polished stones in my house full of glass... I could break a window!
The Parisees thought that they could trip up Christ on this subject. They figured no guy could be this good, except of course themselves... So they set out to ask Him a "stumper", as it were. One of them very smugly approached Jesus as he was teaching one afternoon and asked of all the things that He was preaching, which one would get him eternal life? Jesus turned the tables and asked the "Scholar" what he thought the answer was. In Matthew, Chapter 10 the imposter student replied, "That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence - and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself." (MSG) Jesus of course commends this answer, as it is correct. (I myself wonder if our Savior isn't imbued with a bit of heavenly sarcasm here, but that could just be me...)
Now the "student" attempts the real trickery. In Verse 29 he pipes up, "And just how would you define 'neighbor'?" I can almost hear the sneer in his voice and the expectant hush that fell over that crowd. They all turn to watch as Jesus settles in for one of the most memorable and universal examples of just what "neighbor" really means in a biblical sense. He launches into the tale of the Good Samaritan. Now I could go into a complete history lesson here on how antagonistic the relationship between Jew and Samaritan was. I could give you all the pat answers to the reality of what Christ was pointing at. Do I need to? I don't think so.
What I will say on the subject is this. First: read the chapter for yourself, (Matthew 10:30-37) and make yourself the Samaritan and the man who was robbed a person that you are currently having some very big difficulties with or a general group you have strong opinions about. Really test yourself here. If you think all murderers should go to Hell, put them in the man's place. If you are certain that all homosexuals are doomed to an unforgiven life, stick them there. Second, realize that you are probably not the Samaritan, but one of those guys who walked by and did nothing. Sting a little? It should. It stung me... Now, after you are fully embarrassed by what side you really fall down on, understand that God wants us to step out of the seat of judgement and trust that He knows each persons heart better than we do. Trust that He has that part all handled and our only command from the very beginning has been to simply love His creations. That included all of this creatures. It means that you are not to decide that God doesn't love the murderer, the thief, the homosexual, the liar, the cheat... It means that you are to decide that He does, because that alone is true. We have two directives from Christ's mouth: Love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and body and love our Neighbor as ourself.
Love 'em as if your whole being and happiness depended on it, because it does. If you want God to be merciful with you, be merciful with others. If you want God to forgive you, first forgive your brother. Then forgive your enemy. Then pray for them both to be blessed by God. (Crap... I hate it when God does this. This hurts.)
Realize that truly loving others as we love ourselves means that we must juxtapose ourselves into the seat of the defendant, not the prosecutor. It isn't our job to make those decisions. Don't be a door-mat - Christ wasn't. Just realize that under the green hair and the leather jacket is someone's daughter or son (is that a boy or a girl???) and that most definitely God loves them just as much as He loves you. After all, once you quit staring at their outsides, if you could remove the weird makeup or the odd choice of bedfellows, you may just discover they are a lot like you. And me. Some of the roughest treatment of innocent men has been handed down by those who profess to love God. Just ask Jesus. He'll show you with His own Hands.