“Can I pinch her back?!”
My daughter implored this question to my husband and me after her younger sister had pinched her first. She knew the answer, but I suppose was hoping for something different.
My husband took the lead on this one, replying, “No! Would Jesus pinch her back?!”
“No,” my daughter muttered, whispering much softer, “but I’m not Jesus.”
At the time I inwardly laughed a little. I mean, I totally get it. I’m not Jesus either. The thing is, though, I should really try to emulate Him as much as possible, no matter the difficulty. Shouldn’t we all?
I’ve seen a lot of hate spewed on social media the past year. It has diminished some lately as the stress of a pandemic lightens, but it’s still present. Just recently I’ve seen things that continue to make me wince. My reaction is mostly based on the fact that people say the most awful things in the name of Christ. Christian friends and acquaintances will speak vile, hate-filled words, and it breaks my heart every time. When you speak anything as a follower of Christ, you are speaking in His name. We are His voice here on earth, most of the time. I don’t expect Christians to be perfect, no more than my husband expected our ten year old to be, but we do strive to show all our children that as followers of Christ, our goal is to be like Him. As much as is humanly possible.
It seems some folks’ parents didn’t teach them that part. I’ll throw you some examples.
A transgender person is given a government position of authority under a new presidency. Then come posts from Conservative, Republican Christians speaking out in anger. Listen, I totally get righteous indignation, but we still must walk in the love of Christ. It’s possible to stand for truth, while simultaneously standing in love. If I see words from Christian people saying this transgender, child of God is “disgusting” with emojis of puking, it makes me wonder. Every person you meet, no matter their decisions, choices, or sins, are a child of God. We somehow forget this fact. We forget that they were created by God, that they are loved by God, and that they are beautiful and precious in His sight. Not disgusting, not sickening, not worthy of our high and mighty disdain.
Here’s another example. The hot topic of immigration. A lot of the angry words I see about immigrants at the border are filled with judgment, contempt, scorn, and the exact opposite of love. They are selfish words. “This is my country! This is America! Go home! Get a job!”
I recall the words of Jesus instructing his followers to give their coat when someone asks for their shirt. To give to the poor, the hurting. I can’t for the life of me find the part where He says ‘hold onto yours, put a big fence around it to keep anyone else from wanting to share the blessings I’ve given you. Treat others like you’re better, more educated, and more worthy of God-given resources than they are.’ And He certainly didn’t instruct us to speak of other humans like they are less human.
Sometimes we are harder on my ten year old than we are our five year old. Why? Because she’s older. We expect more out of her. Likewise, as a Christian, I expect more out of my fellow Christians. I’m not saying it’s right when anyone says hateful, demeaning comments, but it’s somehow worse when it comes out of the mouth of a Christian. My ten year old knows better on many things because we’ve instructed her on what is right. Similarly, as a Christian, you have been instructed by God on how to react when situations are unfair or when someone mistreats you. He has told us the biggest commandment is to love others as ourselves. He has instructed us not to throw stones or mention the splinter in someone’s eye before removing the plank from our own. He’s told us to love our enemies. I’m all for justice, speaking truth, and standing up for what is right, but if we’re doing these things not in love, we’re just a clanging cymbal. A bunch of noise.
Look at it this way. A goal of Christianity is to help other people discover Salvation through Jesus. It’s not to keep tight border control of our country or to turn gay people straight! Our goal is to show the light and love of Christ, so others will see what we have, and they’ll want it too. We are really, really messing this up, guys! No, I don’t expect anyone to be Jesus, but I do implore us all to try and behave like Him. To love like Him.
Here’s an exercise for you. Take a look at your political posts on social media. Imagine someone who is lost, who desires love and acceptance. They don’t know it is Jesus their heart needs. They just know they need something. Maybe they’ve been looking in all the wrong places. The question is, when they see you, will they find what they’re looking for? I don’t think they will see unconditional love in your comment on a friend’s post where you use words like “disgusting” and phrases like “makes me sick” or “I hope they know hell’s hot.”
You know, it wasn’t right of my five year old to pinch her big sister, but I (as the parent) took care of it. My ten year old didn’t need to pinch her back. She needed to show her younger sister an example of how to behave even when you’re angry. To show her that even if it seems justified to hit back, you can turn the other cheek and let Dad handle it. I think we as a church have forgotten that Dad can handle it.
So, no, you’re not Jesus. I’m not Jesus either. But shouldn’t we try to allow others to see Him through us? Right now, I don’t think they can for all the hate in the way.