24 December, 2012

Christmas is Love

This morning on Facebook I've already seen about 5 posts from people whose message was negativity, guilt and shame. Posts that try to guilt people because they aren't praying, or aren't reading their Bible and so on. OK, it is true that we should all pray and we should all worship, and we should all read the Bible. But come on... does anyone really think that by posting how bad people are you are going to make them suddenly decided that they need to change? It reminded me of something that happened recently. Someone asked me to tune in and watch a couple of services from a church about an hour from here. I tried. I really did, but I could only take about 12 minutes of it and I'd had enough. This "pastor" did nothing but yell at his church telling them that they did not really "get it." They did not realize just how vile, how worthless and rotten they are. He just went on and on and said that all other churches were deceived, that they were not preaching the truth, and the truth is that men are dirt, filth and scum and that even after coming to the cross they were still wretched and vile."  I could not believe my ears. My Bible tells me, "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; thought they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool." And this was the church he was talking to! I can imagine how he might talk to someone who has not accepted Jesus into their life!  

The point I'm trying to make is that taking a spiritual 2x4 to those who are lost has never caused anyone to say, "hey, I want that!"  Those in the world already know that they are messed up and need somthing. They just don't know what the answer is. But I can assure you, that if you keep bashing, keep ridiculing and keep shaming, they will certainly not choose the option you are giving them! We are called "Christians" or "like Christ."  To me, that is pretty simple then... we should be doing what Jesus did. Jesus did not bash and ridicule those who were lost... be was a friend to them. The religious crowd then, just as today would do, attacked him for it. The hated him because he was tearing down the wall to their exclusive club! The Pharisees were masters at pointing out how holy and righteous they were and how wretched everyone else was. Jesus at dinner with the sinners. He was known to talk to prostitutes. I'll bet you a dollar to a donut that he would even have coffee with someone who was gay... and that religious crowd would talk about him and plot to destroy him. (Man, that sounds familiar!)  We need to stop the religious games, stop trying to be better than everyone and stop bashing people and trying to heep guilt upon them, and become more like Jesus... to do what he did, to go where he went and minister the way that he did. Isn't it interesting that Jesus won the down and out folks, the rough necks and the despised of society... while most of the religious crowd never did accept him, and instead plotted for his death.

There is a verse of scripture that says it all. We quote it and reference it all the time, but we always leave off part of it that is so powerful... the part that gives us our instructions of what we should be doing if we truly want to be "like Christ."  That passage is John 3:16-17. It says: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." 

God did not send that baby in the manger to tell the world they were not good enough, that they were wretched and vile. He did not send him to belittle them and tell them that they were a sorry excuse for humanity. He did not send him to put them in their place. No... he sent that baby that we celebrate to say to the world, "I love you."  This is the message of Christmas. This is the message of the New Testament. This is the message that the church should be proclaiming to the world. God loves you so much and he wants to have a relationship with you. Jesus did not come to shun the outcast, the drug addict, the thief or anyone else. He came to embrace them and love on them restore what was lost in the garden.

This Christmas, let's remember... that manger scene means love. That Christmas tree should serve to remind of of the renewed life that we can find in Christ. The gifts serve to remind us of the greatest gift of all... when God sent his son into this world to say, "I love you."

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