In my post, “The American Jesus”, I noted that heart of America is with the idea of Jesus, and not Jesus himself. The Gospel has been so watered down that it is only a semblance of what it should be. In order to have more mass appeal, the full truth has not been taught. People like to avoid what makes them uncomfortable. So this has led us to the “feel-good” gospel – a version of the teachings of Jesus which only make us feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. It generally goes something like this, “Jesus loves you so much he died for you and all you have to do is believe that and you will get to spend eternity in Heaven with Him.” Now, while this in and of itself is not false, which is part of the reason it is dangerous, it does not encompass everything. One of the other major factors is that people don’t like to be called out when they aren’t doing what they are supposed to – “Don’t Judge Me!”
Let’s breakdown where I believe the process has failed us. The leaders of the church have been affected by this warm and cozy mentality. Not all of them, but over time I believe the message has been watered down overall. Why is this my opinion? Because I have read the Bible, in its entirety. I don’t say that to toot my own horn, but because unless we read it for ourselves, we have no idea what it has to say. If the only time the Bible is read is when the Pastor reads is on Sunday morning, then there is no way for you to know for yourselves. This does not mean that everything will be understood or retained, but we have to start somewhere. If it is not read, all we have is someone else’s word, and I am not staking my eternal life on the word of someone who may or may not know what they are talking about.
I have only mentioned Pastors up to this point, but the burden does not lay solely on them. It is on all of us. Every member of the body of Christ. Also, Sunday School teachers, I am looking at you too. We are called (I do teach Sunday School for 3-5 grades) to give the children the truth. Now I do believe that there are some details that they do not need to know in full as they are not mature enough in age or their relationship with God to understand yet. But they do need to know the truth. They need to have it explained. For instance, we were reviewing the “Plan of Salvation”, and when asked “How many ways are there for someone to get to Heaven?” Not a single child answered correctly. They knew to answer that Jesus is God’s Son and that we must ask forgiveness from our sins. They also knew that they have to believe that in order to get to Heaven. But they believed that these along with baptism are all different ways to get to Heaven. (It was very clearly stressed that this is not the case and they were given clarity – I hope). But we need to be very clear in what the Bible says. We need to be knowledgeable enough that when they ask questions, that we are able to answer them, and if we do not know the answer that we know how to find it (without Google, most of the time). I believe that it is important that understand that the Bible is not a series of unconnected stories, but that all the events build off one another. Need an example? Great! Because I have one and if I don’t share it my head might pop. Even if it wasn’t wanted, here it is. I did not know until adulthood (embarrassing, I know) that Hebrew enslavement was a direct result of the migration of Joseph’s family during the famine. Yes, they eventually grew so large in number and so much time had passed since Joseph’s death that the Egyptian rulers became fearful of a Hebrew overthrow and thus enslaved them. How did I learn this? I read it. I also know that the reason they had to wander in the desert for forty years was that they were being punished for not trusting God when he told them to overtake Canaan the first time (Numbers 14: 26-38). Also, in case you didn’t know, Moses does not live to make it to the Promised Land a second time.
Don’t judge me! Our society is all about tolerance and acceptance. Everyone is expected to be okay with everything. If you don’t agree with me, then you don’t love me. And aren’t Christians supposed to love everyone? It is one of the more well-known and wildly misquoted pieces of scripture, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” This comes from Matthew 7:1(KJV) and is spoken by Jesus. Also spoken by Jesus, “And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.” (NKJV). I believe that in Matthew that Jesus was telling us to be wary of hypocrisy, refer to verses 3-5 of the same chapter. We are also not in a position to condemn people because of their actions. We cannot condemn – we do not have that power. My best illustration for this is not to tell people to eat right and exercise during while binge eating donuts from the couch that you haven’t moved from in days.
If you are guilty of adultery, you can’t tell others to remain faithful. Hyopcrite! People love pointing out that Christians are indeed hypocrites, and yes – we can be. But we know that, and that is why we need Jesus. Moving on to the verse from John. Believers (those that hear and believe the words of Jesus) will be judged by Him accordingly. He can’t judge those who have not accepted Him to the same standards, because they do not profess Him. In the same way that teachers are held to a higher account (James 3:1), non-believers won’t be held to the same standards believers are, although they will be judged. It is our responsibility to hold other professing believers accountable. I cannot expect my atheist neighbor to abide by the laws of God if he does not believe in them. This is also true of corporations. I can’t be outraged at any of the major businesses if they use the gay pride symbol-age in advertising if they are not run by Christians or profess to follow Christian guidelines. I should expect, that unless otherwise stated, each person I encounter is not a follower of Jesus.
Now, believers are expected to spread the Gospel, but in a way that people are open to it. If you picket a festival, funeral, gay pride parade, it is unlikely that anyone will be receptive to God’s good news. Yelling, “God hates Fags” or “You are going to Hell for having an abortion” or anything of the like will not get a response of “Oh, I had no idea. Yeah, you’re right. I believe in Him now. Thanks.” I know that there are a lot of differing opinions within members of the Church and different denominations on social issues, and I do not claim to know or speak on the stances of other denominations or individuals of the Church.
To sum all this rambling mess us:
We need to know and understand what the Bible has to say, appoint church leaders who do the same. We need to hold other believers accountable. We are not to judge (condemn) others, believers or not. In writing this, I came across a good post about Judgement vs. Accountability, and I would encourage you to look at it for more clarity on the subject, linked below. We are to love others as Jesus does, whether or not they it beside you at Church, this does not mean agreeing with or condoning everything they do.