Sunday, March 27, 2016

What Being A Christian Means To and For Me

I don't talk about my life on this blog, but it IS my blog.  I ask that on this Resurrection Sunday, I be allowed a little indulgence and share my thoughts on what being a Christian means to and for me.

I've been going to various churches, on and off, for about ten years, but it is only in the past two years that I have made a faith in Jesus Christ a much more important part of my life.  It goes beyond praying more, reading my Bible almost every day (on my days off, sometimes I get too lazy), and attending Services (even though all those are important and aspects that Christ has changed within me).  It is daily surrendering to Christ, to accepting the truth that I am a sinner and that Jesus did die on the cross to bring about my salvation.  It is about a daily transformation to a better person than who I was then and who I am now.

I think about how many people think that Christians are judgmental.  No doubt some are, but I can only speak for myself.  Growing as a Christian has made me LESS judgmental, not more.  It has made me more aware that I am not better than anyone else, that I am never to think others less or greater than me.  My faith in Christ has made me aware that we truly are all created equal, that every man and woman is worthy of respect and love regardless of who they are, where they are at, what they believe, or what they look like.

When I go to Service and see a man or woman covered in tattoos, I no longer think that they are somehow inferior to me, or dumb, or criminal, or of a lower status simply due to their markings.  I see them as my brothers and sisters, men and women as flawed as me, saved by the same faith and covered by the same redeeming Blood as me.  I see them for what they are: loved by God and created by Him.  As such, I am able to see beyond the exterior and see the individual, with their flaws and virtues.  I am free to see that person as a specific individual, who dreams, who loves, sometimes hates, and who is also working out their faith, but with the joy of Christ within them. 

We are able to embrace each other, forgetting all differences in thinking, in appearance, in past experiences.  My faith allows me to unite with all (Christian and/or non), accept all for who they are, and know that my calling is not to judge them, but to love them. 

The same goes for people who wear different clothing or have piercings all over or who have anything about them different than how I would have it be.  I find that the words of Scripture in Galatians 3:28 are true: we ARE all one in Christ Jesus.  As such, as Pope Francis said regarding homosexuals, "Who am I to judge?"

I judge no one, especially for having the same sins and flaws that I have.  I pass no judgment or condemnation on anyone, for I too am a sinful man: proud, sometimes dumb in speech or thought, prone to the same vices as you, but with a new heart and mindset thanks to the grace of God.

In the past I would judge people based on appearances, on actions, on my own sense of moral superiority.  It is to my shame that at times I fell into the temptation of holding myself better than others for whatever reason.  That temptation is still there, whenever I see someone wearing ill-fitting clothes, someone who frustrates me by not following directions or making mistakes that to me are foolish.  When such temptations come my way, I pray the Holy Spirit remind me gently that I am equally flawed.  Just as I might become flustered, even angry at someone for not comprehending my directions, I also have to remember I have run red lights accidently, I have said hurtful things (intentionally or not), I have caused problems for others.

Just I wish not to be judge, I do no judge.  That is one thing Christ has done for me: I now judge people less and love people more.  The Christianity I embrace shows me that everyone is worthy of love because everyone is loved by God.  As God loves me, who am I not to love those He loves?

In the spirit of truth, I tell you I still don't like tattoos or piercings.  However, I have learned through the love of Christ, that it is not my place to think of myself as greater or somehow above one who has them.

This goes also to anyone who is gay, or non-Christian, or anti-Christian, or different in any way, or who just does not like me for just being me.  It is not my place to judge them.  It is my place to love them and respect them as equally loved by God.  It is my place to treat them with respect and honor, to serve when and where I can, and to accept everyone for who they are (yes, sometimes not easy, but I'm sure it can't be any easier for those doing the same for me). 

For anyone who has felt judged by my brothers and sisters, I can only ask for forgiveness for them and ask that he/she remember the people who judge are as flawed as we all are.  I also ask that if anyone judges another in Jesus' name for being somehow not 'good enough', that the Spirit remind them gently that Christians are not perfect, just redeemed.

I like that saying.

I figure, as I write this, that more than a few people will think or say to themselves, 'well, I'm not a Christian and I NEVER thought I was better than others.  I KNOW we are all equal'.  I feel stumped because I don't consider it a competition over who is better: someone like me (who accepts that I was flawed prior to surrendering to Christ and who accepts that I am flawed after surrendering to Christ) and someone who has not judged others in the sum total of his/her life.

I can speak only for myself.  Because of Christ and what He is to me, I am no longer judgmental or harsh or critical of others for being or thinking differently than me.  Do I still get angry?  Yes.  Do I still say, do, or think the wrong things?  More times than I care to admit.  However, for myself, my growing faith in Christ has made me less harsh, more loving, more forgiving.  I have grown to accept others for all their flaws, faults, and failings (including my own).  When once I was content to live for myself, being merely concerned for others but not giving others much thought, I find myself embracing the words of Romans 12:15-21: I rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn, live in peace with all, not be proud, and overcome evil with good.  

Being a Christian, to me, means in short to love all, do good, never do anything to hurt someone, care for all, serve others and not think of any kind of reward for serving (save perhaps to use serving as an act of worship/love), and not look down on anyone.  It is not easy at times because we are all at times think the world will be better if people did as we think they should.  Pride is one of the greatest sins, one that I am sadly too aware of. 

Perhaps that is why God made me short: too keep me humble.  If I were tall, I might be thoroughly insufferable.

I know that non-Christians think Christians are judgmental, and as I've said, I'm sure some are, these brothers and sisters forgetting that grace extends to all and to extend grace to all.  I can only ask those who think all Christians are harsh and judgmental to remember...nobody's perfect.

The pastor at the church I go to has a wonderful saying: "Come as you are.  Just don't stay that way".  The church I know welcomes all and loves all in the same way Christ welcomes all and loves all. 

That is why I, for one, do not judge regardless of who you are or what you do, and I'm so thankful for that.

This didn't turn out quite like I would have liked, but I hope my simple message came through: as a Christian, I do not judge, I do not condemn, I do not hold contempt, and pray never to do so. 

I am flawed but forgiven.  

In this world, so overwhelmed with hatreds, with hopelessness, with despairs, with man killing man for no other reason than he/she is 'not one of us',  I hope to light a candle, however small, rather than add to the darkness threatening to devour us all. 

Thank you for reading, and pray for those Christians being persecuted, driven out, and killed for their faith. 

Have a Blessed Easter.


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