Time and time again, since I started my walk with God I have felt belittled or as though I were disdainfully looked upon by a few other church goers. Whether it was the fact that I looked or dressed in a manner that was different from their preferences or the fact that I simply didn’t feel the same convictions as they did, one thing was clear: they thought I was wrong and they wanted me to see it their way.
Here are a few ways I knew that:
- I never received compliments about my appearance unless there was something about it that they preferred.
- The things about my appearance that were found to be unappealing to the other person would get stared at or a comment would be made about how “different” it seemed to them.
- I was constantly asked to do certain things their way or asked to go to their specific type of church (even though I may have politely declined or found a way to excuse myself from those things in the past).
These are the main three things I can think of that have happened repetitiously.
One day I spoke to my husband in frustration. I looked at him in exasperation and said, “Why can’t they just TOLERATE me and accept the fact that we will probably NEVER see these things eye to eye.” As soon as those words left my mouth, I sat there with those words reverberating in my skull. I wanted to be tolerated. I, as a Christian, simply wanted to be tolerated by other Christians.
No wonder the gay community hates us.
We cannot even tolerate each other.
If I, as a church-going, bible reading, Christ-themed blogger feels the pangs of intolerance, I can’t imagine how gays, lesbians, atheists, etc. feel. Although I still believe homosexuality isn’t what God intended for us and Christ is the only way to Heaven, I also believe many of us, as Christians, need to reevaluate ourselves. We need to take a look in the mirror so to speak. I can now sit here and think back on earlier times in my faith when I may have come off a bit too strong. I would get on Facebook and get RIGHT in the middle of religious and political debates. After all, I was a Christian. I KNEW the way; They didn’t and I NEEDED to tell them all about it even if they explained to me they’d heard it before but didn’t accept this or that as truth. I thought if only I were to push a little harder I might succeed in forcing them to swallow my comments whole and they would magically come to accept my view. I approached this in a very stubborn and prideful manner. I see my fault now.
Have you ever wanted to buy a puppy which constantly, aggressively barked at you? If I had to choose from the litter, I would more than likely choose the puppy that wagged his tail or excitedly yipped at the site of me. People can be like puppies. We can be obnoxious, ill-trained, aggressive and loud or we can be mellow, easy to please, eager to listen to his master’s woes, and excited to be of use to someone who calls on us.
One of the verses I would always point out to is Mark 16:15 “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” This was my excuse for pointing out to others where they were wrong and how they could fix it. I was wrong. The gospel is simply the story of Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection. The story of Jesus is what gets people’s attention. The story of a Savior who sacrificed himself for others is what lures a wandering heart in. Love calls people closer so that they may hear what you have to say. I know for certain if anyone were to approach me and immediately began to scold me for various things they perceived I was doing wrong, I would shake my head in disbelief. I would think, “Who is this person? They don’t know the first thing about me.” The sad thing is this isn’t a fragment of my imagination. How many times do we outright or subtly approach others (or comment on their Facebook post) with the intention of pointing out their flaws all while insinuating we know all the answers?
I don’t have the right to pick apart someone else’s life. I don’t have the right to point my finger at others. I definitely don’t have the right to force my beliefs on anyone. Jesus calls to us and it is always our choice to follow him or not. No matter how much I wish everyone would accept Jesus and believe the Bible in its entirety, that isn’t the reality. Sometimes people simply say No.
A person must come willingly or not at all. Hellfire-and-brimstone preaching methods only lead to contempt of God and all other authority. Peer pressure only leads to idolatry of mankind and the desire to fit in with others. Shunning leads to severed or domineering relationships – in the first case the person realized he or she will never belong and so they simply cut ties. In the second case, the person gives in to the other and believes the only way they can have a lasting relationship is if they always give in or agree with the other. In today’s world this is called a manipulative and abusive relationship.
The longer I replay my past (and very unsuccessful) conversations in my head the more my mind wanders toward 1 Peter 3:4 – but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.
1 Peter 2:12 – Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
Gentle, quiet, see. The more I study the bible, the more I realize my example to others has much more to do with them seeing my actions and how I live rather than what I have to say. This brings to mind a story someone once told me. *Anna told me she walked into a particular workplace and as usual, she was smiling and cheerful. As she entered the workplace, Anna joyfully sang, “Gooood Morning!” As soon as she said this, she heard an irritated grumble from one worker and a blank stare from another. The one that simply looked at Anna asked her, “How do you stay so happy all the time?” Anna quietly but sincerely said, “Lots of prayer.” Without a doubt in my mind, a seed was planted in that woman’s mind that day. Anna didn’t bark or nag or belittle. Anna simply lived a God-filled life.