It's Easter week and, unfortunately, Christianity is in the news for all the wrong reasons. When Florida Pastor Terry Jones chose to burn the Quran, his actions sparked both understandable outrage and reprehensible violence in the Muslim world.
Jones isn't the only one using controversy to generate attention. Lady Gaga, a master of flamboyant self-promotion, is currently causing no small degree of outrage from members of the Christian community around the release of her single, "Judas," during Easter week. Through her lyrics -- and in her video -- Gaga portrays her version of a Mary Magdalene figure in love with Jesus' betrayer, Judas. This is certainly not the first time the singer has drawn the ire of faith groups. Last November, she was roundly criticized for her streetwalker-meets-the-flying-nun costume at a concert in Prague.
The controversial actions of both Terry Jones and Lady Gaga have succeeded in generating attention. But have they achieved the results intended?
In the case of a performer like Lady Gaga, the intended outcome was probably the obvious: increased album sales. Whether she succeeded or not will be revealed by the sales ledgers of her record label.
But in the case of Jones, the answer is much murkier.
What was Jones trying to accomplish through his despicable act? Was it, as many suspect, simply a stunt to build celebrity for himself? Was it the act of a mentally or emotionally unstable person? Or did he actually believe that he was somehow standing up for Christianity?
If it was the latter, he couldn't have chosen more poorly.
From their first days, early Christians didn't turn a blind eye to what they saw as heresy, but neither did they become abusive or destructive. While visiting Athens, the apostle Paul was distressed to see the number of idols strewn throughout the city. But rather than smashing them or lighting them on fire, Scripture tells us that he reasoned peacefully and respectfully in the synagogues and the marketplace day after day to make his case for a better way (Acts 17:16-17).
In the entirety of the Gospels, the only time Jesus was demonstrably angry was when he saw hypocrisy from professed believers. When the Pharisees sought to transform the temple into a trade show, Jesus turned over the tables and cleared the room.
So how does the Bible counsel Christians to respond to those who don't embrace the message of Christianity? In a word: Love. The fourth chapter of the first book of Peter tells us "love covers a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8).
As Easter approaches, we are reminded of the ultimate example of love that covers a multitude of sins -- and our own sins at that. Jesus' willingness to go to the cross was born out of His desire to cover the sins of humankind for all time. It was the ultimate demonstration of God's love for us.
Easter is a celebration for all who place their faith in Jesus' sacrifice on the cross and subsequent triumph over the grave. This year, Easter should challenge Christians to demonstrate gratitude for God's abundant love by sharing it -- even with those who don't agree with us.
I think we can do better than cheap-shot satire and getting another sales register to ring. What if every Christian who disagreed with the burning of the Quran took some positive action? Maybe it is something as simple as posting a Facebook status message to make it clear that "Terry Jones doesn't speak for Jesus or for me." Maybe it is contacting a local mosque and offering to donate food or clothing to a family in need. Maybe it is offering a friendly hello to a Muslim neighbor. Whatever we do, as long as we step out in love, we begin to cover the hate of Jones' action.
In the minds of those who hate Christianity and those who profess it, all Christians may be painted with the brush of Terry Jones. But the only hope we have of ever overcoming the evil of one man's actions is by covering it with an outpouring of love. And there is no better time to begin than Easter.