I cannot believe that they think it is okay to drink that much!
I cannot believe they don’t ever give!
I cannot believe she wore that!
I cannot believe he still smokes!
I cannot believe they live together ― they aren’t even married yet!
I cannot believe he looks at that stuff on the internet!
I cannot believe she brought her girlfriend to church!
I cannot believe that he has so many Muslim friends!
It seems like once you become a Christian, believing stuff gets really hard. It is as if we can believe that a homeless Middle-Eastern Jew who hung out with hookers and crooks was, in fact, the Son of God, but we cannot fathom that regular broken human beings could possibly do anything we don’t agree with.
Sure, I understand that we believe that these feelings are based around our love for God and a desire to see others enjoy the same relationship that we do, but let’s get real for a minute: they are about us feeling better about ourselves.
Even as I sit here, writing about this I am literally doing the exact same thing. Yes, there are a lot of people out there who judge others in ways that I truly believe Jesus would have wanted to slap them for, but aren’t I judging them too?
The Bible is pretty clear on this point: “Who are you to judge your neighbor?” (James 4:12) That’s why Jesus never focused on judging others. I know that He called some Pharisees a brood of vipers and that He flipped tables and talked about cutting off a fruitless vine, but that’s not what He taught.
He taught His disciples (and us) to love their neighbor as themselves; He taught them (and us) that if anyone takes their coat, to hand over their shirt as well; He taught them (and us) to love their enemies and pray for the people that persecute them.
He taught that we should care for those in society who cannot care for themselves and that we should be a voice for the voiceless.
He taught that His kingdom is upside down. That the last shall be the first and that leadership rests in service.
All of His teaching, as it related to others was focused on this ridiculous, incomprehensible love that seemed foolish to everyone else. It seemed to apply more to those who didn’t love us than those who did. You see, the thing about loving people who don’t love you back is that you start to realize that the power in it, the joy, was never in what you get back. It breaks you free of this world and sets you apart to change lives.
Where Jesus did talk about holding a higher standard was with ourselves. We are to hold ourselves to the seemingly impossible example He set. The danger for those of us who have realized that, however, is that we start to fall into a different kind of trap. The kind that says that all sin is sin and we shouldn’t focus on what that particular sin is. I happen to agree with that, but what follows is dangerous. We like to say that all that matters is that we simply believe in Jesus. And let me tell you, I have no trouble applying that expectation to myself. Simply believe in Jesus and it will be all good. I have to ask, why have we made “believing in Jesus” so simple? It’s not.
“That means that what I want, my goals and dreams, ARE NOT the ultimate guideline for my decisions.”
When I believe in Jesus, I believe I am meant to be a servant, that I am meant to love my neighbor AND my enemy. It means that I am assured NONE of the pleasures of this world and may very well be hated by it.
Believing in Jesus says that I put others before myself. That means that what I want, my goals and dreams, ARE NOT the ultimate guideline for my decisions.
Believing in Jesus means to be heartbroken for those who are suffering, it is to mourn with those that mourn, and yes, to rejoice with those that rejoice (that’s not always as easy as it sounds).
Believing in Jesus doesn’t just mean we accept the ticket to heaven, it means we acknowledge that we are now on mission. An uncomfortable, inconvenient and terribly unpredictable mission. One that is filled with beauty and terror, joy and sorrow. It is to, in every way, loose yourself. So yes, all sin is separation from God; and yes, the only thing that matters is believing in Jesus. But can we please stop pretending it’s so simple.