CHRISTIAN LIFE & GROWTH
By Dev Bradley
When I was young I rebelled against God, the universe, and everything. I stated that I was a Christian, but you could not tell that I was one based on my actions. I did what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it and how I wanted to do it. If you did not like it, well then that was your problem. As I grew older, I decided that the choices in my life were not really making me happy. I mean is this all there is? If that is the case then all of us really are in serious trouble. I was hurting and I was not happy. I re-committed my life to Jesus Christ; I started to investigate my faith and started working out how to live as a Christian. Today, I am finding it increasingly difficult to live as a Christian in our country.
When I was in the Air Force, I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. This is an oath I took seriously, because I was standing and fighting for the freedoms, the rights, the religious beliefs, the political views, the human rights, our government and our way of life for ALL AMERICANS. Christians, Atheists, Muslims, Jews, Indians, straight, gay, bi, liberals, conservatives and the list could go on for miles… My observation over the past several years is that our American culture is becoming increasingly hostile towards Christians. In the past few weeks, I've had family and friends attack Christians as hypocritical judgmental jerks. When I was growing up, and especially when I was in the Air Force, discrimination of any kind was not tolerated. It seems like our country can embrace almost any concept, belief, or thought, but it is turning its back on Christians.
Now here comes the tricky part. John 3:16 states, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Christians love this verse. Almost everyone else ignores it. While it is a great salvation verse, it is also an awesome verse regarding the topic of love. "For God so loved the world….." not "For God so loved the Christians." This means everybody, whether you believe in God or not. God loves everybody.
God loves us so much that he also gave us free will, which also gives us the ability to govern our lives. Christians believe that we live in an imperfect world because of sin and the sin nature of humans. Others believe that man is inherently evil; still others believe that man is imperfect and flawed. Whatever you believe, it is reality that all people make mistakes, especially when it comes to interacting with others. If anyone is to live authentically, then they must be accountable for all their actions. The good, the bad and the ugly, we must all come to terms with our actions. This takes strength, grace, forgiveness, respect and humility. John 8:1-11 states,
…but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" "No one, sir," she said. Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."Here's the deal, all of us live in glass houses. If such is the case, why are we so busy throwing stones at one another? I am a Christian. I have done and will do hypocritical things in my life. If I am hypocritical against you, please call me on it. After thought and prayer, I will come back to you and ask for forgiveness. On the flipside, if you are a member of my family or my friend, no matter what your beliefs, I will expect similar actions from you. This is hard because nobody likes to be wrong. It gets even more difficult when you have to suck it up, admit you're wrong, and ask for forgiveness. These actions require strength and humility.
Some people may think that I am unrealistically optimistic. Please keep this in mind. It is easy to be angry, mean, judgmental, and harsh. Especially with someone you disagree with. We expect everyone to accept and embrace what we believe, and we relish attacking those whose views and beliefs are different than ours. We have no trouble throwing everybody who disagrees with us on the trash heap of life. It takes real strength and love to live and work with family and friends we disagree with. Tell me, do you respect someone who kowtows, to everything you believe or someone who stands for what they believe and loves you anyway, even if you are different?
Respect is a word that is used frequently, but living respectfully is very difficult. We can have our differences but if we are living authentically with maturity, we can live and work with our differences instead of living and working against each other. If you ask me about my faith, I will share it with you, defend it if need be, because Jesus has asked Christians to be Salt and Light. In Matthew 5:13-16 Jesus says,
"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."You can agree with my faith or you can disagree with my faith. The choice is yours. And although it is my choice to agree or disagree with your beliefs, I will choose to treat you with respect.
Because in the long run, if we are throwing stones at one another, then we are getting nowhere fast. Our glass houses will lie in ruins and so will our lives. Remember, we are all in this together.
Photo Credit: Becky Francione; Used with permission
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Published on 8-26-13