Follow Jesus' lead: Love, don't judge
If you Google the term "Christian," you will get about 1.4 trillion results. Granted, some of those are anything with "Christian" in the name, but still, there are a lot of different ideas about what is Christian and what is not -- which is why you can have people who claim to be Christians on opposite ends of any issue.
It may surprise you to learn that the earliest followers of Christ did not use the term Christian to describe themselves; it was a term of derision used mockingly to describe the Christ followers in the city of Antioch. Those who were not a part of the sect of Christ followers ridiculed the early believers in that city.
They may have said, "Ha! Look at them! They are acting like that Jewish Carpenter, what was his name? Oh yeah, they called him Jesus the Christ, and here they are trying to live out what he said and mimicking how he lived. Let's call them little Christs. We'll call them Christ-tians, ha, ha, ha. What a lovely name Christ-tians, Christ-tians (emphasis on the "Christ" with the additional "tians" meaning "little' or "like").
But even after that label was given, those who followed Christ did not use that term to describe themselves, at least not at first.
You may have your own idea of what a Christian is. I bet if I talked to a hundred different people and asked them, "What do you think a Christian is?" I'd get a hundred different answers, or at least a hundred different variations on a common theme. That is what makes this concept of Christian so difficult to grasp.
Even though, for instance, President Obama claims to be a Christian, Homeland Security is describing Christians as dangerous, radical, homegrown terrorists who need to be watched.
Mikey Weinstein, on whom the White House is leaning to help craft their religion in the military policies, has called Christians "terrorists," "traitors to their country," accuses them of "spiritual rape." According to the Huffington Post, he stated, "Today, we face incredibly well-funded gangs of fundamentalist Christian monsters who terrorize their fellow Americans by forcing their weaponized and twisted version of Christianity upon their helpless subordinates in our nation's armed forces," as he called for prison sentences and courts-martial for any Christian who would dare talk about Jesus while in the military.
I am not asking you whether you agree with Weinstein or not, or whether you are sympathetic to the policy of Homeland Security that places Christians on its dangerous watch list. Many of you will no doubt simply dismiss all of this as a baseless rant by another backward Christian.
My point on this is not the issues described, but rather what they represent. If one really believes that Christians are "fundamentalist monsters who terrorize their fellow Americans" then President Obama is a fundamentalist monster who terrorizes his fellow Americans.
If you argue, "Oh, wait, wait, He's a different kind of Christian; there are different kinds of Christians," you make my case for me. There is, in fact, a whole lot of things that go on in the name of Christianity that frankly are very un-Christ like (think Westboro Baptist Church). The bottom line here is, as I said in my last column, we don't always get it right.
For those of us who are followers of Jesus, let me see if I can clarify for us what Christian should really be.
If you are a follower of Jesus, nonbelievers expect you to act like Jesus. They expect you to care about the things He cared about, to value the things He valued and they will judge you on how you react and respond to them.
They are right to do so. When an unbeliever looks at you, what do they see? Do they see the love Jesus said should mark His followers or do they see the judgmental spirit that all too often is the mark we leave?
John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. For more information visit the Gateway website at www.gatewaycommunity.org.