It’s Easter. The holiest of days for those who are Christians. And yet, I’m hesitant to proclaim my Christian faith to others and celebrate this day publicly. I suspect some of you might identify in this area, too. Why is this?
Certainly, it’s not because I’ve been judged for my faith in Jesus, nor suffered because of it.
I have wonderfully diverse and awesomely loving friends. We share mutual respect and affection for our belief systems. We discuss, debate, listen and even poke fun at each other about these areas.
And I’ve spent ample time in the Gulf Middle East. In that spectacular setting, I’m frequently moved to tears by Adhan, the Islamic call to prayer, because I’ve seen evidence of that faith in action. I’ve often said that I’m a better Christian because I’ve been loved by my Muslim friends. We all could take a page from them in demonstrating acceptance, peace, and hospitality. Even there in a totally different environment, where I was clearly an outsider, there wasn’t a glimmer of discrimination or ill will for my faith in Jesus.
The problem is not my fear of being judged.
In fact, it has nothing to do with fear.
The issue is more of an identity crisis. The minute I say I’m a Christian to a person who doesn’t know me well, I feel like I need to add an immediate disclaimer, “I’m a Christian, but I’m not one of those Christians.”
(And sometimes, I even have verbally expressed the exact words above.)
To clarify, I mean the tunnel-vision, white supremacist, refugee-refusing, gun-toting-equals-faith, gay bashing sort. The ones who see a terrorist behind every tree. And those who use prayer as an ATM and easy answer, instead of performing actions to make the world a better place by providing healthcare, food, shelter, and love to the suffering human creatures God put in front of them. The bumper sticker bearing and meme fans of fake news. The Bible-verse-stuffing-down-your-throat sort.
I don’t want to be identified with them.
And yes, as a follower of Jesus, I’m supposed to love the above group, too. I openly struggle with this. Some days I want to go all John-the-Baptist on those in that category for maligning the faith I hold dear via hypocrisy and narrow views. I try to swallow that latter and quickly scroll on by in my news feed.
But I do not have to be one of them. I don’t want to be a jerk. And I attempt not to be.
Frankly, I’m poorly qualified to write on faith. I’m a terrible example of my own. I swear like the sailor I aspire to be. I’m frequently vain and petty. My own faith is a convoluted area. I have internal struggles some days just being a polite human being.
But this is what I do believe:
My Christ is bigger than petty differences.
My Christ is a God of love.
My Christ didn’t use fear and condemnation.
My Christ broke with tradition and ate and drank and loved those who were not stereotypical religious folks.
My Christ wants me to see my internal issues and right my wrongs. He doesn’t want me to focus on the other guy’s faults ahead of my own.
My Christ wants me to emulate love more than anything.
My Christ would welcome to the table everyone.
My Christ fed and took care of the physical needs of others, without asking for certification of similar beliefs.
My Christ cared about the poor, the refugees, the widows and the sick.
My Christ didn’t argue his point. He didn’t have to. People were drawn to him because he listened to them and met them at their point of understanding. He cared. Unconditionally.
That is the faith I celebrate and strive (albeit poorly at times) to emulate.
I celebrate love winning the victory lap of life and eternity. I do absolutely believe that love conquers all. I believe love is what broke the seal on a tomb more than two thousand years ago and love is where my faith rests.
And I don’t judge you if you don’t believe in Christ or see life through a different perspective.
My Easter doesn’t allow judgment at the table. You are welcome to join us.
To those who also believe in Jesus, we have perhaps the hardest challenge in history, to demonstrate that our faith is accepting and loving — to emulate the life of Christ, in a sea of hatred spewed by people who embrace the same faith. We must work harder to love than ever before. It’s not just my opinion, but research, which shows a great many of us Christians are pretty un-Christlike in our actions. We can do better, folks.
That brings me again to today and the relevance of Easter. Along with the beautiful significance of my faith in Easter, I embrace the power of love today from all places and people.
My self-identifying heathen friends, and my agnostics, atheists, Buddhists, Spiritualists, Jews, Christians, Catholics, Muslims, Hindus, Pagans — and anything else not previously listed — I adore you because you show me love and acceptance and kindness. I’m thankful for you. I celebrate the gift you are to me today and always.
And I promise not to be a jerk.