A part of my past that I have come to terms with and am open about is that I was secretly Agnostic for most of my college years. I became good at putting on a show for people who knew me. I posted Bible verses on Facebook and asked for people to pray for me in difficult situations. I didn’t buy into any of the God stuff, but I feared that if I defied the status quo of the Bible Belt, I would lose the love of family and friends. I would officially achieve “outcast” status… so I pretended.
One of the reasons I became Agnostic is that I witnessed many people around me also putting on a show. They would post Bible verses online in between their hate-mongering comments, and they used their faith to justify isolating groups of people who opposed their views. I made the very human mistake of lumping God in with the very Christians I despised, and that misconception drove a wedge in any sort of relationship with God I salvaged from my childhood (which was rocky and legalistic at the very best).
Over time, I subconsciously started creating my own sort of god, one I could mold into whatever I needed. This god would understand my needs and whims with no accountability necessary. For a while I thought it was working, and then I finally came to terms that my life was in shambles. At that point, I was exhausted.
I can remember one day being tired of it all having the rawest conversation with God. It went something like this: “I’m sorry God, but I just can’t believe in You. You’ll make me choose. I can’t love You and not love people, and I don’t know why I should have to in the first place.”
This conversation occurred not long before my first [diagnosed] bout with major depression. While the height of my mental illness remains one of the darkest points in my life, I will be forever grateful for it, because it led me to Jesus. Later, as someone who had been a believer and who had distance from her realest but scariest talk with God, I began thinking about the origin of my crazy delusion that I could not love certain people if I chose God. Earlier this week, the answer finally came to me.
Christians. Christians are what made me think I could not love God and love people.
If I chose God, I could not love my gay friends.
If I chose God, I could not love my non-Christian friends.
If I chose God, I could not love my Christian friends when they slipped up and made big mistakes.
Christians made me think I needed to “Bible-Thump” or morality police the world, and I refused to do it. I knew I was a lot of things in life, but “hypocrite” would never be one of them.
Because of Christians, I willingly gave up on God, and only His grace and provisions rerouted my heart.
Now, not all Christians are like the ones I just described. I’ve met some of the kindest, most humble, loving Christians in the world, and they are God’s provisions that ultimately guided me back to faith. But, I would argue that we do not see nearly enough of those Christians in the modern church.
Scrolling through social media and various Christian websites, the number of Kim Davis photographs overwhelms me. For those unfamiliar with the situation, Kim Davis is the Kentucky county clerk [with multiple divorces] who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to anyone based on the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling (two things you need to know about Kim Davis before you hit the “religious persecution” panic button: 1. She refused licenses for everyone, not just same-sex couples and 2. She prohibited any deputy clerks underneath her from signing the licenses). Kim Davis has become a modern martyr to many people, and they lift her on a pedestal for blatantly disobeying the law (which God speaks out against in Romans 13, Mark 12, and Matthew 22). I’ve reached the point that I grow nauseous seeing people slam our government for rightly imprisoning her in contempt of court. The number of times I’ve read some version of “our Christian rights are being taken away” seems infinite.
Here’s the thing: as believers, our rights are far less important to God than our responsibilities. And, our number one responsibility is love. It is not accountability; it is not evangelism; it is love. If you do not believe me, skim over Matthew 22:36-40:
“‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.’ And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Many days, I wish I could go back to the day I had my talk with God, abandoning Him for what I thought was forever. I wish I could hug a younger version of myself, wipe away all of her hurt and tears, and explain that we cannot love God without loving others, and that the best love we have for others will come through loving God first. I would tell her that, while her thought process was inaccurate, her beliefs did not manifest from thin air. Christians skewed her perceptions, and that she should not equate God with them.
I may not be able to go back and converse with my younger self, but here’s the deal: I have this incredible opportunity to have this same conversation with other people who may suffer and question similar realities. As scary as it feels, I intend to start those conversations with some guidance from Jesus. It’s time to take the plunge.
But, one person cannot make a big enough impact on the world. To see positive change both inside and outside of the church, we need to be intentional about who we are and what we represent.
If we care more about our “rights,” than loving others, we need to check ourselves.
If we continually paint ourselves as victims when we have never encountered true persecution like Christ’s early followers, we need to check ourselves.
If we try to convict people through judgment rather than pointing them to the One who actually changes hearts, we need to check ourselves.
If we talk about the Kim Davis debacle more than we do about the Syrian refugee crisis (perhaps the biggest humanitarian crisis of our time), we really need to check ourselves.
If I’ve learned anything about God, it is this… everything works out in His timing. Almost two years ago, I asked God, “How could I ever choose between loving You and loving other people?”
Well, He just responded to me this week. His answer?
“You can’t… and you don’t have to.”
Several Things I have seen/read lately inspired this blog. Here are some of them.
This photo should say, “some Christians,” but it is food for thought nonetheless. Photo from World of Wonder Facebook Page.