(If it’s all the same to you, I would prefer not to be called a “Christian”.)
By: Stephanne Morris Marsh
Did I get your attention with that headline? I typed it and deleted it 12 times. Twelve. I am sure some of you are pursing your lips and shaking your head. But, it’s the truth. That’s why I left it the last time I typed it. The truth is important. I want to make Jesus famous. I want people to want to know Him. And sadly, the real truth is, I don’t want to be identified in the same group as many “Christians” that I know, because the “Christian Life” they represent goes against everything I know Jesus to be and isn’t even mildly attractive to those that don’t know Him.
Did you know that there was a recent survey about Christianity taken by 1,000 people. 87% of the people surveyed said that they wanted nothing to do with Christianity because Christians are the most hateful and judgmental people they know? If that doesn’t disturb you deep down in your heart and soul and all the way to your toes, then you need to do some serious soul searching.
The truth is that there are a great number of people that identify as Christians that are giving Jesus a bad name and completely misrepresenting Him. That breaks my heart. It should break yours, too. I can’t even imagine how grieved Jesus must be. So what can we do?
Truth without love is damaging. Love without truth is deceptive. There is a fine line and delicate balance in that statement. More and more, I’ve found myself in situations, where my heart and mind screamed to share the truth, but in doing so, I knew I would be viewed as “politically” incorrect. Is there a way to temper the truth with love without being deceptive? Absolutely. As long as you are willing to speak the truth in love, no matter the consequences.
Isn’t that what following Jesus is truly about? Following him with wild abandon, no matter the cost? Truth and love should be so tightly bound together, that it is impossible to take them apart. After all, isn’t that the greatest commandment? Love the Lord your God will all your heart, mind and strength. And then, love your neighbor as yourself.
For several years now, I have declined to identify myself as a “Christian”, as that word has increasingly had a terrible connotation. Instead, when asked, I reply that I am a follower of Jesus, a disciple. (Disciple simply means, “A student who follows a teacher.” Isn’t that the best description?) I have been told REPEATEDLY over the last several years, that Christians are the meanest, most hateful, and judgemental people. That breaks my heart and deeply grieves my spirit every time I hear it, yet I would tend to agree. Many people that identify as “Christians” do not show love. Yet, isn’t that exactly what the Bible told us? John 13:35 says, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Nowhere does the Bible say that the world will recognize we are different if we call ourselves Christians.
Over the last several years, I’ve had countless people tell me, “you are different. If there was a church of people like you and Jon, I might consider going.” That breaks my heart even more. Jon and I are imperfect and broken people that have found salvation in Jesus Christ. When I say salvation, I literally mean salvation. As in….He threw us a life vest and pulled us into the boat when we were drowning. He breathed life into us and made us into NEW people that have one desire. That desire is to follow HIM with our whole hearts. That softening, is dying to ourselves. It is putting what Jon and Stephanne think and feel aside and taking on the mind of Christ. It doesn’t happen over-night, but it does happen…..If you surrender and give HIM total control. Jesus is so tenderly loving, full of grace and mercy. When you get to know Him, you can’t help but to begin to BE like Him. Have you ever heard, “you are like the company you keep?”
For those of you that have known me over the last 10 years, you know that I don’t have a mean bone in my body. For those that have known me longer, you have to know that God has done a great and tremendous work in me and I am no longer who I once was. He has softened my heart to the point that I am no longer recognizable as the person I was prior to 2010. Did this softening happen over night? No! It has happened gradually as I studied the Bible and sought to become more like Jesus. I failed often, and sometimes continue to falter and fail, BUT, that’s the thing about Jesus. He never leaves me there. He picks me up, dusts off my knees, applies a few bandaids, and tells me how to keep from falling in that same way again. And I listen. I listen and apply His instruction and keep walking in His grace. My everyday prayer is that I will become more and more like Jesus. That Stephanne will disappear, and people will truly see HIM instead of me.
It is a choice I make every single day. The choice to embrace and share the qualities of Jesus….love, forgiveness, trust, faith, humility, self-control, and gentleness.
There are many people who claim to follow Jesus, but who don’t display those characteristics. It’s a journey! These things don’t happen over night and there are still many, many times that I fail. However, I know this beyond anything else….I am not the same person I was 10 years ago. I am not the same person I was 5 years ago, and I am not even the same person I was yesterday. Every day, I continue to see change and know…..that He is molding me and shaping me and who I once was disappears a little more every single day. And in that, I am satisfied and grateful. So very grateful. Jesus, help me to continue to live out, Galatians 2:20.
I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body , I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20
So, my friends, I will leave you with this…..If you only knew. If you only knew the freedom that is found in Christ. If you only knew the freedom that comes when you walk in grace. If you only knew the freedom and JOY that come from surrendering your life to Him. If you only knew the freedom that comes when you love everyone (EVERY SINGLE PERSON) with reckless abandon, if you only knew. If you only knew what it is like, you would do it too.