What I Learned When I Stopped Fighting
“Would you say you’re religious?”
This is one of my favorite questions I ever get asked. I was sitting in the passenger seat beside a new friend and work colleague who was telling me about his experience in a Catholic high school. He told me about how he was “super creeped out” by the idea of Christianity, saying that the priests in his school were always talking down to him and saying that God would surely punish him if he didn’t stop his rebellious ways.
“Do you believe what that priest said was true?” I asked.
“I mean, yeah I’m sure God is good, but I want nothing to do with the people who call themselves Christians.”
I took a deep breath in, the kind that you take when your fingers are shaking and it feels like God is asking you to do something you really don’t want to do in that very moment.
I apologized to my friend. I told him that I didn’t believe God was like that, full of anger and eager to punish. I told him I see Jesus as a man who knew a lot more about how life should be lived than I did, and He seemed to have a lot of answers to the questions I had. I told him I was sorry the Church hurt him in the past.
I believe that there are moments that we must apologize for things we had no direct part in. As Christians, by nature of being a part of group we are painted with brushes that we neither deserve nor want and that may make us angry and cause us to distance ourselves from the offending group of which we are members. We see the church do bad things to people and we try to not associate with it. This is a natural prideful response yet does no good for either the offending nor the offender. I am not encouraging a blind acceptance and blessing of all the ways the church messes up, but instead I am encouraging us all to see brokenness, acknowledge it, and seek reconciliation between the church and those who have been hurt.
We are afraid that people will think that we will also hurt them and try to avoid being painted with that brush. When we look to Jesus, we see a man who did not seek an escape from unjust accusation, labeling, and punishment but instead was led like a sheep to the slaughter and offered reconciliation. We are asked to do the same. When my friend told me he was angry with the Church, I could have responded in anger towards him or added to the criticism of the Church. Instead, God asked me to recognize the brokenness and apologize for it. I find I’m doing this more and more often and people seem to appreciate it.
It’s easy to walk through your life with a gradual and learned detachment from those surrounding you. We get wrapped up in our own lives and responsibilities and sometimes don’t want to be burdened by the lives of others. What a tragic way to live. Jesus offers us something better – He demonstrated compassion and understanding towards the pains of those around Him and assured them they were valuable. Ignoring the pain of those around us is not a luxury we are given with Christ, and when we are given the honor of being shown that pain our first desire should be to offer reconciliation and truth. So please, join with me in taking some burdens upon yourself to lighten the backs of those around you.