I shared this Sunday morning in both services. I write it here for those who may have come in late or missed it. I share it because I love people — I love you. And as your pastor, I want to ask you to guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23). Guard it against hatred.
It’s always interesting to me to see how things coincide.
For example, in recent days some in the media (both commercial and social) have reported on Christians who were angry with Starbucks for using Christmas colors on their cups, but not mentioning Christmas. From some of the reports, one would think that Christians were taking to the streets by the thousands, outraged over this atrocity. This was not the case. I am sure there were a few Christians who felt angry about this, but as a friend of mine posted:
As a Christian, I find myself troubled, not by the fact that Starbucks doesn’t proclaim Messiah’s birth. What I find troubling is being stereotyped as having the same views as a minority group of Christians.
My Baptist friends felt this intensely when that whack-o, Fred Phelps and his family took the name Baptist into the headlines with his hate-speech concerning homosexuality. Every Christian I know was outraged by Phelps abuse of Christianity. Baptists were, rightly so, all the more outraged that he used their name.
Most of us resist being mischaracterized.
Every group, from the media, to religious types, to irreligious atheists, to fishermen, to Americans, to Asians, to athletes, to redheads, to blondes, to teens, to senior citizens has members who do not represent the whole of the group. This is a problem that comes with being in a society. Perhaps a greater problem is when society chooses to judge every member of any group by the behavior of the few.
I heard a statistic recently regarding the number of people in the United States claiming to be Muslim compared to the number of mosques in the United States. The point was that the vast majority of Muslims in the States could not go to the mosque even if they wanted to, simply because there is not enough room for them. The vast majority are, evidently like “Christians” here and there — nominal. If you don’t care enough to go to your own house of worship, you’re probably not radical regarding your faith.
Yet, just as some in the media (commercial and social) mischaracterizes Christians concerning the color of Starbucks cups, based on the action of a few, they mischaracterize all Muslims as being evil, based on the despicable actions of a minority.
That’s not right.
Being labeled as a nut-job because some in your tribe are mad at Starbucks is pretty trivial. Being labeled as a terrorist because some in your tribe are so — that would be alarming.
Bearers of the Good News of Christ have spent vast resources on helping all people find forgiveness and honor in the work of Jesus on the cross. Gracious people have given money. Others have given time. Some have given a lifetime of service. Some are giving right now, on the field. Some have given their lives. They have done this because they understand that the phrase, “the world” in John 3:16 means “the world”. And, according to some sources, their investment is paying off. Lives are being changed and people who it seemed would never open their hearts to Jesus are doing so at a level not seen in our lifetime. But I have heard these workers say that their work is made more difficult when believers speak words of hatred toward their audience. Hatred builds walls. Walls close off opportunities to share the way of eternal life.
Closing our hearts and closing our doors and closing our minds is counter-productive to both the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-39) and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20).
Christians need to stop treating others the way some in the media (commercial and social) treat us.
You don’t have to agree. Sharper people than you and me have opinions that differ, one from the other.
But as your pastor who loves you I say this: You have to guard your heart. Hatred isn’t healthy for you.