Over the course of the last few weeks, I have posted some articles discussing American Christianity. It would be fair to call these posts criticisms, as I walked through why a lack of love has helped contribute to the decline in the number of Americans who call themselves Christians. I would say it has been, in some respects, an exercise in righteous anger. It has been a vehement exhortation for social change among American Christians.
I told you that love is the why.
But, as much as I believe that “love is the why” is a beautifully simple credo, and while I appreciate that DeRay McKesson continues to tweet it every few days as he continues his tireless work for racial justice, “love” is much too broad to be thrown around when speaking of topics of great importance, topics like the ones I spent the last few weeks posting about.
Let me be clear: American Christianity makes me very angry sometimes. And I earnestly hope that we will make efforts at all times to be loving, especially in areas of sin, gay marriage, racism, and politics, and I hope a lack of love is not the reason for an increasingly secular society.
And the reason for this love and this anger and this urgency is the love that our very name contains.
I am a Christian. By calling myself that I am a representative of Jesus Christ and the Gospel message.
And that message is the most important thing in the world.
Every good thing in the world is a reflection of the glory of God, and God’s most important revelation to humanity is the god-man Jesus.
God took the form of a Jewish carpenter, and after a ministry full of love through service to others and the glorification of God, the most innocent person in history died the most unjust death in history, bearing the entire brunt of God’s wrath against sin. Jesus lived the life we couldn’t live and died the death we should all die, in an act that shows not only Jesus’ love for God but Jesus’ love for us. Then Jesus conquered death and rose from the dead, giving us victory over the grave, allowing us to die to sin and be exalted with Jesus.
All love flows from God, and God’s most beautiful demonstration of this love came in the Gospel. The religion of Christianity exists because of the Gospel. Jesus’ disciples took his story to the nations and endured hardship, persecution, and death in an effort to bring the world the Good News.
How unconscionable is it that Christians should ever drive someone away from Christianity for a lack of love?
Yes – some churches are like country clubs and youth groups are sometimes just social time and the whole thing can just look more like a big politically interested organization built to maintain comfort for good honest Americans.
But that is not what Christianity is. It isn’t a game. And to just call it a lifestyle would even be an act of shortchanging.
It’s something to die for and it’s something to live for. It’s something that calls us to fight and also to surrender. It’s about knowing you’re wrong and seeking what is right.
And it’s all tied together by love.
Love is the why. Why? Because God is love.
I don’t always show this love, and neither does the body of American Christianity. But what we have in American Christianity is the peace of God which surpasses understanding. We have something of supreme importance, and we live in a nation full of people who need what we have. And the first step is love.
We’re allowed to disagree. No one has all the answers. But Christianity’s objective first and foremost is to show Christ-like love to all people. We are called to imitate Christ, and I believe that means an honest re-evaluation of American Christianity’s thoughts on sinning, gay marriage, racism, and politics.
The Gospel is taken as offensive because it calls everyone a sinner deserving death. The Bible is not politically correct. Christianity is, at its root, about being an outsider.
But “I am unashamed of the Gospel, for the it is the power of God to salvation for all who believe.” And if we live our lives as American Christians unashamed of Jesus Christ and as conduits of God’s overflowing love, then the power of the Gospel will work in the hearts and minds of a nation and a world that is crying out for a savior.
Maybe our nation will continue to become more secular.
Let Christians be all the more loving.
Soli Deo Gloria
I’ve loved reading your series, Pete! Thanks for writing 🙂