God Is Love (Part 1)
“Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” 1 John 4:8
In post-modern America, “Christianity” has earned itself a pretty mixed reputation. Granted, people who identify as “Christian” have a relatively positive view of the faith, its teachings, and its followers, but there are major segments of society which have the opposite view.
And I don’t blame them. There are plenty of good, legitimate reasons that people have no regard for (or even outright hate) “Christianity.”
You’ll notice that to this point, I have only referenced the faith in quotation marks. The reason for this is simple: Much of what masquerades as “Christianity,” particularly in the United States, is anything but Christ-like.
In the New Testament, there are many warnings about “false prophets (teachers)” who will corrupt the message of Jesus and us it for their own means and benefit.
This may come as a surprise, but Christianity in America has become infested with these false teachings. The corruption that lies at the root of these falsehoods is largely the reason that so many people look at Christians and Christianity and say, “No thanks,” or even, “Hell, no!”
As we move further into this discussion, there are a few things I want to make sure are clear to the reader:
- I’m just a human, too, and thus I am no better or worse than anyone else. Period.
- Just because I say something is not Christian does not mean that that concept or philosophy is wrong–but it does mean it is misattributed to Christianity.
- I am and will always be learning more and growing in my faith–I claim not to have answers that are absolute–but I do have plenty of support for these statements.
Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let’s talk at a basic level about what Christianity is not (part 1) and what it actually is (part 2).
Christianity is NOT about “Us” versus “Them” or “the Good people” versus “the Bad people.”
If you have ever been made to think this is a Christian belief or idea, let me apologize to you on behalf of all Christians. This is one of the biggest corruptions of the faith and it is inherently human. For millennia, humanity has divided itself into segments, groups, and categories to describe itself and this has too often led to fights between the “us” and the “them.” Christ’s teachings and others in the New Testament actually profess that we are ALL both “good” and “bad” at the same time. No person is just “good” and no person is just “bad.” All people have elements of both–Christian or otherwise.
Christianity is NOT about following all the “Rules.”
Two key points here:
- Christianity is more about how we are completely incapable of following the rules to meet God’s standard that he sent Christ to both demonstrate how it was done and to demonstrate how much God loves us despite our ability to do what we should.
- Christ Himself was a HUGE rule-breaker! It should be noted, his rule-breaking was to make life better for others, not just for the sake of being a rebel. Still, he rebelled against the establishment’s arbitrary laws were either nonsense or oppressive.
Having said that, I’m not advocating you go out and do a bunch of stupid/wrong/mean stuff. Just know that your screwups are understood and forgiven. And more importantly, God’s love for you doesn’t vary with how “good” you are. It’s consistent, constant, and unchanging.
Christianity is not about all the “Good Things You Do.” (But you should do good things.)
Christians do NOT do good things in order to earn salvation. We do them because in the joy of knowing we are saved in Christ we want to do good things for others and share Christ’s love with the world. If you’re doing good things (or abstaining for bad things) in order to be “OK” with God, you’re missing the point. There’s nothing you can do that will put you in better or worse with God. No one is worthy; only through Christ are we made righteous.
Christianity is NOT about Nationalism or Patriotism.
Again, I’ll restate–having pride for our/your country is not in of itself a bad thing. A healthy dose of patriotism is good; it’s very important to support our men and women in uniform who are both sacrificing and performing a very important service. Do not interpret this as “anti-American” or “anti-troops.” It’s just not a Christian characteristic–it’s an American (or whatever country you live in) characteristic. Don’t confuse national pride and Christ’s Gospel. And it’s easy to–we Americans love songs like “God Bless America” and “God Bless the USA.” No worries there–it’s perfectly OK and appropriate to pray God’s blessing on our democratic experiment and those who protect it. But don’t confuse national pride and prayer for its continuation for Christianity. There is not a “nationalism” or “patriotism” requirement in Christianity. If anything–the only national/patriotic pride professed by Christ is in that of His Kingdom–not of any kingdom or nation here on earth. In fact, he rebelled against both the religious and political establishment to such an extent that they executed him as a criminal.
In my next post (Part 2), I’ll discuss what Christianity IS. But before doing that, I think it was important to clarify what it is not……because often the people who are shouting the loudest (those who are heard on TV/radio/televangelists/extremists) are doing Christ’s Gospel (and humanity) a terrible disservice.