Recently I returned to the church hunt (you know, hunting for a church home.) One church I went to had the potential of being “it.” The preacher was doing well, the congregation was reasonably friendly, people even heckled the pastor while he was in the pulpit (happy remembrances of churches past) AND then the pastor RUINED it. During his otherwise EXCELLENT sermon he somehow juxtaposed into dissin’ Muslims. It didn’t even fit in very well with the sermon – it just seemed to be something he wanted to do. And he lost me as a potential congregant. Jesus is not about condemning, hence John 3:17 “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” He wants to save us because He loves us. All of us. Alright, that might be a bit simplistic but it’s true.
The pastor was speaking expositorily from John 10:1-18 and he as he spoke about the sheep and the door of the sheepfold he did a great job (I’ve heard it before so he didn’t invent the wheel, but he doesn’t have to, he just has to be able to explain the gospel in a reasonably entertaining or enlightening way most of the time.) But then when he got to the part about Jesus going to the other sheep he dissed the Mormons for believing that the American Indians and the Book of Mormon are the application of this passage and then moved right into dissin’ the Muslims. Wait, what if Jesus wants the Muslims to come to know Him too? This church has podcasts and you can hear their messages online, so theoretically they can be reaching a much larger audience than those that were in the church that morning. If there had been any Muslims in the audience, online or in person, they would not have heard anything else the pastor said. I heard the rest of the message and I wondered why a sermon about love had so much hate in it? This is not what this church (or any other for that matter) purported to believe.
Before the service they had shown a short film on love and nonjudgment. Based upon the movie and the sermon, one could surmise that he was meaning to say that judgment should only be applied to the Muslims and Mormons? Or does the nonjudgmental attitude really only apply to those that look like them, talk like them and believe like them? Jesus said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” (Matt. 6:1-5).
I don’t know about you, but I want to be judged with much grace. I don’t want to be a white, sepulchered hypocrite, I want to be a Christian. “Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” (Matt. 23:26-28)
As I was writing this I got an image of a church that teaches hate actually saying what they believe. “Come to me all you who are weary-laden and I will give you hatred of others so you might feel better about yourself.” Or what about “come to me and I will give you a swastika?” Or “come to me and we will perform ethnic cleansing.” Wouldn’t that just be peachy, people using the Lord’s name to commit atrocities. Whoops, they have. Native Americans have just a fraction of their original population because of ethnic cleansing. Then there was the Spanish Inquisition, the Spanish conquistadors coming to the New World, etc. In other words Christians (and we are not alone in this) have used the Bible as a battering-ram to spread the gospel. Today, I hope that someday we can say “the blood stops here.”
No more do I want to see the Bible used to hurt but to help. I must tell you that anyone who has ever used the names of either God or Jesus to hurt someone is guilty of violating the Ten Commandments. Exodus 20:7 says “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” This is not saying “thou shalt not curse” is says “take the name.” When a woman takes the name of her husband she changes it. So people, when they become Christians and become Christ-followers, if they vainly use the name of Christ, they are taking His name in vain. The word vain that was used here is “shûv” which means to empty and desolate. So when we take the name of the Lord in vain it is when our relationship with God is empty and desolate and with no substance. In Isaiah 1:13 the same word is used to say “Stop bringing meaningless offerings!”(NIV). So when we carry His name is ways that have no meaning, we are carrying His name in vain. When our religion is empty and meaningless, we are carrying His name in vain.
So what are we to do if we can’t use the Bible to beat people over the head? In one word, we are to LOVE! (I know, I know, I keep talking about love). Jesus was talking about separating the goats and the sheep and this is how he defined them. “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” (Matt 25:34-46).
That’s a tall order. When we think of serving Him it seems so daunting. There are those who are literally serving Him all the time. But for many of us, we can worship in the day-to-day and the mundane. For quite literally, when we do the little things we are serving Him. When we say a kind word to someone we work with or go to school with we are carrying His name. When we see an old man in the store who doesn’t have enough money for a pack of gum and we pay the difference we are carrying His name. When we give back the change we were given by mistake we are carrying His name. When we take the cup He has put before us, when we act in Christ’s Love, then our worship and our lives are not in vain. Go carry His name righteously today.