Instead of living a black-and-white existence, we'll be released into a Technicolor world of vibrancy and emotion when we more accurately reflect His nature to the world around us. Bill Hybels
Hebrews 12:15 says, "See to it that no one misses the grace of God." God has called his people to be bearers of light and hope, yet Christians have a reputation of being critical, judgmental and intolerant, and to be honest, they have often been bearers of fear and judgment. I wonder what would happen if Christians were known for their radical love? Phillip Yancey in his book, Vanishing Grace has asked people for years to describe Christians with one word and, sadly, he reported that not once has anyone ever said love. That weighs heavily on my heart.
Suicide has now surpassed car crashes as the leading cause of death in America. Peoples' hearts need a touch from heaven, a dose of Jesus' revolutionary, life-changing love. Jesus showed his love through relationship. Wherever he went, he left a deposit in peoples' lives that they would never forget. The invisible, unloved, shame-filled ones had a taste of his grace and they were forever changed. Jesus didn't helicopter into peoples' lives, buzz down for a few minutes and then coerce them into following him. Every person who was in his presence knew that they had his undivided attention. He would have known their dreams, fears, disappointments and victories because he would have spent the time getting to know their hearts. When Christians ambush people with a salvation spiel without having relationship with that person, it is offensive. We need to tune into peoples' unmet needs and meet them there without judgment and opinion. God's unstoppable grace is radical, sometimes so radical that we try and tone down his flood of grace by speaking so called "Christian truths" into peoples' lives. But the thing is, for the most part, people know they aren't measuring up to some moral standard. They are starving for acceptance in the middle of their brokenness. They don't need us to point out their flaws and limitations--the world is constantly doing that. The truth that needs to be shared is not a moralistic, opinionated dialog on how they need to get their act together, but rather a divine, heavenly perspective on who they are because that is the truth. When we speak over people who Jesus says they are, that love, that unhindered, explosive, transformative love aligns their hearts with heaven's perspective and changes how they see themselves and how they relate to others.
Yancey poses the question, "I wonder what will be the long-term effects of hostile Christians who use guilt, fear and shame as their platform to convert people ?" I think we are seeing the effects of that now. People are tired of being coerced--tired of Christians ranting and raving about one thing or another in the paper or on the news.
A study done by the Barna Research team, recorded in David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons book, Unchristian, showed that the three most common perceptions of Christians by onlookers are that we are anti-homosexual, (held by 91% of people surveyed) judgmental (87%) and hypocritical (85%).
How sad that the very things that Jesus detested in religious elites around him are the very things for which we are now known for. Shane Claiborne in Jesus For President says, "No law has ever changed a human heart or reconciled a broken relationship." We are to put flesh on Jesus, whose love did not exclude anybody. Claiborne continues to challenge Christians and asks, "What do your trail of breadcrumbs look like? What are you leaving in your daily interactions with people? If someone asks you if you are a Christ follower, can you say, "Tell me what you see? What if they ask the poor around you? What if they ask your enemies? Would they say you love them? (p. 230 Jesus For President).
Isaiah 9:2 proclaims that the people "walking in darkness [the lost, the forgotten, the misunderstood, the abandoned, the hopeless] have seen a great light. On those living in the land of deep darkness, a light has dawned. We need to be that light. We must not fail on our mission to love people and spread hope to the world.