I have a secret.
I’m ashamed to say I’m a Christian.
“Gasp! What did she just say?!”
There. I said it. I feel better. Now, let me explain before you email me telling me what a heathen I am.
That’s not the same as saying I’m ashamed to claim Christ as my savior or ashamed to say I follow Christ. I’m not pulling a Peter.
I’m ashamed to say I’m a Christian because of other Christians. (Now the heathen emails can begin.)
I feel like I spend half my time with non-Christians undoing the hate some others have spread. I feel like I am stereotyped for my religious beliefs as much as I’m stereotyped for being part of the media. (Trust me, that’s not a good feeling. “But I’m not like those people. I swear!”)
Other Christians, especially those on television, including those who made an empire on killing animals, don’t speak for me. They do not represent me as a Christian (or as a Southerner, but that’s another topic altogether).
I believe loving others is the most important thing Jesus teaches us. And I’m talking the agape love, the unconditional love God has for us and that we’re supposed to have for each other. That’s the love that compels us to feed the hungry, to send money and supplies after a disaster hits, to foster a child, to provide Christmas to others, to tell others what domestic violence looks like and help them leave an abusive spouse, to watch after our neighbor’s well-being.
To me, that is more important than the doctrines, than who eats bacon, than who marries whom, than the splinter in my neighbor’s eye, than eating at Chick-fil-A in order to “support a cause.”
A fellow mommy friend of mine said recently that the Holy Spirit convicts people better than any of us ever could. We should state our position once and then simply shut our mouths and let God do his work. We need to trust God that he knows how to work in someone’s life.
I fought to respond to her with a “but what if ...” I realized she was right. How often does someone push an issue so hard and so often that you just start ignoring them? How often have your words turned a person against you? Or worse, God?
If we push away the person we’re trying to help, we’ve both lost.
A pastor acquaintance shared Matthew 10:16 recently, and it has quickly become one of my new favorite Bible verses. “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”
Harmless as doves, did you catch that?
“What do you want? Shall I come to you with a rod, or in love and a spirit of gentleness?” writes Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:21.
Speaking in love is more important than speaking what we believe to be truth, especially since we all have different ideas on what is truth. I wonder how often we miss the opportunity to show love to others because we’re so determined to be right.
I realize I sound like a liberal hippie. I’m not saying we should never speak what we believe to be true. Sometimes it’s a matter of waiting for the right moment. When Jesus saved the adulterous woman from being stoned (found in John 8), he waited on the crowd to leave before telling her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
As I reflect back over 2013 and look toward 2014, the thing I am reviewing the most is “Have I made a difference? Have I poured out as much love as I possibly can? Where can I improve?”
I challenge you to do the same.
Murray County native Misty Watson is a staff writer and photographer for The Daily Citizen. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook.com/MistyWatsonDCN or on Twitter, @mistydwatson.