I am thankful when people trust me enough to be honest with me about what’s in their minds and hearts. Deep-rooted pain is such a vulnerable thing to expose, and I consider it a privilege when people share it with me. I also love it because it challenges me to really stop and consider what I believe, why I believe it, how my own experiences have shaped my beliefs, and how someone else’s experiences might cause them to believe what they do.
I had an awesome opportunity Sunday to really articulate some key principles by which I live my life and base my beliefs when an acquaintance of mine responded to a post I had on Facebook. I first asked her permission to be honest with her about my opinion, then I started thinking, praying, and writing a response. The result ended up being more novel than conversation, so I decided to give her a few remarks in a message.
Really, though, if you think about it, her comment was actually in line with the heart-cry of MANY MANY people around the world today, so I write this as a response to them as well. I’m feeling super unfinished with it, so it’ll probably spawn many more posts as I take more time to just sit and pray about each point specifically, but here’s the start:
Hello Concerned Citizen of Our World,
Today you entrusted your heart to me. Thank you. With your permission, I’ve written a response to your comment: “G*asleep /Comatosed *u religions made “jesus” a trend f**k WWJD how bout WWCD I wanna b a trend !get $ rite I’m makin sum *no I wnt my Kiddies wil ask I let them make /have their own minds AS A NATION WE HAV CHILDREN TESTIFY 4 PROOF OF SEXUAL ABUSE but need no real HARD evidence n Jesus no1 else thinks this is morbid ?FUK THIS WORLD #DOOMED”
Looking at our world today, I can CERTAINLY understand how people would believe that if there was a God, He was either asleep or cruel – either way, He does not actively participate in loving or saving people. I want to share with you why I disagree with you – not because I want to discount what you feel or argue with you, not at all! And there is absolutely no way I could ever know what you’ve been through, Citizen, nor could I communicate to you the depth of my own pain and experience, so how could I ever think that I can tell you what’s right or wrong or that you have to believe what I do because I was the one experiencing it?? However, I can tell you it has been an incredibly long, painful battle. There were days I’d just yell at God, and there were some that all I could eek out was, “Help” It will still continue til I die, I’m sure of it. But He has had me on the most incredible path of restoration and realization – If I can be completely honest with you about what I’ve been through and try to share the information and conclusions it’s brought me to, you can choose whether it brings you comfort or makes you think I’m full of it. You can stop reading and tell me to shove it, or you can read in a spirit of respect and openness, knowing that I am not attacking or forcing or anything.
With that in mind, let’s have a conversation, shall we?
First, let’s look at the idea that religions have made Jesus a trend in order to turn a profit.
There are two items in that sentence that I’d like to address: 1. That religion uses Jesus to make money and gain power and 2. The difference between religion and a relationship with Jesus.
#1. “Religion”, yes, has absolutely turned the Truth of Jesus and who He is and how He loves into a totally destructive lie – that you have to do something or be a certain way for Him to love you, that He is a gimmick to guilt people into doing something, buying certain things, whatever the case may be. So many people have hidden behind the mask of Jesus to do horrendous, horrible things. The problem, though, is that a mask is just that – a fake representation that covers an impostor.
Even Jesus would be disgusted with how people use His name and pervert His life and cause. Look at when He busted into the temples where “good religious Jews” were trying to convince people that they had to buy things to sacrifice to be seen as holy or right with God: “The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, ‘Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.’” (John 2:13-16)
Jesus got pissed! He busted in there literally cracking a whip and tossin’ tables! He was ANGRY that His Father was being reduced to turn a profit. That’s absolutely not what Jesus came to do! Jesus did not come to make money – he was homeless and broke. He didn’t come to incite war – he only spoke about love and peace and long-suffering. He didn’t come to oppress and abuse – he spoke about radical justice and in Isaiah 61:8, God says: “For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing.”
#2. …in Luke 4, Jesus takes that scroll (Isaiah 61) and reads it, stating that He was sent to fulfill God’s promise written in that book. He was saying that He came to:
– to proclaim good news to the poor
– to bind up the brokenhearted
– to proclaim freedom for the captives
– release from darkness for the prisoners
– to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God
– to comfort all who mourn
– provide for those who grieve in Zion
– to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair
Jesus came to beget restoration and relationship, not religion. And if He did have a religion, He said this in James 1:27, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” If any “Christian” acts outside of this Biblical truth, they are acting outside the will and representation of God. Jesus came to cover the cost of sin so that nothing could stand in the way of God and his radical desire to be in right relationship with His creations.
But hey.. enough Bible since I know that’s not a “believable text” to some – let’s look at the difference between “religion” and “relationship” according to a “real text” – Webster’s Dictionary:
re·li·gion noun \ri-ˈli-jən\
: an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods
My interpretation of that is that it’s a word naming a MANMADE structure to bring order, rules, and instruction on what to believe and how to believe it. It is man trying to understand and control what he cannot explain. Would you agree?
re·la·tion·ship noun \-shən-ˌship\
: the way in which two or more people…talk to, behave toward, and deal with each other
: the way in which two or more people or things are connected
My interpretation of this is it’s a word naming an innate fact, a nature happening. A connection between two or more beings in which they talk and interact.
Look at the “religions” of the world.. in most all, people have to work toward enlightenment, people have to reach out and work hard to get the attention of or to appease their gods – it’s usually people having to do something to get right, to achieve something, to seek god(s) themselves. There are rules, rituals, and parameters around how to do this.
In Christianity – TRUE Christianity – God is reaching out TO us. He already did what needed to be done for us to be right in His sight because He loved us beyond what we could fathom. There’s nothing we can do to make Him love us more. There’s NOTHING we can do to make Him love us less.
So yes, I do agree that “religion MADE Jesus a trend”; religion MADE Jesus into many things He is not.
And how did this happen?
The fact of it is that humans created religion, and humans are what we can physically see in the world. Humans are broken and can’t help but sin. Because there is sin and brokenness, this begets sin and brokenness. We cannot look at the works and creations of humans and then base our ideas and expectations of God and His works upon that. It’d be like me judging and blaming my friend for something a complete stranger did. You can’t understand and base your knowledge of what a chicken is/does based on observing an elephant! Does that make sense?
So then, this brings us to look at a point that I think you implied but did not expressly state: I believe your root question is, “If God DOES love us and hates evil and brings justice and wants peace in the world, then why do children get raped and sold, why do governments oppress, why do innocents die of cancer and disease, why do people murder one another?” The answer I’ve found is super complex and involves many levels of explanation, but it boils down to this:
1. God has given us free will.
– He is a gentleman – He will NEVER force Himself on anyone.
– He wants a relationship with us – in REAL relationship, both parties choose to be there. BOTH. If we didn’t have the choice to choose to love Him and be in that relationship, it’s not a real relationship. Without real relationship, there is no real love.
2. Free will means that each person makes his or her own decisions.
– If God stepped in and made someone do or stop doing something, that is not free will.
– He COULD stop a person, but His love and desire for relationship means He will not revoke their free will.
– My decisions are made out of my sinful flesh. I am not God and I cannot, apart from Him giving me grace, make a selfless, good decision because even on my best day with my best intentions, my actions and decisions are still shaped by my own personal experience of the world and what I perceive to be good. I can’t honestly say that, unless God is involved, my actions don’t sometimes have a tiny selfish, greedy, entitled, ignorant, dishonest, self-promotional bent. I am human. I instinctually self-preserve and survive – whenever these characteristics kick in, one will do anything to protect self even at expense of others.
3. Exercising free will has consequences.
– Free will means I can make a choice that God never would have chosen. This could lead to gain. This could lead to pain.
– Choices effect more than me. As a society, we recognize this – it’s why we have campaigns about “responsible products” and looking into the sources of things to make sure we’re not inadvertently supporting crime or exploitation. When I make a choice, it effects other people, whether I see it or not. See: Butterfly Effect.
– Choices can also lead to consequences we did not expect – for example, God did not create cancer and disease, but humans’ decisions to destroy our planet and create toxic environments, as well as how we treat our bodies, etc, did. Cancer exists because humans exercised their free will to pollute and toxify our planet, an exercising of their free will, which, again, God has given them and will not renig.
In fact – SIN introduced death, not God. Death was never in His plan for His beloved creations. Our disobedient actions (allowed, again, because of our free will) brought about death and separation from God, not God. We have no one to blame but ourselves. God did, however, create grace and give His son to repair the relationship. I’ll leave that alone for now.
Basically, I just used a lot of words to communicate this: Humans are not God. They are the actors that we are basing our judgements of Him upon. He really did die in love for the horrific crimes of this world. But it would not be actual love if He didn’t give us free will and choice.
The truth is, Jesus’ heart CONTINUALLY breaks; He WEEPS, for the brokenness of this world.
But you’re not convinced, right? I mean, you’re asking for “hard evidence” of Jesus, and I think it exists. One example is the country of Mozambique – one of the most desolate, corrupt, and poverty-stricken hellholes in the world has become a beacon of hope and renewal. I’m not sure if it’s available yet, but I challenge you to watch the film Compelled By Love (with an open mind) and then tell me God has left the world doomed. There are countless other testimonies and stories from around the world of God bringing healing and hope to a broken world – that is, if you stop believing the selective, revisionist history we call “the news” and actually seek out the stories of miraculous healing and hope that they too often omit.
Bringing it back to a more concrete source, though: my whole life is evidence of Jesus. As a child who was sexually abused and exploited throughout her life starting at age 3, as well as someone who now has committed to working with little girls and young women around the world in trafficking and prostitution, I also have a DEEP appreciation for the crying out of a broken heart: “God, where the f*** were You? How can You say you love me and all the little girls being sold and raped and exploited day and night around the world, yet just sit back and allow it to happen? Is there no justice?! Are you just some cheesy-ass smiling picture that people set up to make us feel a false sense of happiness and validation? Because I don’t need some God in a book or in a cheesy ‘Jesus loves me’ children’s song.. I need a rescuer and a healer and a FATHER and a warrior and protector. I need to know what love is, REAL, pure love. I need to know what healthy TOUCH is. I need to know that I’m beautiful and valuable and cherished and have a purpose and a reason for being. That I am powerful and strong and worthy of respect. That my life didn’t end when those men chose to rob me of my voice, choice, identity, and security. That You SEE me, You give a f***, You are trustworthy, and You will not ever stop fighting for me.”
A few years ago, I looked at my life and the wreckage it had become, and I asked God all of that. I was unbearably angry at God but I also knew that giving over to the idea that there is no justice, that the world was evil and there was no hope, I’d be just as doomed with no answers left. So, I told Him He had to show up and He’d better do it in a real way or I wasn’t buying it. I told Him I was sick of fake and selfish and religious BS, and that if He didn’t have something genuine and real for me, He could take it all and shove it. But, I asked Him to show me the Truth and to not let any lies, even ones from well-meaning people or even MYSELF, block what He might have for me. “God,” I said, “I don’t want anything to do with You. But, please don’t let go of me no matter what I say, and please give me the desire to want to seek you.” And that is what He did.
He sees each child abused, each bomb dropped, each suicide, each cut, and He is right there with each victim. I have experienced it. To this day, I have prayed that He would show me how He sees people and how He feels about them. I literally feel His pain and weep with him when I see the death and destruction and pain in this world, and I feel overwhelmed with a desire to love and bring hope. For myself, He’s shown me that He was holding me and crying with me when I was molested as a small 3-year old child; that when I decided to try to “play dumb” with my abuser and divert his attention by proposing a new game, this was His inspiration. He guided me into that corner behind that box, playing hide and seek with me, until that garage door went up and help came.
Call it a deluded bleeding heart, or call it a burden of Love…I’m either a crazy emotional nut case or I am possessed with a Love and capacity for compassion that is too overwhelming to have originated in a broken, nobody human being like myself.
So yeah, this is what I know; not all of it, heck no! But this is my somewhat limited response to what you expressed in your comment, Citizen. I think you’re an awesome person, full of amazing gifts and abilities and a purpose that only you can gift to our world. I want nothing but to encourage and support you, and I would not love you if I didn’t entrust my story to you.
Take it or leave it…Thank God for free will, eh?
I Love You, Citizen.