President Obama was in town yesterday and Pittsburgh heaved a collective sigh and rolled its collective eyes when the news got out that Parkway traffic would be stopped for as much as 45 minutes at a time, over a 3 hour period, and that did not include any resulting backups from the backup. There goes the president, we thought, messing things up again as usual. Plenty of people were plenty angry that one person, who doesn’t even live here, inconvenienced hundreds of people who do. But wait a minute. Did anybody get that mad when the arrival of Jimmy Buffet at the First Niagra Pavilion congested Route 22 for miles? It’s the same principle, isn’t it? Some folks got mad but most just planned to go around.
I started to wonder about the double standard here, and the judgmental attitude we have for a controversial politician versus the indulgent attitude toward an easygoing rock star. How often do we rush to criticize the easy targets and turn a blind eye to those who just want to kick back and have a beer (or margarita)?
Jesus said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged….Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” (Matthew 7:1-3). Loosely translated, if you’re judging people then you’re a hypocrite because you have your own share of issues, so knock it off!
Jesus also said, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone.” (John 8:7) In other words, if you murder this woman for sinning, then you’re a hypocrite!
Did Jesus ever command us to fight his fights for us? Did he ever say, “go ye into all the world and judge all nations, ridiculing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost?” No, he said to preach to all nations the gospel of love. Argue with me if you like, but the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ most famous sermon and by far the longest recorded (found in Matthew 5-7), is all about treating everyone with love. In Mark 12:29-31 he said:
“The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”
Regular readers, do you feel like I use that same passage over and over? There’s a reason – there is no greater commandment! So why do so many people think their faith includes demonizing their neighbor for living with a romantic partner without being married, or for being attracted to the same gender, or for going to the club on Saturday night or for sleeping in on Sunday morning? Yes, the Bible has rules and yes, we will have to explain ourselves to God one day and yes, our explanations will probably sound stupid. So how about ignoring those questions of faith and asking this one: does my neighbor genuinely love God, and does he/she prove it by loving others? If yes, then the rest is none of your business and anyway, that person may have consequences of their choices to deal with that you don’t even know about. If no, then start being a witness of faith by showing them how loving the followers of Christ are. I don’t want to use the word “Christian” right now because I’m a little mad at it. Based on the question above I’m not sure Christians are always followers of Christ.
You can flap your gums about theology all you want to but here is the breakdown: love. Love, love, love, love, love. It’s what Jesus tried to drill into our heads. It’s what he set an example of with the ultimate demonstration. If following Christ was what a lot of people seem to think Christianity is about, then here is an idea of what Jesus’ death was all about: oh gosh Jesus, would you please be brutally tortured to the point that you cannot be recognized and die a humiliating death while the torture continues, in order that we can be free to hate each other some more, and spit in each others’ faces and kick one another while we are down and generally maintain a conviction that nobody is worth as much as we are? Seems like a bum deal to me. At the risk of sounding heretical, if all that hatred is what Jesus was teaching, I guess I’d have to say, what’s the big deal about this Jesus person, anyway?