A buddy of mine posted on Facebook this past week, what is a hill you would die on? I feel at at most 41 years old, along with our collection of plastic grocery bags – we gain a collection of things that aren’t worth fighting over, and a handful of hills that are worth dying on. Because I didn’t feel like diving too deep, as well as not wanting to hijack his post, I went with one of my small hills – the zipper merge works.
But I didn’t go with the hill that I really cared about – that following Jesus is worth it.
To many of you, I hate starting this post that way. 1 Peter 3 says we should be quick to share our hope, but in a way that shows gentleness and respect. I want to show gentleness in respect to you, reader, in how I share what has impacted me. I want to respect you. I want to be respectful and gentle because I grew in southern West Virginia, in the 80’s and 90’s. My parents loved me, but Christianity was used to push people to do right things, to guilt people for not being good enough, and to build petty fiefdoms. It was used to judge people and beat people over the head. I don’t remember ever hearing about the goodness of God as a child (or even as an adult), nor about hearing how God made ALL of us equal. I never heard about the power and authority He bestowed upon us.
I heard about not making people feel bad…..about the 10 commandments…. about not worshipping idols.
I never once saw Christianity having a positive impact. I saw it being used to manipulate and control, and to abuse and hurt people.
I gave my life to Jesus at 13 years old, but in college, I had no desire to follow God because of the spiritual toxicity I had seen. At 21 when I began to meet people who are Christians and I actually wanted to be like – I decided to give a hard look at this Christianity thing again.
The question – does Christianity actually make a positive impact on the world – this was a question I would go on to wrestle with for the next 3-4 years. It held me back from really going all in. After a bit, I realized I needed to follow Jesus, but could I honestly tell you or anyone else it is good for you? How do I reconcile the messages of Jesus with the toxicity I had seen – churches where the Pastor is elevated by every one? Christians who are quick to point out what you did wrong, but never once lift a finger to help you? I could go on. You can go on, too.
The first step I had to realize is this – what I had seen for much of my childhood as a Christian – Jesus hated. Fun fact about Jesus – he called people snakes. The people he called snakes – they were the church leaders in Israel. Another fun fact – Jesus flipped over tables in what most would call “a fit of rage”. Oh, he didn’t do that in someone’s house, or even in Target. No, Jesus flipped over the tables in the temple (the equivalent of church). Why did he do that? Because the people leading it were dishonest thieves. And while we know Jesus as the HEAD of the church – you have to take a minute to realize, he was nobody in their eyes. He didn’t grow up in a rich family. He didn’t excel in school (like all of the religious leaders had). He was a lowly blue collar worker, a carpenter. He didn’t put himself on billboards – in fact He actually demanded that people NOT tell everyone about Him. He didn’t chase big crowds, He chased the person hiding in the corner. And not to “convert” them, but to help them heal from what was aching in their body…and their soul.
TL:DR – I had to realize that Jesus hated the actions of the fake, phony, toxic religious leaders as much as I did.
I will get back to point 2 (and maybe 3) another day. I’ve devoted more time to this than I should. If you have feedback, please feel free to comment below, text, email, call, send smoke signals (I have no idea how to read those though). I have avoided chasing building a brand because I have ZERO desire to be the person people idolize. I want to be able to impact you, the reader, and I want to do that by serving and loving you. So I would love to hear from you if you have a need.