When I first became a “Christian” just over ten years ago, I did so in spite of the messages of condemnation I heard from church leaders and the fundamentalist right. I walked toward Jesus in spite of the legalism that seemed to permeate the narration of the Gospel. How was I able to make the choice to do this? Three reasons.
First, I was not raised in a Christian household, therefore I never had to “unlearn” any ingrained doctrine or dogma. Second, I read books by other believers (Claiborne, Lomas, Manning, Miller, Tchividjian, Willard, Wright, to name a few) who led me to the true nature of a loving and grace-giving God. Third and most important, I read the words of Jesus – those red-letter words in the Bible that came directly from the mouth of my Savior. This is why I call myself a follower of Jesus.
I walked toward Jesus in spite of the legalism that seemed to permeate the narration of the Gospel.
As long as we continue to cling to religious law, doctrine and dogma over love, grace and mercy we will never understand the heart of Jesus, and following that, the heart of the Father. As long as we worship condemnation over Christ we will never allow His love and compassion to work through us to make disciples who accept and honor His love and grace. As long as we are afraid or refuse to speak truth to power, we will place human leaders over God.
Now some may think that because I call out the leader of our country I am judging him; that is not true. I see him through God’s eyes, as someone whose father administered transactional love, who learned early on that performance earns love. I believe he still sees himself as an ugly duckling – unlovable, untransformable, seeking accolades from anyone willing to flatter.
This saddens me greatly. I wish it were otherwise. But I see it in the bluster, in the blaming words, in the prideful behavior. There is fear behind the words and actions, because there is no grounding in Immanuel – a God who never abandons, who grants grace and mercy, and who delivers relational love, rather than transactional love.
Those of us who abide in Christ see our image through His eyes. We have been transformed through our Father’s scandalous, unconditional love and outrageous, generous grace. This unconditional love requires no performance; it attaches no strings, clauses or contingencies. His generous grace is given not because we earn it but because of God’s character. When we accept God’s love, we are able to offer love and compassion. When we welcome God’s grace, we are able to extend grace and mercy. We are, therefore, able to see ourselves as swans rather than the ugly ducklings we once may have seen in our mirrors.
If we are not raised in a family who gives unconditional love and grace, and if we cannot affirm or embrace God’s love and grace, then we don’t know how and are unable to magnify that love and grace to others. And instead of seeking the Spirit’s wisdom, we seek control, dominance and bragging rights.
If you know anyone like this, do not condemn them and do not pray for them to be converted.
Instead, pray God’s will for them. Pray they become transformed by God’s love, mercy and grace. Pray they become discipled by the Spirit. Pray they allow the Spirit to give them God’s ears to hear and His eyes to see. Pray they begin to see themselves as a child of God, as the swan God made them instead of the ugly duckling reflection they see through their own eyes.
“Whoever wanted Jesus, who believed he was who he claimed and would do what he said, He made to be their true selves, their child-of-God selves.” (John 1:12)