There's a quote attributed to Mahatma Ghandi that goes something like this: "I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." From a Christian theological perspective, this is of course problematic, since the church lives as the Body of Christ in the world.
But from a practical perspective, there are days where I couldn't agree more with Ghandi.
All too often as a pastor I hear stories about how people were ostracized from a community for absurd reasons. One friend, a devout Christian, has found physical and mental benefits from the practice of yoga, a discovery that led a church to publicly denounce that family in worship. Two different friends in two different states were asked to leave worship in the congregations where they worked, all because their small children were fussing. You know, children being children. Another friend remains closeted because of an unfortunately well founded fear that, should he come out of the closet, the denomination he calls home will quickly expel him. Each of us carries stories like this, where the Body of Christ has failed to look anything like the Christ we see in the Gospels. My heart grieves for my friends, and for these communities that are losing such wonderful examples of God's image amongst them.
But this post isn't meant to bash the church at large or particular communities, but instead to call us all to that place where Christ commanded us, "Don't judge, so you won't be judged, for you'll receive the same judgement you give." Of course, when I critique other churches and Christians for their harsh judgements, I'm making a judgement as well. It's a vicious cycle!
But let's apply Jesus' words. When we use judgement to expel others from our midst, that's the judgement we'll receive from God. When we use judgement to embrace others, that's the judgement we'll receive from God. I'll take my chances erring on the side of grace here.
And that's just the point. Jesus fell constantly on the side of grace. That's not to say he didn't execute harsh judgements, for tossing over tables in the temple and condemning Israel's religious elite as "whitewashed tombs" are pretty poignant judgements. But the example Jesus invites us to follow is one of inclusion rather than division, one of embrace rather than denial.
As Christians, we're called to be little Christs, living the life of Christ in the world. That means a radical hospitality that invites others to come in to relationship. From that common place and mutual care, we may together seek sanctification, the process of becoming more like God. But we can only do that if we're committed to doing it together. What we've got to learn is that we're not called to judge, and any act of judgement we employ is the same standard we set up against ourselves. Instead, as little Christs ,we're called to come to the world first in love, leading in compassion, seeking healing, and pursuing relationship.
If yoga isn't your thing as a Christian, that's fine, but that doesn't mean it's unholy. If children being children bothers you, take your cues from Jesus, who invited the little children to come to him. If you're ready to cast out a sister or brother because they love someone with similar biology, remember that Jesus tells you not to judge, and if you do judge, that the very same standard will be used in your own judgement. God's heart isn't for a perfect community, but for a human community deeply seeking God.
And there's no way we're going to see God if we judge every image that God placed before us as unworthy.
Simultaneously a sinner and a saint.