for release Friday May 14, 2004
by Melodie Davis
Straight Talk For Church Folks
Recently a reader asked, “What if sometime you would address the issue of non-Christians hating the name of Jesus, hating the church, hating Christians, and hating preachers above all? This describes me 30 years ago. This describes many of the people I meet—many people who have been deeply wounded by ‘church’ people.”
I knew exactly what he was talking about. Unfortunately, there are lots of people who have utter contempt for Christians, usually because of a few bad experiences or because of a public perception that Christians are either hopelessly misguided and naïve, or worse, downright self-righteous, patronizing, judgmental and arrogant. Then there have been those who are violent, mean, cheats, and yes, killers.
The man who suggested this topic described a recent conversation with another man who expressed this kind of hatred for the church. In response, the first man said, “Religion is a stench to God’s nostrils.”
Jesus himself said essentially the same thing, denouncing the religious institutions and leaders of his day. He called them hypocrites, blind fools, snakes, brood of vipers, and probably some other choice terms I’m forgetting. At one point he became so angry he made a whip and drove out those doing business in the temple. I’m sure Jesus feels the same way about some of the things that go on today in the name of religion. I’m sure that I, too, have surely saddened, hurt and severely disappointed him.
The great leader of India, Mohandas (Mahatma) Ghandi said at one time, “I
would have become a Christian myself but I have not found one true Christian.”
During his years studying law in Britain, he had become attracted to the Christian faith, had studied the Bible and the teachings of Jesus, and was seriously exploring becoming a Christian.
One Sunday, in South Africa where he had gone to practice law after getting his degree, he decided to attend a church service. As he came up the steps of the large church where he intended to go, a white South African elder of the church barred his way at the door. “Where do you think you're going, kaffir?” the man asked Ghandi in a belligerent tone of voice.
Ghandi replied, “I’d like to attend worship here.”
The church elder snarled at him, “There's no room for Kaffirs in this church. Get out of here or I'll have my assistants throw you down the steps.”
From that moment, Ghandi said, he decided to adopt what good he found in Christianity, but would never again consider becoming a Christian if it meant being part of the church. (From Pursuing Christ devotions, http://www.pursuingchrist.com/archives/mountain.htm )
Not long ago someone posted this comment on our website (www.thirdway.com/talk) “Whenever I hear a person claim their church is the only one that is saved, I think that ‘If that is the case, Heaven is pretty empty.’ There are not many there.” There are churches that claim theirs is the only one, and more that act like they are. Recently I sat beside a woman on a plane and I figured out early on what group she was with. From readings and past experience, I knew that her denomination does think they are the only ones going to heaven. She was a perfectly nice woman, heading to a convention for her church.
The key to knowing whether faith is genuine lies in looking at actions. The Another Way reader who sent this idea in asked, “What happens if [instead] we put ourselves aside and really sacrifice our lives to [follow Jesus] in every way that we can? What if we put the welfare of others above our own? What if we give others the freedom to search for God without our insisting that they become ‘goody two shoes’ or [behave] just like or us or whatever … What God is looking for is a heart/human spirit that desires a relationship with God …”
Our talk means absolutely nothing. How we behave in everyday life—this means everything to God, and also to those who are around us.
If Ghandi had lived a little longer, he would have only had to look to a fellow native of India, Mother Theresa to find someone who surely lived the life of a Christian. Most of us are not cut out to be a Mother Theresa, but if we emulated just a little of her loving, giving, self-sacrificial spirit, we would come closer to being a worthy representative of God’s love.
What do you think? Write to me at: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
NOTES TO EDITORS: text = 771 words; end material = 105 words
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