Grumpy Old Christian
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:7-8
Long ago, while moving out of college at the end of one year, I was on the freeway, when a guy in a fancy sports car pulled up alongside me and yelled something. To be clear, my car wasn’t nice. One side was dented, scratched, and missing a rearview mirror. One of my tire rims rattled loudly. To top it off, my car was stuffed to the brim with everything from my dorm room. I rolled down my window to ask this guy what he said. He repeated himself, “You’re a mess!” and then sped off in his expensive shiny car. What a jerk! I was right to be annoyed. Perhaps I was a bit of a mess, but I was just a poor college student. He had no right to judge me. He didn’t know me. He was just some random guy on the freeway.
Years later now, I’m married, and if my wife said something similar, it wouldn’t be hurtful. If she got in my pickup and said, “This is a bit of a mess”, I wouldn’t be offended or angry. She knows and loves me, and she’d help me clean it up because she genuinely cares. Her proclamation may be a criticism, but it would be a constructive one, coming from a place that she’s earned in my life because of the love she’s poured into me. She can say those things to me, and I can hear them from her, because of the relationship we’ve established.
This is something we must understand as Christians. As followers of Christ, we do believe in an absolute truth. We also believe – or at least we should – that we’re meant to love those around us. Often though, it’s much easier to emphasize our job as truth-bearers to our neighbors over our job to love them. We mistakenly think that the most loving thing we can do is to hit others over the head with our truth. When asked about loving our neighbors though, Jesus didn’t relate a truth-telling story. Rather, he told a story about someone who helped a complete stranger who was in desperate need.
How do those outside our church see us? Do they know us as grumpy old Christians, yelling at the neighborhood kids? Or do they know us as kind, loving, and caring? As followers of Christ, we do have a responsibility to share the truth of the gospel. God though, is love. And as those who believe in him, we must also be known for our love, not as grumpy old Christians.