I have taken a long, obstacle strewn, tiring course path to Christianity. I’ve shunned God, fought him, ignored him, questioned everything.
And at some point, I met a guy, one who claimed to be Christian, but seemed to pick and choose what to follow. And one day, I confessed to that man what I felt was my biggest sin, my biggest failure yet, and that man held me while I cried, and told me it was ok. He told me that while he didn’t agree with my choices, he wouldn’t throw the first stone. And, finally…I got it. It clicked. That was the turning point for me. I believe in God, I love trying to be the kind of person I think God wants me to be…Christianity and religion though, I’m still struggling with. And, I think that’s ok. We were not commanded to be religious.
We grew up some more, and I married that man. Who has continued to show true love to me, through my mistakes and missteps. And, it makes it a lot easier to forgive him too. But, Brad had been spoon-fed religion from a very young age. I am cautious here because I don’t want to sound like I’m insulting him, I’m not trying to, and I think he understands that. But, he never seemed to mature into his own spirituality. I have always questioned everything, Brad questioned nothing. When I went to church with him, I kept asking why, and he didn’t know, but, he knew he was told to believe this and that was good enough for him. I asked why he never questioned, and he basically never thought about it. When you grow up in a bubble, how do you know there is anything to question? It reminds me a bit of The Truman Show. All these odd things going on, but, they are normal to him.
He can quote you a lot of verses. But, his being fed in church and by his mother what to think resulted in a very different interpretation than I got while I screamed at God for answers and read portions of the Bible while muttering “This is a bunch of stupid, bull crap, don’t even understand the point.” (And yes, Brad will tell you I’m the only person he’s ever known to cuss during a prayer. I am horribly irreverent.) And eventually, those different interpretations became conversations. I could counter anything he said. I never cared much about changing his mind, I just wanted to know his mind. Not the party line. Talk after talk and Brad learned, he didn’t know what he believed. He believed in God, but outside of that…
So, this past year, I feel like I’ve found my feet a bit better. I have tried not to worry about every little thing I am “supposed” to be doing, and instead, focused on the two things Jesus said, Love God, love others. If I’m doing those things, then I think I’m doing alright. While I was finding how to live what I believed, Brad has been learning to figure out what he believes. He grew up in a very legalistic church, and his parents were even more so than the church. There is a lot of room for grace in my life, but, his only had room for rules and regulations. You had to be perfect, but only the SDA’s version of perfect. It’s leading to a lot of interesting discussions, because, Brad learned God was a God of fire and brimstone, who was looking for reasons to cast people into Hell, that good wasn’t good enough. And, I found a friend, and those versions clash pretty regularly.
Anyway, Brad has slowly started to see some merit in my beliefs, and sometimes, I think even if he doesn’t agree with me he can’t see a reason not to, so he goes along with it just to see how it works out. And, we’ve caught some flak for it. I can think of many times the people who are “better” Christians than we are have either outright attacked my beliefs or have spoken incredibly harsh words, not knowing, I was the person they hated so much. Brad was raised to believe everything he is now, everything he does now, is a sin. That he is a bad person for watching football or playing video games, or wearing jeans on the rare occasion we go to church, or enjoying a nice steak after a hard day’s work. It is all going to count against him when he dies. When we’ve tried to share our views, we are shot down immediately.
Yesterday, my husband said something I found incredibly profound
I grew up knowing the verse that as a Christian there would be misunderstanding and ‘persecution’ for my beliefs. I was always taught that it would come from ‘those people’ in the ‘world’. I didn’t realize that as I tried to align my life more with what God said, rather than what people interpreted Him to say, that more of the persecution would actually come from other Christians.
And, yes, that is exactly what he said, I know because he texted it to me rather than said it.
Don’t get me wrong, neither of us consider the rude comments and judgmental attitudes to be “persecution” but, it’s interesting that the worst response we’ve gotten has been from Christians. Both of us have a different best friend, both best friends are atheists, and we’ve actually never offended them. Talked, debated? Sure, but nobody has ever gotten angry.
So, I got a book for Christmas, called Sacrilege by Hugh Halter. I read 3/4 of it the day I got it, then put it down. Yesterday morning, Brad made the comment to me, about the persecution coming from other Christians. I was waiting for my computer to charge last evening, and picked up my book again. Chapter 11 began with Matthew 5:10-12.
Blesses are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blesses are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted you they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
I think anyone raised in the church has heard this before. So, I continued reading, without giving it much thought. Until the second page of chapter 11, where the author begins to talk about how all Christians know this verse, and they use it to pat themselves on the back when anyone doesn’t like them. They shout “You’re going to hell, Sinner” and when the object of their words doesn’t invite them to dinner or doesn’t immediately drop everything to head to church with the Christian, then this is proof positive they are doing it right. When you tell one of the “Jerks for Jesus” how you really feel about them, that’s how they know they are building “treasure in heaven”. And, then, the author goes on to ask, who did most of the judging and persecuting of Jesus? The religious leaders, the other religious people. They hated him. He didn’t follow all the rules they had set up, and he was hated for it.
I had never heard this viewpoint before, that it was the “good” Christians who would do the persecuting, and now, I hear it twice in the same day. I am not hated for my beliefs, but my beliefs are hated. I am actually generally liked. I guess, for now, I am choosing to believe I am on the right path. Non-Christians like me just fine. And, I guess that’s a good thing, I’ll hang out with the tax collectors and prostitutes. They don’t seem to be real upset. If I’m wrong, I’m not hearing anything from the Christians I haven’t heard a million times before. If I’m right, than maybe I’ll do some good.
And, I can’t help but think of all this, and remember…that I was the unbeliever, who saw God in the actions of a man who was doing it all “wrong”. Maybe it was all wrong. He loved me, unconditionally, and that was what I needed. And, I’ll do that for others…even though I cuss too much, and sometimes show to much cleavage, and am just quite a bit less than perfect.