If you need the rest of the story, it can be found here. Happy reading. ~ Holly
From our interaction with Ellya at the clinic, I learned he had lost a wife and a child. Now he had a child with cancer. Without question, he had endured more heartache than I could fathom.
I have to admit that when I first heard about the condition his children were living in I was indignant. When one of our translators returned from the village where Ellya lived she reported a one-room hut that was falling apart and had no door. There was no food for them to eat and their clothing was filthy. As she questioned neighbors there were reports of the children being left to fend for themselves while their father spent what little resources they had on alcohol.
And that’s when I got on my high horse. I mounted it and proudly rode around looking down my nose at this man who I didn’t even know. He should be more concerned with caring for his remaining children than with getting plastered. I looked at him with disdain, feeling as though he were beneath me. Beneath me not because of his meager life in a third-world country but because he wasn’t caring for his children.
When interacting with him I tried to wear my non-judgmental face but my scorn simmered underneath. Thoughts of how he should be doing things, how I would handle the situation, and all the ways he was falling short as a parent kept me from seeing him as an equal.
I knew my thinking wasn’t fair but I couldn’t seem to stop it. No matter how hard I tried I could only see what he was doing, not who he was. He was a drunk. He neglected those who relied solely on him.
As Steve and I spent time with him one afternoon at Mulago Hospital, all that changed. I saw a father who wouldn’t go eat for fear he would miss Joseph coming out of surgery. I saw strong hands struggle to keep his son from falling off the bed as he writhed in agony. I heard quiet, tender words spoken to Joseph in an attempt to sooth him. As I looked into his eyes I saw the beginnings of tears. All these things were a wet blanket on my fire of indignation.
Then came the moment when it was all washed away.
“Thank you. Thank you for what you have done for my son. I received a diagnosis and took him home to die but you Muzungus brought him here,” he said with shame in his eyes.
In that moment I believe I was given a glimpse into Ellya’s heart. I had mistaken hopelessness for indifference, sorrow for selfishness.
All the feelings of haughtiness and superiority drained from me and I saw Ellya in an entirely new way. For the first time I saw him for who he was. He was a single father with 4 children. He was a widower. He was grieving the loss of a child. He had a son with cancer and no means to seek treatment. He was a man. He was a human – created in Gods image, just like me.
I had been cruel and unfair.
Do I want people who don’t really know me to swoop in and pass judgment on my life? Do I want to be seen only for what I do? Would I like for people to focus on my mistakes? Never! But that’s exactly what I had done. I had judged. It’s so tempting to criticize what we haven’t walked through.
That’s the lesson for me: don’t look at people through the lens of their choices. When I do that I see them as nothing more than the sum of their behaviors, and looking solely at behavior misses the heart. If I truly want to see someone I must be willing to look past their choices.
Not many of us will find ourselves on the other side of the world passing judgment on a hurting man. But each of us will be tempted to do the same thing in our circle of family, friends, and acquaintances. Whether it’s an addiction, deliberate bad choices, or simply failure to make any choice at all, there are many people on whom we pass judgment. Instead of callously drawing conclusions I am challenged to take the time and make an effort to understand the person rather than their behavior alone.
“I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
It happened again. I was embarrassed to be a Christian.
No, I am not a heretic and I haven’t turned my back on what I believe. And if you confuse embarrassed to be a Christian with being embarrassed by Christ, you’d be way off base.
The problem I have with being a Christians is, well, other Christians. Not all of them. But a select few cause me to completely understand why we would be a colossal turn off. When it’s kooks like the folks from Westboro Baptist, I can take solace in the idea that surely most people know they are completely insane. They don’t represent normal Christians. Most people do know that, right?
But then there are days when someone like Scott comes along and causes me to want to pull my hair out. Or hide. Or both.
It started out promising. Pastor Pete Wilson posted a story from the Huffington Post that gave me hope. The writer, who hadn’t been to church in many years, attended the first service that CrossPoint Community Church held at their new campus. She then went on to relay her experience which was seemingly quite positive. In a time where there is no shortage of negative media regarding evangelical churches, I found her comments refreshing.
I should have just followed the link, read the story, re-posted it and gone about my day. But no, I had to get distracted by the amount of comments there were. And that’s where I ran into Scott and wished I never had.
In the article Ms. Pinto made the following statement. “There was a huge population of gay parishioners and people of every color.” This was in no way the focus of her article; it was a statement given from her perspective as a visitor. For some reason Scott, and a few others, took this statement as their cue to take Pastor Pete and CrossPoint to task because some ‘gay parishioners’ may or may not attend there. The hate and venom that followed both offended and saddened me. And it made me mad. Mad!
When did it become acceptable for Christians to vilify and malign each other? How can Scott speak with such authority on Cross Point when he, admittedly, has never been there? And what makes his pride, hate, and self-righteousness permissible? Have we reduced Christianity to class A, B, and C crimes?
As Christians we have the freedom to choose where we worship and whose teaching we sit under. If you don’t agree with what a pastor or church is teaching, then don’t go there. To me it seems that simple. When I think of all the time and effort that was completely wasted in the 100+ comments that followed I can’t help but think of how that time could have been better used.
I believe that each of us is called to effect change in our circle of influence; to be the hands and feet of Jesus. What opportunities are we missing out on when we misuse our time castigating each other? And more importantly, what do the civil wars Christians engage in say to outsiders? It paints us all with the same brush, and we Christians wind up looking very different from the Christ we profess to follow. People see the Scott’s of Christianity and want nothing to do with it.