If we ever want to know why the world wants nothing to do with Jesus, we need look no further than ourselves.

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Dear Church,

I barely even recognize you any more. Several years ago, while in ministry, I seriously considered parting ways for a while. Every Sunday was grueling. Rituals, fake smiles, shallow words. You may smile at me Sunday in the lobby of the sanctuary, but heaven forbid you should speak to me if I bump into you at Publix on Monday. Despite the disappointment that led to a season of disillusionment with you I decided at my husband’s prompting to give it one more try. I’m glad I did. We found a place that allowed us to be….us. Worship was intentional, engaging. Messages spoke to the reality of the human condition, brothers and sisters welcomed us with open arms and open hearts.

But a few weeks ago, I bumped into the you I wanted to forget. I decided to do the Daniel Fast for 3 weeks and for various personal reasons. I thought maybe I could learn more about the fast and get recipe ideas if I joined a Facebook group created for people doing the fast.

BIG. MISTAKE.

The first day was fine. Then slowly, but oh so surely, it started to get ugly….real, ugly. Though believers and non-believers do the fast, the page was dominated mostly by Christian views. The fast has guidelines: no sugar, no wine, no dairy, no bread, no meat, only water to drink. But there are some variations of the fast, such as adding herbal teas and alternative cheeses (rice or soy), to the “ok” list. A debate arose at times in the Facebook group, about which version of the fast to follow.

As people innocently shared recipes, or something they had for dinner, it happened.

The Pharisees showed up.

One lady shared a really awesome looking strawberry crepe recipe, everything on the list was allowed, all but one ingredient.

One.

And she got blasted for it. By her brothers and sisters in Christ. (Well, let’s be honest. Mostly the sisters.)

Blasted, for adding 2 TEASPOONS OF AGAVE NECTAR to a recipe laden with approved foods from the fast.

Seriously, who in the world do we think we are to condemn, yes, condemn, another human being, let alone a fellow member of our dis-membered Christian family, for adding something to her diet so that it would appeal to her husband and children? She was so happy that it was healthy and her family loved it. And on the heels of that, she was criticized. It’s a dang shame, y’all, a dang shame.

Can you say Judaizers? Because that isn’t just something that went on in the New Testament. It’s alive and well in the Church today, and it is wasting us away like a cancer of the soul. The Bride is sick and instead of sacrificing ourselves, our viewpoints, to cure her, we’re poisioning her with our own versions of keeping the Law.

Don’t do this. Don’t do that.

Jesus ate with thieves, prostitutes, Pharisees and He didn’t sit at the table and criticize them the whole time about how far off base they were from being like Him.

So let me ask again, “Who do we think we are?

Many people on the fast’s Facebook page posted often about their disappointment in others within the group who they accused of looking for ways around the fast, or not sticking to it 100%. Have you ever cut out sugar, dairy, meat, bread, and all other drinks but water? At the same time? Let me tell you, it ain’t for the faint of heart. If you even attempt it for a week, that’s pretty amazing. Where were the comments like, “Hey, pray and ask God for help to stay on the fast, but if you fail, just try again. It’s all grace.” ? Yes, there were definitely a few folks who encouraged, but as is usually the case, the nay-sayers were louder.

The absolute clincher for me in this whole Daniel-Fast-Facebook-thing was when a total Holy Roller posts her outrage at how the Church is weak and not sticking to the fast. She screamed, in ALL CAPS AND EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!!!!!!, how we should be ashamed of ourselves, and that we weren’t being faithful, and on and on it went. The fury in the comments ranged from “Don’t Judge Me.” to “I‘m not posting in this group anymore.” Other members agreed with Sister Saint and her tongue-lashing of the Church. Each time someone commented at her directly, she’d answer with MY WALK GETTING CLOSER!

What ?!?! What in the heck does that even mean? Obviously your walk needs to be a little closer if you can come on Facebook and demean your Christian family in the Name of Jesus. Get real and try to reconnect with the amazing Grace that saved your scrawny neck and mine.

The week following up to this explosion, I’d been sensing a disappointment growing in me again. Disappointment that as believers we just cannot seem to do anything together without nit-picking the daylights out of each other. We are total speck hunters. Hunting and finding that speck in everyone else’s eyes, while protecting the pink elephant of a tree growing out of our own.

With one click of the button, I was out. I had to leave that version of the Church. I just can’t go there again. I can’t allow that condemnation to come upon me by my own brothers and sisters in Christ. Now that I’m a little further along in my Jesus journey, I gotta know when to go. So I went.

I should’ve gone sooner, as soon as the nit-picking started. I wanted to believe it was possible for the Body to encourage rather than discourage. I wanted to believe it badly, but it’s like the saying goes as told by Madea, “When somebody shows you who they are, believe them. The first time.”

I closed the lid on my iPad and looked at my husband.

I said, “If we ever want to know why the world wants nothing to do with Jesus, we need look no further than ourselves. WE are the reason, they don’t want HIM.”

And I believe it. Now, more than ever.

If we are willing to rip each other to shreds over agave nectar, can you imagine what we are doing to the world?

Fifteen years ago, we moved to Orlando to work for one of the companies a large denomination boycotted. The boycott did nothing except encourage a whole heckuva lot of people in this city to swear they’d never go to THAT church again or any church for that matter. Many pastor friends told us that the damage done to churches seeking the lost in this area, has taken years to recover from. I always wondered why believers would expect a company not founded on Christian values to behave in a Christ-like way?

Baffling.

It took many years for the sting of that boycott to wear off down here. I’m pretty sure Jesus wouldn’t have tried to reach the people of my city through a boycott. I have a feeling Love would’ve been first and foremost in His mind. He spoke most harshly to the Pharisees, you know, it’s true.

Listen, I struggle as much as anyone with judging. These folks in that Facebook group just chose to be very vocal about their judgments, I just keep mine to myself, most of the time. And I know it is sometimes really hard to see the line between not condoning immoral or wrong behavior and judging. It is a very, very fine line at times. But here are the verses I come back to when I can’t seem to tell if I’m judging someone or just calling it like it is.

“For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him.”- John 3:17

If JESUS didn’t come into this world to judge it, then who am I to judge anyone?

“1 Do not judge and criticize and condemn others, so that you may not be judged and criticized and condemned yourselves.
2 For just as you judge and criticize and condemn others, you will be judged and criticized and condemned, and in accordance with the measure you [use to] deal out to others, it will be dealt out again to you.
3 Why do you stare from without at the very small particle that is in your brother’s eye but do not become aware of and consider the beam of timber that is in your own eye?
4 Or how can you say to your brother, Let me get the tiny particle out of your eye, when there is the beam of timber in your own eye?
5 You hypocrite, first get the beam of timber out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the tiny particle out of your brother’s eye.”- Matthew 7:1-5

Don’t Judge. Just don’t. Whenever we judge someone else, at that very moment, we are guilty of something judge-worthy ourselves. If we spent as much time looking at our own faults, we wouldn’t have much time left over to look at anyone else’s.

Church, Jesus told us to do a lot of things before He left. He told us to love each other, He told us to do that a lot. He told us to go ye therefore and make disciples and baptize. But He never left the responsibility of judging for the Church. Because obviously we are not cut out for the job.

We are so caught up in trying to be perfect instead of being made perfect in Him. There is a difference and I’m just starting to discover it myself. We are too busy comparing ourselves to each other in order to feel worthy. We are entrenched in senseless rituals, and meaningless rules about everything from the music we listen to or whether or not Christians should drink wine.

Here’s a newflash: the world could care less.

They could care less about all the things we seem to care so much about. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” And that’s what the world is looking for: caring, loving people. The song is right, what the world needs now IS love, sweet love. It IS the only thing that there’s just too little of. But they don’t need our love, they need the love of Jesus, displayed and acted out by us, the Church.

Know who else needs care and love, sweet love? The Church. That’s right, you and me. We need love. We need the love of Jesus, displayed and acted out by our brothers and sisters in Christ. And we need it something fierce. Before its too late.

By this shall all [men] know that you are My disciples, if you love one another [if you keep on showing love among yourselves].”- John 13:35

Until all are free….even the Church,
Your heartsick Sister

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Comments

  1. From this wine drinking, processed sugar eating sinner: Best. Blog post. Ever!!!

  2. Yes and Amen!
    I am also grieved by the message that is often communicated by the church. Our message should be love! To those who live differently, love. To those who believe differently, love. To those who make poor choices or hate us, love.

    I can’t express it as eloquently as you. 🙂 thanks for writing this!

    • Holly I think you expressed it perfectly. Thanks for your response. Your meals and recipes got my husband and I through the Daniel Fast. Thank YOU! Would love to have you guest blog someday.

  3. Kathleen Richardson :

    Dear Amy, Thank you so much for sharing those words.

  4. Johnny Rivera :

    Thank you for sharing and encouraging me. You speak truth!

  5. I agree with those above, well said, Amy!

    I am guilty of judging the actions of others too, but tend to keep it inside – I know that is still not an excuse. I am working on praying through those thoughts and asking for compassion and God’s heart for others, and I am grateful that God has such love for us all! 🙂

    • Holly, being aware of our tendencies to judge, and we all are tempted in different ways, is the start. I have a dear friend who is so much farther along in this journey than me, so I have asked myself many times what her response might be, and that along with Jesus is a great guiding Light. Thanks for reading!

  6. So true. We do so much damage to others view of Christ by the way we withhold grace. The same grace that saves us. I have hope though in the Church because of those, like you, who recognize it and speak about it.

    • Lindsay, when I speak at events, being bold comes easily for me. When I write I think I’ve tended to tone things down a bit. Probably because I’m still growing in looking to Jesus alone for my acceptance. Thanks for the encouragement though to be myself. Blessings!

  7. Liberty in Christ. Love, mercy, gentleness, GRACE… In Christ. But, bondage in the very place we are to be pouring out the very things He has imparted to us. Thanks for your boldness and courage to write such words!

  8. Love it. Well said. I remember hearing a story about a man who was treated poorly because of the color of his skin and his attire at the door of the church. He went on to influence many. I heard it told that man was Ghandi. I don’t know if that is a true story or not but I’ve had it happen to me, seen it happen to others… too often. We need revival in the church. I pray for that often but I also see the remnant growing, seeking and standing.

  9. I came to a similar conclusion some 14 years ago. It took me over a decade to find a place where I feel genuinely accepted and can be me, but find it I did. Sadly your article is all too true, but not shocking or even something new. See Romans 2:24, Paul was calling the church out for this kind of behavior even then.

  10. As a gay man, I dealt with the church’s judgment for years. The church never failed—not once—to remind me about what a horrible sinner I was, hated by God and hellbound. So what did I do? After decades, I finally gave up on the church and went and found a nice Buddhist group. I dare say they run circles around most Christians in acting Christ-like. They welcome the downtrodden and oppressed. They never judge. They feed the hungry and go visit the imprisoned. And they teach a path to peace. Ironically, I feel more Christian among this group of (mostly) non-theists than I EVER did sitting in a Christian church. Wake up, folks.

  11. LOVE LOVE your post! Love that you share so unashamedly and transparently. Sadly, I see it all too often. We are our own worst examples; putting ourselves on pedestals of righteousness for what we can show the world as success and good deeds when on the ground beneath us lie all of our ugliness and sin. None is righteous not one!! How many more we would save if we had the courage to show our brokenness and failures; transparently loving each other with unending grace and mercy rather than judgement and condemnation as if. . .as if any of us ever gets it right! UGH! Thanks girlie! Love you!

  12. Oops!! meant to say “would be saved” not “we would save” correction please:)

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