Summary: As Christians, we are more known for what we are against than what we are for. Ironically, Jesus said we were to be known by love, and that is how the world will recognize us.
Last week, we started looking at what the world around us wants to know about Christians. We talked about the kind of faith that the world around us is saying, do you have that kind of faith? Today, we are going to look at love. I told you last week, that one verse has been driving me as a pastor for the past several years. Let’s read it together from 1 Corinthians 13:13: So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Some of you might be wondering, aren’t we doing it out of order? We are, but I think that is okay. It will all make sense as we go on.
Dan Kimball recently wrote a book called I like Jesus but not the church. In it he said they interviewed hundreds of people to ask their opinions on Jesus and Christians.
He said, when we asked people about Jesus and what they thought of him, their faces would light up. They would say things like, “Jesus was beautiful.” “I want to be like Jesus.” “Jesus was a liberator of women.” “I’m all about Jesus.” “I want to be a follower of Jesus.” “Jesus was enlightened and had higher truth.”
With the 2nd question, their expressions changed dramatically. “Christians have taken the teachings of Jesus and really messed them up.” “I would want to be a Christian, but I have never met one.” “Christians are dogmatic and close-minded.” “Christians are supposed to be loving, but I’ve never met any who are.”
“Christians have a political agenda, they are judgmental and negative, it is male dominated, they are homophobic, arrogant concerning other religions, and they are hate-filled.”
Now how is it possible that Jesus and the religion that bears his name became such polar opposites in the eyes of the world? Is that an accurate view? How is it that a man who has made such an impact on history with his simple message of loving God and loving others, how did it get twisted in their minds?
Listen to some of these quotes. Jerry Fallwell said, "If you’re not a born-again Christian, you’re a failure as a human being."
George Bush Sr. once said, "No, I don’t know that atheists should be considered citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God."
Here is what one Christian said on the subject of homosexuality, “Those who practice homosexuality should swiftly be put to death by the government.”
After September 11th, several Christian leaders spoke out about the attacks. Ann Coulter said, "We know who the homicidal maniacs are. They are the ones cheering and dancing right now. We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."
Jerry Fallwell said, "I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say ’you helped this happen.’"
Randall Terry, Founder of Operation Rescue said, "I want you to just let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good...Our goal is a Christian nation.”
We have all seen the signs from protests about how God hates abortionists and how God hates homosexuals. I don’t know about you, but even as I wrote these quotes down and read them, I am embarrassed.
So I ask you again, how did the message of Jesus, a message of love, compassion, and grace. How did that message become this?
If you have your bibles, you can open them to John 13. Let me set the stage about what is happening in John 13. Jesus is with his disciples and we are getting closer to the time of Jesus’ death on the cross. John 13 starts with Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. In the 1st century, no one wore shoes, they wore sandals in a world of dirt, the foot washer was one of the lowest jobs that someone could have. It was the job the lowest man on the totem pole got to do, not something that people stood in line to do.
So Jesus and his disciples get into the room, during the Passover meal Jesus gets up and proceeds to wash his disciples feet. It is easy for us when we hear this to think, okay, that was nice of Jesus to do that, but we will see later how important this act was.
While this is going on we are told that it is already in Judas’ heart to betray Jesus and turn him over to the authorities to be arrested. What I think is interesting, that even though Judas is going to betray Jesus, and he knows Judas is going to betray him, we are told he washes Judas’ feet along with the others. After Jesus washes the disciples feet, Judas leaves.