Last week I wrote an entry entitled, ‘What is Your Temperature?’ and posted it on Facebook. The overwhelming response can be summed up in a single comment: “I don’t “do religion” because you people are so self-righteous and so unaccepting of those “who are not like you. “
A Faith Obsessed with Excluding, Condemnation and Rules
This comment exposes a fact about “religion” recently acknowledge by Pope Francis that “religion” and by extension people of faith have become obsess with exclusion, condemnation and rules governing how we should respond to “people who are not like us” thereby overlooking the true meaning of God’s command that we love one another. Simply put, that means: be inclusive servants of all, demonstrating a faith that welcomes everyone.
Luke 7:36-50 gives the account of Jesus having dinner hosted by a self-righteous man named Simon, and his friends. Before Jesus could sit down to eat, a woman who was perceived by all to be sinful, emerged from the crowd and washed His feet with expensive perfume. Overwhelmed with emotions this sinful woman cried —her tears, falling on Jesus feet, while she dried them, using her hair.
Seeing what had taken place the self-righteous Simon thought, “If this man were a prophet he would know what kind of woman was touching him. She is a sinner. ”
Jesus knew what was on Simon’s mind and told this story:
“A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”
Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.”
“That’s right,” Jesus said. Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet; but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss; but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head; but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.
“I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, for she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Being a Simon Christian – Having a Faith That Is Restrictive
I don’t know about you; but I have been a Simon Christian – so self-righteous in my beliefs that I fail to understand that all of God’s children, regardless of:
- Where they come from,
- What they look like,
- Who they love,
- Or how they have sinned
have the same opportunity to be forgiven by His grace and saved by His son Jesus.
When we act like Simon Christians it is no wonder why people are turned off by God’s message of salvation and love for all. Why? Because we the people who are preaching these truths – are not living up to them!
Why is that? It’s because we are so obsessed with exclusion, condemnation and creating a system of rules that judge and determine how we should act toward “people who are not like us.”
Having a Faith that Welcomes All
If we are to live the Christianity demonstrated by Jesus – Christians who believe that Jesus’ instruction was to love one another – instead of Simon Christians, then we must practice a “balanced faith” with the scale tilted toward making a commitment to show mercy to each other; while leaving the justice part of the scale to be determined by God. The Christian author Julie Ackerman Link observes that “God’s perfect balance of justice and mercy,” was best “demonstrated by Jesus’ death on the cross where He satisfies God’s need for justice and our need for mercy.”
When we show more mercy than justice – just as Jesus did with the sinful woman – then we are living our lives as God intended and we create a faith that welcomes everyone.