Learning To Practice What We Preach

There was a quote that was circulating on social media this past week that popped up on several of my feeds.  

It was hard to figure out who originated the quote, but more than a few of my friends and fellow pastors on social media posted it and shared it with me.  

One clue I uncovered led me to believe that the author was still a Christian, despite what they wrote and had found refuge in a loving, welcoming, and accepting faith community.  

Despite the mysterious origin, there are some hard truths in this quote that those of us who call ourselves Christians need to hear: 

You told me to love my enemies, to even do good to those who wish for bad things. You told me to never “hate” anyone and to always find ways to encourage people. 

You told me it’s better to give than receive, to be last instead of first. You told me that Jesus looks at what I do for the least-of-these as the true depth of my faith. You told me to focus on my own sin and not to judge. You told me to be accepting and forgiving.

I paid attention. I took every lesson. And I did what you told me.

But now, you call me a libtard. A queer-lover. You call me “woke.” A backslider. You call me a heretic. A child of the devil. You call me soft. A snowflake. A socialist.

What the hell did you expect me to do? I thought you were serious, apparently not. 

Some euphemisms in that quote might be triggering, but remember that the speaker is simply parroting what they have heard people say about them. 

The fact of the matter is, even in the fundamentalist Baptist churches I grew up in, I learned the beautiful things the speaker refers to from some of my Sunday school teachers, youth pastors, and even a few lead pastors.  

It wasn't like they spent every moment teaching and preaching, railing against sin and the evils of liberalism, even though it felt like it at times. 

There were good, sweet people among those who taught me.  People who wanted to live their lives in grace and kindness, following Jesus' examples.  

They might have been caught up in a tradition that embraced terrible and exclusive theology and enabled leaders to speak out of both sides of their mouths, but their desire was to love as Jesus loved.  

As I write, I think about a few of these loving people and am grateful for them.  

I learned those lessons. I paid attention. I read my Bible from cover to cover at least three times before I was 15. I memorized Scripture. I listened. I wanted all those beautiful things about my faith to be true.  

But I couldn't reconcile those lessons with what happened when I began questioning the other things I was taught and the negative examples I saw within the churches I attended.  

I've had my fair share of the negative characterizations in the above quote lobbed at me by people who call themselves Christians, both then and now. 

I forgive them all, not because I am wonderful, but because I know how much grace I need. I also know that sometimes, the people who say those kinds of things are the most complicated people for me to love.  

And if I truly follow Jesus, I must love and pray for them.  (that was hard to write)

Here's a challenging thing to consider: We are doing our best. Every one of us. 

We might not be doing what we are most capable of, but we are doing our best considering our circumstances, foibles, weaknesses, influences, and fears.  

Keeping this in mind helps us have compassion and grace for those with whom we disagree and compassion for ourselves when we don't get things right. 

But I also believe the following, and it gives me great hope:

Ultimately, Christ will find a way to restore and reform  Christianity into something that best resembles all those beautiful things in the above quote.  I have faith in this despite all the evidence to the contrary.  

We should also do everything we can to teach what it means to love as Jesus loves and practice it.  

May it be so, and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us now and always. Amen.  


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