For those of you who went to the football game on Saturday and exited the stadium to the north, you were greeted by signs and guys shouting something about Jesus. (and the lead guy even had the odd Jeez-zusss pronunciation to top off the stereotype.)
And as I averted my eyes and quickly walked past them, just like everyone else, I had a moment of self reflection. Why didn’t I rejoice in them “bringing the message of Christ” to the people of the stadium?
I mean, I’m as dedicated a Catholic as they come. I do my best to live out the faith, trying my hardest to following all the guidance of Christ and the wisdom of the Church (yes, even the tough and unpopular ones that result in scorn). I’m willing to take on just about all of the community at California Golden Blogs in a someone legendary all-day discussion on a DBD a handful of years back, so I don’t slouch from confrontation. Plus, I’m at my local parish 4+ times a week, teaching multiple classes, many of which are focused specifically on bringing people to Christ’s Church.
So why did I avert my eyes to signs that ask people to repent and believe in Jesus?
And the answer I came to after some reflection was because those people are making a mockery of the faith. I was reluctant to brand them with such a harsh judgment at first, not wanting to criticize people for using a “different strategy” for bringing Christ to people.
But I eventually rejected the notion that it was just a matter of strategy and one thing made it perfectly clear: He was YELLING AT the people.
The realization hit me like a ton of bricks.
I wanted to go back to him and say “Why are you yelling at these people? What have they done wrong?”
His tone was one of anger and aggression. It was one assuming the worst of the people coming out of the stadium. I don’t know where they came from, but my gut says it was from somewhere where it is assumed that all people in Berkeley (or the Bay Area, or Northern California, or “San Francisco”…) were heathens and needed to be told of their condemnation. That their anger over some slight must be taken out on those evil ones in Berkeley (or SF or…).
Is that a message of love?
Make no mistake, anyone who preaches a message of anything but love is not preaching with Christ at his back.
Now, in fairness, love is an abused word that somehow has in many ways lost its meaning. Many get accused of not acting in love when what they really are saying is that they’re not acting in permissiveness. That is complete BS. A father who disciples his child so that he grows into a good man is acting in love. Love does not mean ignoring sin and error out of “niceness”.
Nevertheless, love is doing something out of a genuine concern for the best interests of the other, particularly when done selflessly.
So, I ask you who witnessed those guys yelling at us as we left the stadium: even with the most charitable interpretation of the motivations of those people, were they acting with love?
No. Not in any way.
Which means they do not speak for Christ.
Christ calls all of us to a wonderful, life-giving, live-altering covenant, one that was sealed by his sacrificial act of dying on the cross for our sins, an act done out of love for us, that he would take the penalty for our sins.
God wants all of us to respond to his call, not because it is easy or convenient, but because it is what is best for us, because he loves us. For anyone out there who reads this blog and was turned off by the yelling of those bozos, please don’t let it dissuade you from answering God’s call in your life.
They don’t speak for Him.