In the 20+ years I have known Jesus, I have always loved worship music. But lately, I’ve noticed that I’ve been having a stress reaction to certain songs due to the treatment I have received from a few people who claim to be His followers. It’s a foreign feeling to me, and paying attention to it has been an interesting process—one that has caused me to wonder: if this is how I’m feeling about something I’ve always loved, how must it feel for someone who has never known God? If my physical body is having a negative reaction from the unkind treatment of just a few Christians, what must the psychological repercussions be for those facing unkindness and even hatred from the entire Christian church? What happens to those who have been treated THEIR WHOLE LIVES the way I have been treated only recently? What happens when a stress reaction, not just to worship, but to to the mention of GOD HIMSELF becomes normal? In how many ways are we “shutting the kingdom of heaven against men” (Mat 23:14)?
I am no innocent in this regard. I, also, have rejected people I perceived as “living in sin.” That sort of unkind treatment and social shunning must make some measure of sense to most of us, because the thing Jesus was most often accused of—the thing people got most upset about—was that He hung out with sinners. Everyone expected Him to reject and act unkindly toward those people, perhaps in an effort to manipulate them into repentance. But Jesus remembered something we often forget: No one crawls out from under condemnation to become a better person, and no one draws closer to God while drowning in disapproval.
What I am seeing now, that I am ashamed to say I did not see until experiencing it first-hand, is that not only is this kind of treatment ineffective, but it can also produce the opposite affect: instead of helping people OUT of sin, we give them MORE to struggle against. I am currently SEETHING with an anger I did not have, before, and I find myself struggling with the most horrible, hateful thoughts—struggling to maintain even the smallest measure of compassion and empathy. There are times when it takes everything in me not to retaliate. But at the end of the day, I’m left with an age-old cliché, one that constantly stops me in my tracks and forces me to reconsider my responses:
What would Jesus do?