Here’s a story: conditions are so bad at an apartment complex in Jacksonville, Florida, it brings a council member’s assistant to tears. A tour of the complex affects the mayor to such an extent he’s activated to work with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to ensure “all residents of subsidized multi-family housing in Duval County receive the benefit of safe, clean and healthy living conditions.” The mayor announces he wants the owner, who has 61 housing complexes in 8 states, transitioned out of owning the housing complex.
Who is the Christian in this scenario?
Is it the owner, whose website interview by a local radio station tells you he has traveled the globe spreading the Gospel and is transforming “these communities” by bringing them the word of Christ? (NB: no mention of black mold here)
Or is the Christian the mayor, who has seen something terrible wrong in God’s world and was convicted to change it?
Do we care?
I don’t. In fact, I have no clue about the mayor’s religious affiliation, if any. In a long arc of change, I have come to not give two f*s about someone’s beliefs. All I care about is how you act in the world.
So. If you do bad things in the name of your God, I’m not taking into account at all your religious motivation. The only thing that matters is the bad things you are doing.
If you do good things, and you give not two whits about God, more power to you.
Does this mean God doesn’t matter to me? Hell, no. The only reason I care if people in Jacksonville, Florida are living in substandard conditions while we pay the owner millions of dollars in federal funds is because of the movement of the Spirit. I love God. What I’m saying is I’m not forming an opinion about your impact in this world based on whether or not you love God.
It’s not that I’ve thought pejoratively of you if you are of another religion or an atheist or agnostic or never even thought about God. But I have tended to take into account in my internal assessing of your actions your Christian beliefs. No more. So don’t count on your love of God to influence how I feel about what you’re doing (again, NB: I’m not saying “professed” or “so-called” or any other adjective because I’m not questioning whether you’re actually a Christian; I’m saying I don’t care one way or the other what your beliefs are.)
One of the Gospels—James, maybe?—says something about knowing Christians by their fruits. I’m saying this whole appellation of Christian or not (ahem, Donald Trump) is a waste of time.
Maybe at some point I’ll finally get past judging people and their actions altogether. Until then, all that matters to me is whether you are kind, acting to make the world a better place, sip tea while the sun sets, tussle on the rug with your dog, laugh at someone’s awful joke, raise chickens, give a tetanus shot with expert skill, struggle to make the numbers add up at the end of the banking day, battle the dang Christmas lights because your kids love them, sing in the shower, write supportive comments on newspaper articles, remember birthdays, attend funerals, always say “You’re welcome,” stand up to bullies, say hello to everyone who walks in the door, feed the poor, listen to the troubles of your clients without laughing, fix breakfast every day, paint murals, indulge in your love of Dr. Who, serve turkey at Thanksgiving, post your gratitude thoughts so that everyone who reads them wants to be more like you, lean in and pay attention when your friend speaks, love the children who tumble through your classroom door, ride the river, light up when you hear your loved one’s voice, carry the cross with dignity through the sanctuary, let your hair grow long and gray, host the holiday meal even when you’re dog tired of doing it, offer quiet advice, offer goodbye kisses, march in parades, swim against the tide, share your troubles and await the inrushing of well wishes, buy the damn groceries again, burst into laughter that makes the room stare, write the words that make us weep, wear the funny hat because you’ve always worn the funny hat and everyone will be disappointed if you don’t, say “I love you,” and all the other many, many, many things you do that light up the world.
Long live love.