“But whoever shall deny me before men, I will also deny him before my Father who is in Heaven.” Matthew 10:33 (ASV)
Growing up in the Evangelical tradition, I was scared to death of denying Jesus. Countless times, I heard sermons preached on the end of the world. I grew up in the days of the Left Behind series, which was like our own personal Christian horror story. I was talking about the series with a friend recently, who said, “I feel like that series would make the perfect Christian drinking game.”
I was six when a book was published with 88 reasons Jesus was coming back in 1988. It didn’t happen, but I still heard the End of Time sermons around it. For at least the first twenty years of my life, I fully expected the trumpet to sound at any time and Jesus to come bursting through the clouds on a white horse, somewhere above Atlanta. That was about as far east as I could fathom.
I imagined The Great Tribulation would look something like a combination of the Holocaust and The Walking Dead. I knew “the dead in Christ” would rise, but what about all the others, the ones who weren’t in Christ? Would they be roaming the streets, looking for bones?
These days, that image sounds crazy. It seems to me that the most effective way to deny Christ is not by saying you aren’t a Christian, but by continuing to segregate God’s children from the rest of the world. By refusing cups of cold water to entire people groups, this is when we are actually denying Jesus Himself.
In the words of Pete Rollins:
I deny the resurrection of Christ every time I do not serve at the feet of the oppressed, each day that I turn my back on the poor; I deny the resurrection of Christ when I close my ears to the cries of the downtrodden and lend my support to an unjust and corrupt system.
By constantly pushing aside the marginalized, we are denying Jesus more effectively than I ever imaged back when I feared the Tribulation. As our churches continue to demonize those who don’t fit our religious mold, we refuse hope, joy, freedom, peace, grace, and unconditional love to the people who most need it.
And this is about more than just our LGBTQ friends. The fact that Donald Trump has a chance to be the next President of the United States is very telling of the state of our nation. Fear is tearing our country apart. Instead of embracing those in desperate need of help and hope, we are talking about building physical walls that only mirror the ones our culture has long-since accepted.
Jesus told us specifically to go to the orphans and the widows. It’s my assumption that He was including immigrants, refugees, and those who are far less-fortunate than anyone reading this blog. But because we fear difference, because change scares the hell out of us, we cling to an egomaniac like Donald Trump, who promises to take us back in time, in terms of equality and respect for all people.
I grew up hearing the Scripture, “I require mercy, not sacrifice.” It was misquoted and ill-used most of my life. I keep thinking about conversations with dear friends who have said things like “Jesus would rather we be obedient to His call to love dramatically and His example to go to the broken and outcast.” And it’s true. Jesus said, “You’ll know me by your love for one another.”
Here’s the truth, friends: the only way we’ll ever make America or her church great again is by fully embracing those in need of help and love around the world.
I’m no longer scared of Hell or Judgement Day. I don’t lay awake at night, fearing a zombie apocalypse or being stuck in the Tribulation. As I scan the current landscape of our country and our church, I think, why on earth would Jesus want to return to this hot mess, where he has been denied daily? The poor guy has eternity to be stuck with us, I’d leave us down here as long as possible! Besides, if he takes one good look at the way Christians treat each other compared to those who are not of our faith, how would he ever tell us apart?
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Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.
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