Getting God’s Message Across

Even if you aren’t a Christian, you probably have heard of the hymn with the lyrics “They will know we are Christians by our love ….” It’s a hymn that’s ingrained in my psyche–I probably learned it in Sunday School and sang it many times at summer camp. 

Reading about the origins of this hymn, maybe it always was more aspirational than descriptive. According to hymnary, Peter Scholtes wrote it in 1968, while he was serving as a parish priest at St. Brendan’s on the South Side of Chicago. Still, it saddens me that few people today would associate being Christian with being loving and accepting, let alone “guard[ing] each man’s dignity and sav[ing] each man’s pride.”

Will They Know We Are Christians By Our Love?

I know the media focuses on groups that don’t represent Christians as a whole, so I was a bit surprised when I read this article in the Washington Post reporting on a study indicating that Christians are more likely to blame a person for their poverty. Really???

What happened to “There but for the grace of God go I”?

The Bible is full of passages calling us to care for those in need, and none advising us to weigh someone else’s worthiness. How can so many Christians have missed God’s message to be generous? It’s a human reaction to question whether someone is deserving, but God blesses us without “weighing our merits” and instead “pardoning our offenses” (to quote from our Communion liturgy). If we are giving in His name, our gifts must likewise be given without passing judgment.

Getting God’s Message Across

Our Gospel reading a few weeks ago reminded me that getting God’s message across is an age-old problem that even plagued Jesus. 

In Matthew 16: 18-19, 25-26, Jesus notes that the people didn’t listen to John because his ways were too strange and stoic, and yet people didn’t listen to him because his ways were too common:

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’;

the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’

Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.

This passage really grabbed my attention.

At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.

On the surface, Jesus acknowledges God’s wisdom in “hiding” His message from the leaders of His time, but might he also have been complaining about how hard God’s plan made it for him to get the message across? 

Complaining probably is too strong a word to attribute to Jesus–and Biblical scholars probably would tell me that I’m not interpreting this passage correctly–but that is how it spoke to me.  I certainly am not above complaining when God’s will seems to make things harder than I think they need to be. This passage reminds me to trust in God’s wisdom and have faith that His way is the better way, even if the path is longer, winding, and more challenging. 

Thank goodness God has patience trying to get His message across!

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2 Responses to Getting God’s Message Across

  1. Laura says:

    Hey Coco! I meant to reply to this earlier when I read it and wanted to come back to let you know how much I resonate with this post and appreciate you sharing.
    I’m really struggling with the divide in Christianity in our country and the way most Christians are understood/portrayed vs. the lifestyle of what following Christ should actually look like. We just started a 3 week series in Sunday School looking at the reformation, and also what kind of reform may be happening in the church today. I’m very curious to see where it will all lead as it seems so many people who grew up in church are moving away from it and it feels like something has to shift for this new generation to see that social responsibility can actually be birthed in the church- as opposed to the poverty blame game and conservative politics associated with being Christian.

    In any case, I appreciate these words!

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