Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Wrong Path

We all go through so many ups and downs in this thing called "life". And God is with us every step of the way, even when we aren't fully aware because we are just hurting so much and can't see past the tears, or because we are just in a place where we CHOOSE not to be aware of His presence. Either way, He is always with us.

In my book, Just Be!, I share part of my testimony. This part covers a 7 year jaunt down a pagan path. I shared in the book my view of others prior to this path. It was one of pure judgmental attitude towards those that lived different than me. I would go from one extreme (in my wild young adult years) to the other extreme of being literally a "hateful, judgmental Christian". I thought I was doing the right thing. Yes, I was telling people about Christ and His sacrifice for us. But I wasn't doing it with much love. But I didn't realize that back then, in the moment. It wasn't until a move, having no family and friends around other than my husband and children, that I really began to understand that my behavior was wrong.

When I turned to walk down that path of paganism it was because I had now been on the receiving end of the judgement that I was so quick to dish out before our move. It was this judgmental attitude that was shown towards me and my family that caused me to walk away from the church, the people in God's house. I had some very deep hurts to deal with. And the ones that accepted me completely and fully as myself with no judgement and no condemnation were the pagans in the community. They took me in and loved me and allowed me to see the hurt they too had been through at the hands of other Christians.

Don't get me wrong, there were some very hateful and cruel folks that I met while on that path as well. But I had the opportunity to see how much love the majority of them have to share. More than that, though, I was able to see and hear the "WHY" to each of their stories. This was a learning experience for me. And one that ultimately led me closer to the Lord and helped to strengthen the relationship that I once had with Him. It helped me to see how much He really loves me and how He will never let go of me and never leave me alone unguarded and unprotected.

I'll share a little more about some specific things that took place that really showed me His love and protection through this time in another post. What I want to share today is more about the people that I met on this journey of mine.

You see, most of the pagans I met and had the opportunity to grow close to during this time were in the same place as me for the same reason......they were deeply hurt by someone or many someones that called themselves Christians. They were looking for the love and acceptance that they SHOULD have been able to find in their own community of other believers. They were looking to fill a void with human love that can only be filled with the love of God. They were blinded to the love of God by the judgment of other believers. If you were to ask any one of them what they don't like about Christianity their answer will be "the people". Almost always it's the people. And since "the people" are a reflection of the God we serve what, then, do you think their perception of God is? They were confused just as I was.

Confused? Yes, confused. You see, when God's people act in an ugly and hateful and judgmental way toward others it causes pain which leads to confusion. Why you ask? Simple, if we are to be Christ-like, as the title Christian implies, then why are we not actually being Christ-like? Why aren't we loving others regardless of where they are in life or what they have or are going through? Why are we judging so many based on what we see with our own eyes when we really truly do not have the full and clear picture as God does? Why are we picking and choosing the parts of the Bible that WE ourselves live out in our lives and then criticize others for what we perceive as being sinful? Why are we making one sin out to be worse than another? Why are we just teaching the wrath of God and not at all the love He has for every single one of His children?

So the Bible tells us that Christ came to redeem us, that we are ALL sinners, we ALL fall short of the glory of God.....but that God has such a deep passionate love for ALL of us that He gave up His one and only Son to pay the price of our sins. And then you have people who call themselves by His name that behave in an opposite manner. Yes, that is confusing. And yes, it causes people to turn away from the "church" and seek out a community of people that will accept them for who they are no questions asked.

You see, most of the pagans that I have met have made their decision about God based on the words and actions of the people who call themselves by His name. They have been judged and hurt and shunned by the very people that are supposed to be the "salt and the light" to this world (Matthew 5:13-16). How can we be the salt and the light in this world if we are so busy being judgmental and hateful and cruel to both believers and non-believers?

Something that I learned while on this path is that while they may believe different than Christians do, they are still people. They have feelings. They have love in their hearts. They are still God's children. Even if they don't know it yet.

What did it take for me to find my way back to the Lord? I never really turned away from God completely. I wasn't able to abandon the truth that I really truly knew deep down in my heart. I wasn't able to abandon the knowledge that Christ gave His life for my salvation. But I wasn't ready to deal with His people. And I was walking the pagan walk, talking the pagan talk. It wasn't until a very dear friend of mine reached out to me in love. She extended her hand to me and extended the invitation to go visit her church. She knew what I believed. She knew the life I was living. Incidentally, at that time I had only known her for a few months when she did reach out to me. The point is, she loved me for me and was able to see past the life I was living. She invited me without judgment to experience God's love once again.

Now there are some who would be so bold as to say that God would never love a pagan.....that God would never accept a pagan back into His family. These are all lies of the enemy. The enemy wants you to believe that your place is in a world void of God. The enemy wants you to believe that God does not love you and that you can only be accepted by those that have turned away from Him. The enemy wants you to remain in a state of confusion. But I'm here to tell you different. God has fully accepted me back into His family. He has never stopped loving me. He has never stopped being my Heavenly Father. And the same goes for every single person that has taken a wrong turn in life. God loves you still. And He is waiting for your return.

So what's my point in all this? LOVE LOVE LOVE People, wake up and realize that others are never going to see the love of God in and through you if you aren't willing to just love them. Share the truth of Christ's redemptive work on the cross and then just love them and let God sort it all out. It's not our job to "make" someone believe or to "make" someone do what we think they ought to be doing. It is our job to spread the Gospel and to be the salt and the light of this world. We cannot do that if we are always sitting in the seat of judgement that is not even ours to sit in.

Later this week I will also be posting about some of the dangers of paganism. It wasn't all a bed of roses. And yes, there were some painful times during those 7 years. I don't want to leave anyone thinking this is a good path to go down because it's not. But I do hope that believers who do read this will take into consideration that others are not seeing the love God has to offer when His people are the ones doing the hurting.

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