Keeping the Faith: Where love begins

Published: Thursday, December 6, 2012 at 10:15 AM.

I know not every Christian behaves harshly toward others. The most gracious, caring, and welcoming people I have ever met are Christians, fixed firmly within the institution. But I admit that the most obnoxious, hateful, and critical individuals I have ever met are also religious people. This has to change.

“Change,” you ask? “Are you saying we should change our beliefs just to salvage our fleeting market share?” No. Market share has nothing to do with it, but how we treat others has everything to do with it. How can we who follow the loving, open-hearted, redemptive Christ be anything but loving, open-hearted, and redemptive people?

The longer I do this kind of work, and the longer I see these kinds of recent statistics, the more strongly I feel that the last thing most communities need is just another religious institution: An institution that pounds the pulpit and its parishioners with unyielding dogma; that points fingers, condemns, and excludes others from the love of God; that can never confess its shortcomings, admit when it has been wrong, or meet people where they are rather than demanding that people come to it.

No, communities don’t need more hardened, inflexible places like these; but every community needs simple, uncomplicated, receptive places. Every community needs launch pads of empowerment and liberation. Every community needs a communion of friendship, freedom, and faith that will build bridges of grace to the world, not boundaries of separation and marginalization. Simply, every community needs a place of radical hospitality and attraction that welcomes all to know a loving God.

I call these places “church.” Yes, I know, some churches are far better at being judgmental religious institutions than being living bodies of service and compassion, but my hope endures. My hope endures because where hardened institutionalism ends, love can begin, and the love of God is the most attractive force in the universe.

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, speaker, and author of multiple books. You can read more and receive regular e-columns in your inbox at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.


 



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