Along the way, I come across writings that express what's in my heart. That's exactly what happened Saturday afternoon. A good friend of mine, Dennis Hall, who is the pastor of Briar Creek Baptist Church here in Charlotte, sent an email about his experience while in California. I believe his piercing words should prompt some soul searching for us all. Are we letting Jesus live in us, or are we propagating religion? Here's Dennis' email:
We (another pastor & his wife) were walking on the Promenade in Santa Monica, CA. This place has a lot of street musicians, vendors and eccletic people...well there were some guys who had a table set up with tracts who approached me. I talked to one. Firstly I was judged b/c I have a mohawk haircut, 2nd I didn't sense any love for me as a person (or for the others out there) just a target, and last after I finally let it out that I was a pastor...they really didn't believe me because of the way I looked. I CAN'T STAND RELIGION!!! And then I got sad. If they treated me this way, I know there were others who are rejecting Jesus because of them! Its really demeaning to be viewed as a potential recruit and not as a person. I can't stand religion! Jesus desires a relationship expressing itself in LOVE!
What made it so ironic was that prior to this incodent, my pastor friend and I were praying for all the people that were out there and God gave us a love and burden for them. So as we walked not only were we enjoying the festive atmosphere but our hearts were filled with compassion for the people. We were speaking for God to show us how these people (with cool & different hairdos like mine) could be reached with the Good News of Christ... and then I was accosted by some well meaning religious folk.
I believe God was showing us this type of evangelism isn't the right way...propagating Jesus without Love isn't sharing Jesus at all...its self indulgence and recruitment.
We must allow the Love of Christ to consume us and the Spirit of Christ to lead us. God wants us to love people and develop relationships with them. They need to sense from us that we really care about them. Jesus was known for His Compassion. Isn't it amazing that people flocked to Jesus. There is something deep in us that is attracted to LOVE.
I believe that before we are called to witness we must first become a witness. We ourselves must have a life altering, ego smashing encounter with the Grace and Love of Jesus!
I conclude that in my humble opinion, Religion is all about control, manipulation and hypocrisy. No one can meet all the standards of the law, yet those areas and rules that they have seemingly and deceptively mastered they set as a standard for others. Yuck! This incident has caused me to seek more diligently the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I want to so abide in Him and He in me that the fruit of His Essence will be available for others to feast.
I hate religion but I'm called to love the religious. Peace! Dennis via California