Raise Your Hand

Nancy received the following response to her “Do I Want to be Called a Christian?” blog post from Mitch Harrison, Pastor of Artist Community at Canyon Ridge Christian Church in Las Vegas, NV. (Mitch also serves as an Arts Champion, an advisor to the WCA Arts Movement.) Nancy was so moved by Mitch’s thoughts, she wanted to share them in their entirety with you here, and allow you to respond.

I always had a desire to say to those outside the faith “It’s not like you think.” I left the traditional church a lot of years ago so that I would have the opportunity to say to real lost people that following Jesus isn’t stupid.

So, the latest round of “why the world rejects the church” is troublesome to me as well. The world doesn’t think we’re irrelevant anymore –now they think we’re mean. Great.

But I don’t think the answer is for the church to grow more tolerant as we try to hang on to our beliefs. Maybe the answer is to become more loving and live out our real beliefs.

We believe that love is the highest expression of Christian character. We believe love fulfills the law. We believe that love covers a multitude of sins. We believe that everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. That love is our new command. That love is the most excellent way. That love never fails. That we love because he first loved us. That the love of Christ compels us.

And we believe that the one true identifying characteristic of Christians is their love.

Those are our real beliefs. We don’t give up our doctrine to live that way – we uphold it. We fulfill it.

I don’t think the world would be on us about not tolerating their beliefs if we loved them like all of our beliefs say we should. Besides, who wants to be merely tolerated anyway? Tolerance isn’t exactly the top of the food chain when it comes to human behavior. Jesus didn’t say, “A new command I give you; tolerate one another as I have tolerated you.” Do any of us really want to find out that people have only been tolerating us? “Yes Mitch, we’ve merely been putting up with you all this time. Want to get a Coke?” No. “Nancy, over the years of our marriage, I’ve truly grown to tolerate you.” Someone would be sleeping on the couch for a long time.

Tolerance of others sounds bad to us Christians — and it should. Tolerance is way too passive for Jesus. It stops far short of the kind of self-sacrificing, personally engaging kind of love that got us the name ‘Christian’ in the first place.

I was at a church leadership conference at Willow a long time ago and Bill asked how many of the leaders there had a strategy for growing their church. Nearly everyone raised a hand. He asked how many had a strategy for growing people into full maturity. Again, most raised a hand. Then he asked a question that rings in my ears still: “How many of you have a strategy for becoming a more loving person? Raise your hand if you are more loving this year than you were last.”

Oh man. Few moved.

We were all so ready to tackle the world of church work but had moved too quickly past the one quality that must be the motivation for every move we make as Jesus’ people.

I’m still working on raising my hand.

mitch

mitch HARRISON
Pastor of Artist Community
Canyon Ridge Christian Church
www.canyonridge.org

3 comments:

Paul Griffin said...

The arts and worship are almost the same thing. Who puts it in the heart of mankind to appreciate the glories and wonders of nature, and then paints glorious sunsets and raises majestic mountains for us to appreciate like the Greatest Artist of all?

Christian Performers said...

We address the question of whether or not to be a "Christian" artist this week on our blog at
http://christianperformers.blogspot.com/

Liza's Eyeview said...

Well said...very well said!

http://lizas-eyeview.blogspot.com/2007/03/i-grew-up-believing-that-good-people-go.html

I am hoping to come up with a post about how love is really what we need in our Christian communities today. I was very disappointed to see some bloggers blogging badly about "Traditonalist" vs. "Emergents". True, there are theologies that needs to be dealt with, but in the process the "world" is looking at these so called Christian shaking their heads saying "What? If they behave like that - without love, mean to each other - why should I join them?