“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.”
When you ask the Lord to soften your heart, be prepared. Be prepared for your eyes to be opened, your passions to be stirred, your calling to be shifted. A softened heart is the only way out of a spiritual rut, which spoiled Christians so easily fall into.
“I just really haven’t felt the Lord move in the past few worship sets.”
“I went to women’s Bible study for an entire semester, and I didn’t feel any different.”
“I don’t need to go to this youth retreat/men’s weekend/women’s conference, the last one was all about stuff I already know.”
Y’all, I’ve been guilty of making these excuses more times than I can count. I’ve lamented the melancholy of a sermon series, daydreamed my way through worship, and dreaded volunteering at the next big church event. This is the result of a comfortable, self-centered Christianity. This is nowhere near the Gospel that Jesus and the early church died for.
My latest spiritual rut seemed to drag on for months; I read my Bible every morning, went to church every Sunday, sought out Christian community, and nothing changed. I was bored. This alone is remarkable, considering the Lord called me to the mission field of India this summer and I had been consumed by my calling for months. I had given into American Christianity: I wasn’t being directly mentored or discipled, so I started slacking. I blinked my way through quiet time every morning, faked it until I made it in worship, and gave the Christian answers in conversation. My heart was hardened, and my breakthrough came when I began an in-depth study of Islam in my World Cultures class.
Spoiler: I didn’t convert. I’m in love with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and Muslims miss out on 2/3 of that equation. Muslims believe in Allah, the Father/Creator God. Women cover themselves out of personal choice, not because their husbands or fathers force them into it. The widely misinterpreted “jihad” that many westerners use to explain terrorist attacks is actually broken into two segments: greater jihad, which is a call to inner spiritually purification for deeper intimacy with Allah, and lesser jihad, which is a call to fight back against those who have attacked Islam.
Chances are, as soon as I mentioned Islam, a wall went up. If you were asked to define America’s number one enemy, I’m sure many of you would list Muslims within your top ten. Which is completely understandable, considering the horrifying slaughters committed by ISIS and Al-Qaeda in the past twenty years. By the way, did you know that every major Muslim institution has rejected ISIS as non-Muslim? Violence isn’t a major way of life for Muslims, the word “Islam” translates to peace and submission to God. Why am I telling you this? Because God has taken my heart, examined it, and pointed out a major discrepancy against the gospel: I was scared of Muslims.
This may not sound like anything shocking, but my fear wasn’t exclusive to ISIS or Al-Qaeda. My fear was of American Muslims, my fellow classmates, people I call friends. I had this idea that Muslims were “them” and Christians were “us”, that Muslims are violent and aggressive, different from Christians in a dangerous way. Is now a good time to bring up the Crusades, when “we” were attacking “them” over a Pope’s insistence that we win back some land?
Friends, excuse all my rambling and read this: Jesus has called us to love above all. He commands us not to defend ourselves, but to turn the other cheek. He commands us not to judge, or we will be judged. He has called us to be strong and courageous, and not have a spirit of fear. Are you seeing why my heart is so heavy? Y’all, American Christians haven’t shown an ounce of love to American Muslims for a long time. We walk on the other side of the street, stare at their hijab, assume any dark-skinned man with an aggressive beard is secretly scheming with ISIS. I visited a Muslim mosque last Saturday on a class field trip, and left the church with tears on my face. When I told my love about the experience, I began weeping for the deep discrimination Muslims face every day. We have failed, fellow believers. Where is the love?
This isn’t a political message, or a rant against Christians, this is a call to LOVE. Our greatest commandment from the Messiah is to love God and love others. Regardless of their religious views, skin color, culture, or background, we are called to love radically. We are called to love selflessly, unashamedly, and courageously. Does the gospel have the greatest reign over your life, or does cultural conformity win out? If you’re in a spiritually dry season, love will pull you out.
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Photo Courtesy of Kai Wang via Unsplash