My friend and I recently sat down one Saturday evening and nonchalantly got into a conversation about religion. I had told her that I was planning on attending two services that Sunday (one non-denominational Christian service and one Catholic one), and she asked me why. I explained to her what I got out of both services and what each one meant to me.
Somehow, we got from talking about different Christian denominations to what it means to be a good Christian, and the conversation really opened my eyes. All my life I had thought that being a good Christian meant going to church every Sunday, praying, attending youth group meetings and asking God for forgiveness. But that was really it. I didn't think of Christianity being about how others portray you in your faith as well.
At the beginning of the conversation, my friend said she needed to be honest with me for a hot sec. Me, being the person I am, apprehensively told her to go ahead. She told me that a year ago, I had made her feel bad about her own faith life. She told me something that I had totally forgotten had come out of my mouth. I had told her, on her Easter, that it didn't really matter/wasn't important if she had a church to go to (she is not Catholic, and Oxford does not have her denominational church nearby) at college because she doesn't go to church on Sundays anyway.
Without meaning to, I had let my own ideas on faith to put my good friend down about her own. I thought that simply because someone is not able to attend weekly meetings meant that they did not care about their faith. This is just simply not true and a falsehood that I had believed for far too long. Although unintentional, I had not shown my own religion in a positive light and had not been a good Christian.
This got me thinking about what it means for me to be a good Christian. All my life, I had grown up being told to love all of those in your life and to treat your neighbor as you want to be treated. However, I found myself not following my own advice. I had made someone who I love feel bad about their own religion. This is something that I never thought I would do. And yet I had, although subconsciously.
This got me thinking. Being Christian is not about putting others down for not having the same faith life. Some people don't go to church every Sunday, but that is their own choice. It is not my, or any of my fellow Christians', business to judge others for their own choices. This is something I have just learned from growing in my own faith life in college. Rather, it is my job to show Jesus' love to others and show them what it is like to be so rooted in your own faith.
To be a good Christian means to show love to everyone and not let that love be clouded by judgment. I have learned this the best from a passage I recently heard at a church service. It comes from 1 John 4:7-10 in the Bible and says, "Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love." This is really how I view it means to be a good Christian.
For all of my fellow Christians out there, realize that your own religion is not the only way to go. Everyone has a right to what they believe in, and it is not your place to push your own religion on someone. Let your friends know that you are there for them no matter what, and accept them for who they are. You are not here on this earth to "convert" someone who has already found something that they want to believe in. There is more than one religion, and that is okay. As a matter of fact, that's what makes the world and those around us so interesting.
If there is one thing I have learned from college it is that religions are so cool. I find myself so intrigued whenever I learn about a new religion because I love learning what people are passionate about. Just because you have found a religion you feel connected to spiritually does not mean that you will fall out of that religion simply by learning about others. Show the world how Christians are accepting of all other religions and will not condemn others for not being of the same faith as them (a common misconception). Show God's love through all that you do, and don't judge others. Be curious, and ask others about their beliefs. It is okay to be curious. God is not going to punish you for being curious about other religions. Again, it does not mean that you are abandoning your own.
So go out, ask questions and show your Father's love for you through your actions to others. Don't do what I did and make someone you love feel bad about their religion, for that is not what the Father calls us to do.