If you've been in a city, even a relatively small one, more than once in your life I'm sure you can relate to the scene I'm about to describe. You're walking down the street and all of a sudden you hear one loud voice yelling, occasionally cut off by other angry voices, and bits of the mayhem filter towards you. Words about burning and sinners and salvation. Finally, you realize that you're witnessing a street preacher. Maybe you pause and listen to the demeaning words he/she is calling out, or maybe you walk past quickly--hoping to not get pulled into the side-show. If you're not a Christian, you shake your head and think "typical Christian" or maybe you get angry at the preacher's entitled opinions. If you are a Christian, you probably feel your heart drop as you realize that yet another believer is taking things too far.
This is the scene that I walked into this past week on my college campus and I was mortified to align myself with the man holding a poster up about various types of sinners burning in hell. He was surrounded by a mob of students, all of whom were yelling so loudly at him that I couldn't even hear most of what he was saying. I turned my music up, averted my gaze, and frowned as I walked past.
For once, I was almost ashamed of my faith. My faith is what this man was using as an excuse to condemn people and scream at them about burning in hell for all eternity. He offered no kindness, and no glimmer of hope about salvation. He was sexist, homophobic, and a lot of other dreadful things. He was every kind of phobic he could be.
I was disgusted.
He completely skipped over the Bible verses that command Christians to love one another as God loves them and went straight to condemnation of sins.
He forgot that John 13:34 says,"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another."
Or that Philippians 2:3-4 says "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."
And finally, I Corinthians 13:1 says, "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal."
These verses are just three of many various verses all saying the same thing: we are not called to judge those around us, but to treat them with love and respect. While we were still sinners, God, the only person with the right to condemn, looked past our faults and loved us unconditionally.
How can we feel justified in calling out others when we have so many flaws of our own?
For those of you who have heard these preachers I just want to say I'm so very sorry. I'm sorry that you experienced such hypocritical treatment from people who claim to be loving and accepting. I'm sorry that we, as Christians, feel we have the moral high-ground. I'm sorry that preachers like these may have ruined religion for you all together. You may not share our faith, but you don't deserve to be judged and hated. You deserve the same love and friendship that people of our own faith receive. I hope one day you experience that. I hope one day, you have an encounter with religion that proves we aren't all judgmental and heartless.