Today I am burdened by a struggle. God guides my life, but I don’t judge others who believe differently. I also know many good people who believe differently than I do. As a therapist, I sit daily with people who have been abused and hurt by people who call themselves “Christians.” Christians who judge others for not believing. I sit with people who have been raped, molested, beat, neglected – all by people claiming to be servants of God.
I watch and hear of people who call themselves Christians who lie, steal, cheat, manipulate and worse. People who stand in church and they don’t even pay a man the wages he is due. And in the same breath, chastise others for not being a Christian.
I was abused by a man who stood in front of a church every weekend and acted as a servant of God. He often occupied the high moral ground, and it still makes me sick today to think that he stood in church and went home and molested children. He pushed me away from God, who could have helped me through the grief and pain my abuser set me up to endure throughout my life.
I know God doesn’t mean for us to be perfect. I understand free will. I truly honor each person regardless of what belief or lack of belief they have (unless they are harming others). I also know God forgives us for our sins. But, does that include continuous acts of intentional sin without any attempt to change?
I once heard a sermon that resonated with me and frankly changed the way I lived. At the time, I was a poor single mother. I often struggled to pay rent or feed my kids. Sometimes, I would grow weary of not being able to buy my kids even the smallest gift. Feeling less than, I would leave a bill unpaid, buy them something fun or take them somewhere. Because I never had enough to cover, I got evicted a few times or had to manipulate (which means not pay) utility companies. I stole from companies – at the end of the day, that is the truth. If you do not pay a bill or person you owe, you are stealing.
Until that day in church. My whole world changed.
The sermon was about paying a man for his wages. At first, I didn’t understand the concept. After some clarification, the preacher was trying to say that if we are going to call ourselves Christians and preach the word of God, then it is critical that we live as Christians. Not meaning that we have to be perfect, but to try to do things that represent truth and love. Otherwise, we end up just like the people who rape and pillage while calling themselves servants of God. Different degrees, but same concept. That means paying for what we use (our bills), paying people we hire, and paying companies for their services.
That day, I realized I was doing the same thing as my abuser – only on a different level. But does that make it right? I changed that day. I paid my bills first and began to know that even if my car was falling apart, I would get to work. Even if we ate Ramen noodles (with hot sauce, don’t judge!), our bellies would be full. Even if we bought second-hand clothes or had to wash clothes in the bathtub with dish soap (yes, that happened), we would still be the same people inside. No matter what we had on the outside, we would be honoring the true meaning of being a Christian.
And we wouldn’t be contributing to the number of people who cringe when someone says “I’m a Christian.”
I am by no means perfect. And I regularly assess the person I am. Not just because I want others to see that Christians can be honest, but because I have to live with myself and I refuse to be who my abuser was.