We Christians owe the world an apology.
I, at least, owe the world an apology. So here it is:
Dear World, I am sorry.
About so many things …
… But the one thing I am sorry about the most is presenting to you a picture of God which you found repulsive and repugnant and worthy only of your rejection.
If I had done a better job of presenting God as He really is, as the God revealed to us in Jesus Christ, you might have loved Him instead of hated Him. You might have seen how much He loves you. How much He likes you.
Instead, I told you that if you do not do certain things that he wants, he will torment you forever in hell.
You could not love or worship a god like that. (Who truly can?) And so you rejected this god.
You figured that if this god really existed, and if he was going to send you to hell anyway, you might as well “live it up.”
I told you that God loves you, but his love has strings attached. His grace has limits. His mercy eventually fails. But you knew better. You knew that this was not true love, not free grace, not real mercy. And so you rejected this god.
You figured that if this god really existed, and since you could never really be sure of his love for you, you might as well live any way you wanted.
I told you that God would forgive you of all sin, but I added conditions to this forgiveness. God would forgive you “if” you did this and this, “and” as long as you kept yourself from that, “but” only when you felt this or that.
You figured that if this god really existed, it did not appear that you could ever know real forgiveness, so you decided to stop trying and go sin all you want.
I told you that the kind of people god wanted in heaven were the types of people who sat in pews on Sunday morning, who dressed in “proper” clothes and spoke “proper” language. Everybody else was headed for hell.
You figured that if god only wanted certain types of people in his presence, and you could never be one of those types of people, you might as well follow all your friends to hell.
I am sorry for all those things I told you.
Not a single one of them was true.
The truth, as I see it now, is the truth you have always known to be true.
The truth is what you always tried to tell me was true, but I never listened. Because I was the Bible expert.
The truth is that you were right all along, and I was wrong. You hated the god I was proclaiming because that god was a god of my own making. I invented that god. And you knew it. Thanks for being patient with me while I came to the same realization you knew all along.
You see, I have recently come to understand that everything you hated about the god I proclaimed, you hated because you were listening to the voice of God better than I was. The true God hates that false god also. The true God hates the god I was proclaiming.
So in rejecting the god I was proclaiming, you were more godly than I.
And I am sorry for condemning you for it.
I have come to see the truth of your position because I have come to see the truth of Jesus.
You have always liked Jesus, because you knew that if God existed, He would look like Jesus. You always knew that if God was like Jesus (as I claimed), He would be loving and compassionate. Full of justice and mercy. He would be kind and generous. He would laugh a lot. He would tell good stories. He would go to parties. He would hang out with people that religious folk labeled as “sinners.”
But the god I was proclaiming looked nothing like Jesus, and so you rejected him.
And as a result of rejecting the god I proclaimed, I condemned you.
So I am sorry.
I never accepted the Jesus you knew to be true, because your Jesus didn’t fit with my conception of god. But now that I see that Jesus truly reveals God to us, and now that I see that the god I was proclaiming was a god of my own making, I have come to see that the Jesus you knew is the Jesus who really exists, and therefore, is what God is really like as well.
So I now see the truth you have seen all along.
What truth is that?
The truth that God loves us. Period.
The truth that God forgives us. No ifs, ands, or buts.
The truth that God likes us so much He wants to hang out with us and our friends. Just as we are.
The truth that God doesn’t care so much if we sit in those pews on Sunday morning. In fact, He may prefer that we don’t.
The truth that God isn’t concerned about our sin. He only cares about sin because it hurts us. And since He loves us, He doesn’t want to see us hurt.
And regarding all those silly rules about what to wear (and not wear), what to say (and not say), and where to go (and not go) … the truth that God doesn’t give a rat’s ass about those things. Those aren’t His “rules.” He never made those. We made those. Yes, we religious people. We invented those rules to make ourselves feel better. To make ourselves think we were better than you. When we’re not.
So we’re sorry.
No, I’m sorry.
And if you ever want to tell me more about Jesus, I would love to learn.
Jim Moore says
Thanks for this post. It’s powerful. I am writing you as someone who is on a similar journey but not where you are. One problem I am facing is the problem of a need for externality. Precisely because I have gotten so many things wrong and because I have come to know I can’t trust my own judgement and because I do not know everything I need someone to gently help me see this is what the Bible says.
It is not enough to say “look at the fruit” although looking at the fruit does strongly suggest I have gotten a lot of things wrong. I will reject a simple dismissal of the parts I don’t like or understand. I need to be shown how to rightly understand. I no longer trust the easy answers but that doesn’t mean I just trust myself either. I want to be like Jesus and obey someone.
To make it worse I sense in my heart that “the world” as you describe above also has an agenda. It also demands my obedience. The world is not a good faith operator either. If it was then this Earth would not look like it does. So I don’t want to capitulate and become a user of power for my own benefit. Because the world does that and wants me to do it too. In fact all the things you apologize for could be characterized as the remnants of “the world” in you and in the Church.
Maybe its just a personal bias or self aggrandizement but I don’t think I’m alone in this struggle. Can anyone speak to my need for externality?
Years ago – after displaying & speaking all of the above to my family first, then other believers, then to the world, the Lord, in His sovereignty, yanked my husband & I out of conventional church life.
He had shown us the errors of our misinterpretation of His ways and allowed us time after time to be burned & rejected by (who we thought to be) our own.
We found refuge in relationships in the world.
Very long story but you have been there – then years later I bought a paperback book called Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola (who?). I know how Frank feels about the 1st Edition but the Lord used it mightily in my life.
Everything the Lord had shown us in dreams, visions, actual events & circumstances was in that book. It presented such an offense to conventional church goers that it was impossible to share. (Frank has revised it since then & added the companion book Reimagining Church.
Anyway, this is not about Frank but about the misrepresentation of the Gospel & Jesus Christ.
I realized I had become the very “Christian” I despised years ago. I hated people like myself. Their judgments kicked me in the face when I was down and left me so wanting. I realized I had lost my way. My witness was less than soggy.
Back then I didn’t care about the lost because my priority had become all about my popularity on Sunday & whether they could exalt me in my calling and gifts (whatever the tests revealed those to be!).
In closing I join with you Jeremy in asking Him & the world to forgive my family.
Tony C says
This is what I am working on right now. An Apologetic, in the ‘I’m Sorry’ sense, to all the real and valid reasons why so many atheists hold the position they do. Because if God is really as the Christians say He is, then who would possibly want to worship Him?
Thank you so much for pre-empting me. Now all I will do is simply to share the link to your piece here which says all I wanted to say and more.
Jeremy, we must both be prophets! Thank you so much for posting this, no seriously, thanks! Bless you brother!
Jasmina Beaty says
We remember the lady who told everyone who would listen that people who ate anything that contained sugar and all women who had ever had an abortion were going to hell. As you might guess, that didn’t go over well with most people, especially the part about sugar.
Christianity to many seems to be a list of what to do to get to heaven, and what not to do to keep out of hell. Oddly enough, everyone seems to have a different list. Maybe that’s the appeal of belonging to one of those groups that tells you what is on your list.
My wife and I try to present a much different perspective of Jesus to those we know. Those who do not identify as “Christian” almost always “get it”. Interestingly, those who have a mission to tell the world what they’re doing wrong and why they’re damned and going to hell because of it do not “get it”.
“The world hates the things of God!” (Substituting “Christians” or “the church” for “the things of God” also works.) We think not. The world dislikes the religious list makers who try to impose their lists on others. We find that most people see little in common between Jesus and the “list makers”. We propose trying to look more like Jesus.
I think the message we should proclaim to the world is this:
The Gospel we proclaim should send a message of love, life, healing, and forgiveness, rather than judgement, death, condemnation, and hate.
The Gospel we proclaim should send a message of who we are, rather than a message of what to do or where we are going.
The Gospel we proclaim should send a message of a Father who runs after his children and brings them home, rather than a message of a father who turns his back.
The Gospel we proclaim should send a message of a God who wants to sit and eat with sinners, rather than a message that God will have nothing to do with them.
The Gospel we proclaim should send a message of self-emptying love, rather than a self-centered life.
The Gospel we proclaim should send a message of Kingdom seekers, rather than world absorbents.
People will run into the arms of that God, there’s not doubt about that. Thanks so much for the post.
John Latham says
Love that post JD. Thanks
MikenJenn Cratch says
Were you a Mormon or something? Are you a universalist?
Redeeming God says
No and no.
Suzanne from Belfast says
Brilliant as usual Jeremy. Absolutely brilliant. We have two leading atheists in this country- Richard Dawkins and Stephen Fry. One of their (many) objections against Christianity is this picture of a horrendously cruel God. I think we have done God a great disservice and have completely misrepresented Him. I wish they could read this post!
I have been a believer in Jesus Christ for 50+ years. I am sorry to say that it took me most of those years before I came to understand that God truly does love with no strings attached, He loves us just as we are. Eternal Life is a FREE GIFT made available to ALL People, not just a select few. This wonderful gift is ours it we trust in Jesus for it, not in religion. Thanks for your post.
Done with Religion says
Good article. If we could just keep our eyes on Jesus and not all the man-made versions of God, we could show the true love of God to a hurting world rather than the religious version so many see.
Tony Papilli says
I am truely amazed a how religious people want to continue to hang a tag on us as to what ilk we represent. Why isn’t “Just Jesus” ever enough?
I have been on a long and drawn out church detox program, which has now brought me to a place where I feel totally comfortable hanging out in any environment. Gosh, no wonder why the world hates us so much.
Amen to this Post brother wow I mean wow…im crying so hard right now after reading this Poweful indeed so many need to read this and to really look to it and see the Heart of Christ in it 😀 God bless you Brother now and always.
God, I want to apologize for my wrongdoings. Will you please forgive me?