What??? God hates you if… were words I heard this year from a group of 11, 12 & 13 year olds.
My heart broke because in their voices I could hear how much they believed what they were saying. They also said Churches hate you if….
To complete both sentences they went on to say a variety of reasons why God/Church might hate someone. My job is to listen and not interrupt. If you work with young people, then you may know how
important vital it is to listen–to really listen all the way, to let them finish speaking.
Their conversation reminded me that what children see all too often is hate. Hate, arguments and people taking a stand in a way that steps on the hope of young people.
When we spew anger and judgement, we create an environment where a young person feels compelled to take a side. And like those teens expressed, we create barriers that a young person decides they won’t cross. Adults, do we think of the impact before we post something negative on facebook? Do we consider that speaking negative words might turn someone away from God instead of toward Him?
Q: How willing is someone to try going to church when they think they would not be welcomed through the door?
A: They are not willing and they don’t think church would even be an option for them.
But could we, adults, choose to love, choose to listen, choose to be open and inviting?
We can. And some do. But not enough.
I challenge us to read and review Matthew 7. Oh, what a wonderful chapter! That is one of the places in the Bible where you’ll find “Judge not, that ye not be judged.” Jesus talks about how we all have stuff we’re dealing with. He says to deal with our own issues and not point out other people’s challenges.
When Jesus was done speaking, Matthew 7:28-29 says …the people were astonished at his doctrine for He taught as one having authority…. Astonished? I picture the people in the crowd looking at one another with expressions of Wowza, He really meant that or Oops, I resemble some of what He said.
And here we are, thousands of years later, many still judging and still hating. We are human, but can we work to be better, to judge less or not at all? I believe not judging takes practice and prayer.
The teens did ask for me to chime in eventually. I shared, “In my experience God is love and He loves everyone no matter who they are or what they’ve done.” I paused, “And I’m grateful to say that I feel like the doors are wide open and people are welcoming at my church. There are many types of churches in your community.”
“Really?” some of them said.
“Really.” I smiled. And with that, their random topic changed to something else in the way that teenage conversations sometimes do.
Dear God, Thank you for your Word. Thank you for your teachings. Please help me not to judge. Help me to be open. Help me never to diminish someone’s chance for hope and peace. Help me to express Your love. Amen
Remember, the children are watching and listening. Care, don’t scare.
God loves you,