What do unicorns, Santa Claus and the perfect Christian have in common?
yeah. I'm sure you see where I'm going there.
We Christians mess up a lot. We sin all over the place and then act like our sh!t don't stink. I know from personal experience. Lots and lots of experience.
But then we cry 'Mercy!' and God forgives us. And we should be honored and humbled by that kind of love, and not take it for granted. We should also be aware that for a watching world, forgiveness is harder to offer to the Christian who royally screws up. Not only that, but if we claim that Jesus is the reason why we felt we had to behave in such a way that others were hurt, we make it a lot harder for people to accept that Jesus is the Loving Savior that we know Him to be.
In America, we have certain rights that are protected. We can speak our minds, even when we very much disagree with those in authority over us. We are allowed the right to believe in and worship whichever deity we choose. We're a bit less tolerant of people when their beliefs infringe on someone else's beliefs, but for the most part, we are free to do a lot here that people who live in other countries get punished for, even killed for.
There seem to be a lot of religious extremists out there. There are people who hurt people in the name of their god. I'm not just talking about people who strap bombs to themselves and walk into a crowded area to blow up as many people as possible. I am talking about them, but there are a lot of Christian extremists too. There always have been.
I'm probably not as familiar as I should be with other religions. I have studied a bit of most of them, but I'm no expert by any means. I'm a Christian and definately don't feel like an expert in Christianity. But one of the most important differences that I've noticed between Christianity and other religions is grace. If only we humble ourselves and accept our inability to be perfect, God will give us grace. There's not anything we can do to earn this grace, other than admit we screwed up, commit to try harder next time, and then allow God to 'wash us clean' and give us the strength to do better from that point forward. The other religions that I've studied have the devotee doing some pretty extreme stuff to earn the favor of their Devoted. There isn't any grace. And that's why I love Christianity. (It's also one of the main reasons why I BELIEVE the claims of Christianity. We humans wouldn't have made up a belief system where we didn't have the power to convince/manipulate God. It's not in our nature to humble ourselves. We want to think we have some sway with the Big Man in Charge.)
But regardless of this distinction, some Christians just don't get it. They are willing to receive God's grace, but have no intention of showing it to anyone else. Or maybe they actually think that they are being kind when they point out certain people's sins and then tell them that they are going to hell. I doubt it, but let's just say it's possible. I'm pretty sure they wouldn't like it if I made signs describing their particular sins and marched around outside their church telling them that they are going to hell. They'd probably claim that they were Christians, not Christ, and that of course they sin, because Romans 3:23 says that "all have sinned," but that they have received salvation so they are not going to hell.
I had such a group of people make signs and march around where I was hanging out. They even spit on me and told me that I was going to hell. Over one particular sin. (They seemed totally fine with my other all-too-obvious sins.) But they never mentioned God's love or grace or forgiveness or any chance for me to repent. I was sinning so I was going to hell. For one, after that, I didn't want to worship their God because I thought His followers were jerks. Secondly, I didn't realize that I could worship their God. Because of my particular sin, and from what they were saying, I was destined for hell with no chance of forgiveness. I had royally screwed up, and God wasn't going to waste His time loving someone like me.
Ah, but see. Those particular Christians were WRONG! God loved me then, and He loves me now. He did give me a chance to repent, and I have since quit that particular sin and have acquired new ways to sin, and yet He STILL loves me. He even loves those particular wrong Christians who made it so hard for me to see the love of Christ. He loves that weird pastor in Florida who is willing to burn a very precious book to a particular group of people; an act that could very likely result in lots of American soldiers, NGO aid workers, tourists and especially Christ-followers to be attacked. God not only loves that guy and is willing to forgive him if he repents of his particular sins, but He loves all those who love that precious book.
I read a blog about this recently and saw a comment that really stood out to me. C. Bower says that "We should love our Christian brothers and sisters. We should also love our 'enemies' into the kingdom. You don't show the love of Christ to future brothers and sisters by burning something sacred to them. Meekness is power under control. We could all use a double dose of that. But burning a bunch of Korans will only serve to drive a wedge between 'us.' This only serves to divide, not to unite. Burning books is cowardly. Loving when it is hard (and controversial) is courageous. I want to choose love over hate; courage over cowardice."
Sure I live in America where I have a lot of freedom. But 1 Corinthians 10:23 says "'Everything is permissible' - but not everything is beneficial." Just because you can doesn't mean you should. Proverbs 15:1 says "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." And 1 Peter 3:15 says "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect."
This guy isn't being gentle or respectful. This guy is being harsh. God loves him and will forgive him of this royal screw up. (and believe me - even though you might not want to consider yourself lumped into the same category as this guy, you would desperately want to be if you yourself ever royally screwed up and needed God's grace. So be grateful that we ALL serve a gracious, loving God.) I just hope he repents before anger is stirred up and people's lives, and his witness, are destroyed.
Edit: The pastor in Florida has just cancelled his plans to burn any Korans this weekend. I hope he keeps his word.