I grew up in church, whatever that means… I grew up going to church on hot Costa Rican Sunday mornings and sitting with my parents and my older sister on those hardwood pews. I grew up falling asleep towards the end of the sermon, because the preacher had gotten too excited and wouldn’t stop preaching and it was past noon. I grew up being the “ole Sunday after-church crowd” going out to eat past 1pm. I grew up in Sunday school classes watching Veggie Tales in spanish, and old Easter movies in April. I was baptized with my sister when I was around 13 and she was 22, we decided to do it together. Once I hit my pre-teens, I was an avid Saturday-night-youth-group-goer. Those Saturday nights were my thing, I met my first bffs there, the first guy I had a crush on there, my sister and I became very close there, and I had my first real relationship with Christ at my Saturday youth groups. I realized how real and irreplaceable Jesus was in my life. I found out how fragile I am, and how mighty He is. I also got my heart broken by that guy that I had a crush on (go figure). Honestly, church and Jesus became such an important part of my daily life.
Those were also the times were I thought that Christ and those that work in His name are always in the same page; which is not always that case. It took me some time and prayers, along with spiritual maturity to realize that lots of times our authority figures in Christ are just as flawed and human as we are. We hold them to a standard that is so complex and almost saint-like, almost impossible to achieve-that we end up hurting ourselves and our faith in result when they make a mistake. There are times, and I still hope that it is the least of cases, were some of our biggest leaders or faith figures don’t practice what they preach, or have a dysmorphic idea of what Jesus Christ’s teachings are all about. They get lost in all the fluff around religion, and big buildings, and privilege; and forget what we are really here to do.
After some time away from church in my teenage years and battling my own spirituality and the lessons that were always engraved in me. I knew that Jesus was more than just religion, or a set of rigid rules, or not missing a Sunday or Saturday, or knowing every lyric to every song o hymn.
I moved away from home, and oddly enough the first question I always got asked in this new place was: 1) “do you go to church? 2) are you catholic? 3) what’s your religion?”. I was so thoroughly confused on why these questions mattered and why the answers defined who I was. The biggest issue for me was that everytime someone asked me I am pretty sure there was a right answer for every one of them, and to this day I still don’t know which answer they wanted (or which one was the right one). 1) no, i don’t go to church I just hopped off a plane a week ago. 2) no, i am not catholic. but a lot of my family is if that makes better. or not. 3) (this was the biggest one for me) i am pretty sure i answered with -” Christian?” and they replied with “what kind?” still appalled by their insisting, I replied with: -“what do you mean what kind?? the Jesus kind? how many do you have?”-
As I started growing up and growing older, I went back to how I felt as a teenager and started having such a hard time separating my disappointment from Christians and my disappointment from Christ. I know those are big, big words. But what we see here on Earth is the people that call themselves Christians, it’s you and me. However we treat each other, and our neighbors, and our enemies speaks VOLUMES about Jesus! As a Christian, the biggest low-blows I have been getting from are by my brothers and sisters in Christ. If I am having a hard time remembering to put my eyes on the Lord and not on humans, how do you all think those disciples we are supposed to be making look at us right now? Do you think they see us as loving, kind people? Jesus is love. Jesus is mercy. Jesus is forgiveness. Jesus is patience. Jesus is gratefulness. Jesus is kindness. As I start my journey back to the church a few weeks ago, I am trying so hard to remember this every day.
It’s hard to love like Jesus does, but if we sit and think what would Jesus do to this person? Would Jesus love them or judge them? I am pretty sure you already know the answer, because we are not on Earth to judge, we are on Earth to love.