A wordless Thing has been rattling around in my mind for quite some time. It has come out in bits and pieces in the past but never, I don’t think, fully. It comes to me now in a string of happenings.
Justin Beiber. There, I said it – I’m weighing in. But not in the way you might think. Actually, I’ve vaguely followed Justin’s career for a few years for a few reasons I’ll get to a little later. The question I’d like to pause and ponder now is where has all the hate come from? Mindless, tasteless hate (as if there were any other kind?) And I’m not just talking about people who don’t profess Christianity.
On Wednesday the missionaries were all out going door-to-door with the warmer weather; we got a visit from the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons all in one day (way to co-ordinate, guys). I happened to be the one to answer the door to both and had a very brief but not unfriendly visit with the JW’s, and a little more lengthy stop-in from three young Mormon elders. To be honest (and particularly in the case of the Mormons, who couldn’t have been older than myself) my curiosity was piqued not because of what they were offering but because of the chinks in the pre-rehearsed lines they must have been running to people all day that showed personality and human-ness underneath.
And I’m still interested to know how they’ve all experienced Jesus, even though I know that the systems of belief they come from have distorted views of him. My wife was (albeit pleasantly) surprised at how cordial I had been, but expressed the concern that being friendly to ‘those people’ only encourages future encounters. The overlying question on my mind is, why have we as Christians bought into the bias that people of differing beliefs are justifiably worthy of being shunned, or made the brunt of jokes and subjects of our distaste? (I hesitate to say ‘hate’, but is that really far out?) Why is it so far out and unexpected to be friendly?
It might be that this stay-at-home introvert has become a lot more socially seasoned over the last year, but I find myself wondering more and more about the walls traditional behavior has built. A little over a year ago I encountered someone who I made a pretty bad impression of. The other day I caught myself thinking, “Hey this guy’s not so bad…” and honestly, I’m more than a little unsettled about my initial reaction. And I’ve met others that many people shun and avoid for obvious reason but my question is how is there any degree of fallen humanity fallen enough that any Christian could justify ignorance–as if fallen humanity weren’t our very commision?
So back to Justin Beiber.
As I’ve said, I’ve followed Justin’s career for a while. Sure, I never cared much for his music (not that I’ve ever heard anything that terrible), but wasn’t it in the least bit obvious to anyone what kind of a platform God would have over Justin’s (and my) generation if he let God use him? And I say that in lofty, almost religious terms but what I really mean is, what if Justin’s relationship with Jesus overflowed out of him onto millions and millions of young people? What if he became so radically in love with Jesus that they couldn’t help but see Jesus in him? That’s just a little piece of the vision I had to begin with.
The thing is, it doesn’t matter how you feel about Justin Beiber. It doesn’t matter that you hate his music and want to murder him as much as he has (allegedly) murdered some ear drums. It doesn’t matter if you think his frail relationship with Jesus is theologically full of holes because he doesn’t have all the answers or understandings that you do. The truth is, I’ve heard some profound things come out of Justin’s mouth a lot of older Christians may be a long way from coming to terms with. The truth is, God’s still going to know him, and he is going to know God, and all the hating and disgruntling you can do isn’t going to change that. And I absolutely support him as my brother; that’s what the Body of Jesus Christ is supposed to do for each other, and there’s more than enough grace in Him for someone like Justin Beiber–or even me.
That’s just the denouement–the climax–not the conclusion of the thought I’m trying to put into words. Because be it young believers, or people who believe differently, or people who don’t believe at all, humanity is not my enemy. I said humanity is not my enemy. So that guy that you only see when he’s drunk? He’s trying to forget a lifetime of pain. Those young guys going door to door with suits on under their winter jackets? I wasn’t any less deceived by the system I grew up in. They still have an opening that Jesus yearns for them through, and it could be you that breaks that wall. That punk kid that is so excited about his new faith? He’s thanking God for bringing him out of the mess you criticize him for, but he doesn’t need another critic, he needs mentors, fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters to walk with and learn from and with. You might learn more than you expect from him, too, because Jesus’ only requirement is willingness and there’s an older brother in the story of the prodigal son, too.
It’s time to lay aside resentment and distrust; it’s time to unlearn hate.