This is the time of the year when it gets a little crazy. The shopping list always includes some that are nearly impossible to buy for. And of course you have the concern that you will forget someone. Or the biggest fear might be that a person who delivers a gift to you and you have a big bag of nothing for them. I was thinking this morning about someone that we (Christians) almost always acknowledge at Christmas but often neglect to think about what we are giving him. That person is the birthday boy himself…Jesus.
I was thinking about what I could give Jesus in the middle of the brouhaha over his birthday. I wondered how the Lord would react to some of the tactics that are being used in his name? I came across some quotes from Barry Lynn, the Executive Director for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State in an open letter to Jerry Falwell.
“Since I debated you (Jerry Falwell) about the Christmas issue on Fox News Channel’s “O’Reilly Factor,” I have received 66 nasty e-mails, including two death threats. Observed one of my correspondents, “Hope you die soon. Merry Christmas.”
Lynn also noted that after a public school in New York made news for its holiday observance policies, “some education officials there received hateful mail of all sorts. One e-mail said “You are either bigoted Jews who hate Christians or mindless secularists.”
Barry Lynn and I disagree on many, if not most, issues. But I do not wish any ill to befall him. I don’t assume (as I mentioned in my December 9th post) that educators have any evil agendas when they set policies for Christmas.
I wish I could develop a grace check software program for any Christian who sends out a letter or email. Any ugly names or phrases or stereotypes would be rejected. The grace check feature would allow Biblical truth to be communicated clearly and forcefully but would remove all vindictive and insensitive language. I would love to add an intelligence module that would help writers have a point, use actual grammar, and make sure the spelling was better than the Chik-fil-a cow billboards.
Mr.Lynn notes writes in his letter to Mr.Falwell…
“The First Amendment of our Constitution ensures every American’s right to observe religious holidays or to refrain from doing so. We can wish each other a “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays,” and it’s really none of your business which term we choose. We can call our decorated tree a “Christmas tree” or a “holiday tree,” and that’s our right. (We can observe the holidays of other traditions as well.)”
You certainly can. I don’t think that is the issue. But I also have a right to spend my money at a store that calls the tree a “Christmas” tree and notes that it is Christmas in their advertising and signage. That is my right of free expression as an American. Perhaps we have two different debates going here. One is my rights as an American, the other revolves around my responsibility as a follower of Christ. As a Christian my rules of engagement should be clear.
Every person has value in the eyes of the one who’s birthday is being debated. No one should be condemned or judged by me. I should represent the love of Christ to those I disagree with and demonstrate His amazing grace when they turn less than civil. It is supernatural responses that draw people to Jesus. When Christians respond with angry and ugly diatribes the message is lost and the cause is damaged.
“I think we all know what’s really going on with your campaign. You (Falwell) want an America where there is no separation of church and state and where your rather narrow interpretation of Christianity is forced on everyone. If you can convince Americans that their cherished Christmas traditions are under fire, you think maybe they will join your nefarious crusade to tear down the protective church-state wall that guarantees our freedoms.”
I can’t speak for Mr.Falwell and I certainly wish that people would quit assuming that he speaks for me. But I can tell you that I do not want an America where my interpretation of Christianity is forced on everyone. You see, my interpretation of Christianity cannot be forced on anyone. I gladly share the Jesus that has changed my life. What you do with that is up to you. A relationship like that cannot be forced.
Sorry for getting a bit sidetracked. Tomorrow I will give you my gift list for Jesus on His birthday. There are still plenty of shopping days left.