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Christianity can mean a couple different things and it depends on what meaning we are using as to how I feel about it.

If, when talking about being a Christian, we mean we are following Christ, acting like Christ and living like Christ, I am all for being called a Christian.

Religions

Usually these days the word Christian means more about the religion of Christianity. Just like Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Baha’i, Shinto, Taoism and a host of others, Christianity is a religion controlled by men. It is divided up into many various denominations, doctrines and biblical interpretations. Contrary to popular belief Jesus did not start the Christian religion.

Here in the United States we are so proud to say that America is a Christian nation. Unfortunately, I have to disagree with that idea. America is a country made up of many religions and beliefs. The good thing in this country is that we are not forced to be a part of any religion or belief. We have many freedoms that are not found in other places and I am thankful for that fact. We are free to choose what we want to believe, who we want to follow and we have the right to express that without fear of punishment.

Following Christ is not about a religion. I actually think it is better sometimes not to use the word Christian because of all the religious thoughts and ideas it brings up. Religion is a man-made, organized system that divides more than anything. We separate into groups that meet in buildings on set days and at set times saying we welcome anyone, yet only want those who feel the same way we do.

It bothers me to see so many who profess to be Christians, those who believe in God and Jesus and spreading His love to others, who argue and fight with those who think differently. We are supposed to be known for our love for others and love for our brothers and sisters in Christ. Still, it seems a lot of Christians are more interested in defending their personal views and thoughts, getting mad and arguing amongst themselves while those outside the faith are looking at them and wondering why they need to have Christ in their lives.

Now, talking about Christianity in the sense that we are following Christ, living like Him and treating others like Jesus treated people, this is an entirely different thing. As mentioned in Acts 11:26, the disciples were first called Christians by the people of Antioch because they saw the disciples acting so much like Christ. To me, this is the true meaning of a Christian.

BeLikeJesus

True Christianity is a community of people who act like Christ and let him love through them. It is a daily life and is not separated into normal living and religious living. It is not specifically following set doctrines or following rules of do’s and don’ts. It is not meeting in a building once a week listening to one person talk, singing a few songs, shaking hands and going home. It is not a system of leaders who are on a higher level than others. Those who have gifts of leadership lead by example, lead as equals, and lead by a servant spirit to encourage and build up their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. They are not to lead by power or a position of authority.

True Christianity is a daily life following the leading of the Spirit. It is meeting with those we come in contact with along our daily routine and showing the love of Christ. It is eating together, laughing and crying together, accepting one another, talking and discussing our thoughts and views.

As followers of Christ, we are to love others, accept others, and treat others with compassion, respect and love. We do not have to agree with everyone, just accept them. We can agree to disagree and love people just as they are. Everyone does not have to be just like us and they do not have to believe like us. They should be able to be themselves and we as Christ followers should be OK with it.

It is time to stop being a Christian in the sense of religion and focus on Jesus and let Him live through us. After all, we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit, we have the mind of Christ, God lives within us. There is no reason why we cannot love and accept others just like Christ loves and accepts everyone.

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As a follower of Christ, I feel a great sense of treating all people fairly and with respect. We are told that as his followers we will be known by our love, not only for one another but for all people.

Unfortunately, I do not see a lot of this sentiment in our christian world today. So many of us would rather condemn, argue and stand our ground for our particular doctrine, interpretation or denomination.

When reading about the life of Jesus while on earth, I see a person who loved his Father and loved people. He went about treating all people with love and respect. He told people to go and sin no more, but he never condemned or made anyone feel like a person of lower degree. He never said because you have done this I want nothing to do with you. He loved them no matter what.

Although I like to write, my chosen profession is firefighting. As I think about this line of work I see it as more like true Christianity should be.

Firefighterpledge

As a firefighter we treat all people the same. It makes no difference whether we are treating male or female, rich or poor, white or black, religious or atheist, gay or straight. We do not differentiate between jew, muslim, hindu or christian. It makes no difference if you are American, European, Middle Eastern or Asian. All people are treated the same no matter who they are, what they believe or how they live.

To me this is the way we christian people should live each day. Treating others with equality, respect, kindness and by the love of God. We will not always agree on things but living this way will have more of an impact on others and will show the love of God in action.

I always wonder how the church world can be so mean, how it can separate itself so much from those who see things differently. How can we, who profess to follow a loving God treat people with such disrespect? Why is it that most of the time, christian people are known more for what they are against rather than for the love they are to show to all people.

I feel it is time that we christian people take on a firefighter mentality in the way we treat others, showing love and respect to all people. Rather than fight and argue it is time we help lift up, encourage and be respectful to everyone we meet along this journey through life.

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In a day when tempers seem to flare more often and people seem to be less kind to others, it does not take much to make a difference in the day of someone you meet.

We hear on the news and social media the acts of rage, discrimination, meanness, lack of respect and overall disregard for other human beings.

We have racial discrimination, gay people are made to feel like they are hated, religious people are made fun of, atheist are made to feel like an enemy of Christianity and on and on it goes. Yet underneath all the labels are human beings who are loved by God and are to be loved by us.

My feeling is no matter what you think is right or wrong, whichever way you choose to live your life there is no reason to treat others with judgment and condemnation.

BeKind

Being respectful, kind and accepting of others does not mean we always agree. We can treat others with kindness and as equals and still stick with our individual beliefs. We do not have to force our views on others and try to make them see things our way.

Being nice to people can change their attitude and outlook for the day. Giving others a smile, respect, doing a simple act of kindness can touch someone who is frustrated, depressed or just losing hope in the whole human race.

Rather than always being against someone or trying to force your views and way of life on others, put aside your personal beliefs and treat others with kindness and respect. To me that is following the example of Jesus and a way of encouraging a fellow human being who can then pass it along to others.

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As a Christian growing up in the traditional church we always heard that atheists were our enemy. They deny the God we love and say he does not exist.

As time has gone on I have found that only part of that way of thought is correct. Atheists are not our enemies. In fact, they are no different than anyone else with the exception that they do deny that there is a God or any gods. I have several friends that are Atheists and believe it or not, they are normal people just like you and me.

AtheistsandChristiansAccording to statements made on atheists.org, “Atheism is one thing: a lack of belief in gods. Atheism is not an affirmative belief that there is no god nor does it answer any other question about what a person believes. It is simply a rejection of the assertion that there are gods. Atheism is too often defined incorrectly as a belief system. To be clear: Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods. Atheism is not a belief system nor is it a religion”.

The idea that Christians and Atheists are enemies and cannot get along is the wrong way to think. So many Christians see things differently and interpret the bible in so many different ways, yet we are all part of the body of Christ. We all have our unique and individual thoughts, interpretations, ways of life and interests. In the same way, although Christians and Atheists see things differently there is no reason why we cannot get along and treat each other respectfully and with kindness.

Christians and Atheists are the same in the fact that, again quoting from atheists.org “All atheists are different. Atheists come in a variety of shapes, colors, beliefs, convictions, and backgrounds. We are as unique as our fingerprints. Atheists exist across the political spectrum. We are members of every race. We are members of the LGBTQ community. There are atheists in urban, suburban, and rural communities and in every state of the nation”.

Christians come in all the same areas as mentioned above. We are all unique and, coming from a Christian perspective, we are all created in the image of God and are loved by God.

I understand that Atheists do not think this way, and that is OK. Rather than condemn one another and argue and name call, we should accept that we are different and we see things differently. Unfortunately, I see this happen from time to time from Atheists and Christians alike. I wish we could accept that we are different in this one area and treat each other with respect and decency.

AtheistsandChristians2

One last quote from atheists.org “Being an atheist doesn’t mean you’re sure about every theological question, have answers to the way the world was created, or how evolution works. It just means that the assertion that gods exist has left you unconvinced. Wishing that there was an afterlife, or a creator god, or a specific god doesn’t mean you’re not an atheist. Being an atheist is about what you believe and don’t believe, not about what you wish to be true or would find comforting”.

Not much different from Christianity. We cannot prove anything spiritually or in regard to creation or evolution or if God is real or not. We certainly believe in God. We believe Jesus came to show us that God is love, yet we cannot prove it one way or another.

I am certainly not an expert on Atheism and as a Christian I do not think Atheism is the correct way of thinking. Yet Atheists think the same way about us Christians. The main point for me is to be accepting, loving, kind and respectful to all people no matter how they choose to believe, not believe or what they do not accept. Under all the labels such as Christian, Atheist, LGBT, Muslim and so forth we are human beings who have a variety of interests in life, we want to be happy and live a good life. There is no reason why we have to act as enemies due to a different perspective on God.

From my viewpoint, God is able to take care of himself. We can talk until we are blue in the face but that will not change most people. It is the Spirit that leads people to the Father. He will convict people of what needs to be changed in their lives, it is not our job. Until God makes himself known in a way that Atheists come to know there is a God, we should accept the differences and continue to love God and love others just as they are.

(Quotes taken from atheists.org About page at https://www.atheists.org/activism/resources/about-atheism/)

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In our world today unity and agreement are things that are almost unheard of happening.

There are different areas where groups of people will unit in a common cause or belief, but even then complete agreement among members is hard to attain.

Look at Christianity. Those of us who claim to be christians are divided up into thousands of groups, denominations, doctrines and beliefs. We usually find a common group within a particular church or denomination, yet complete agreement is rarely found even there.

DividedChristianity

Seems our whole world is based on division. Just look within the church not to mention other religions. Do you think christians and atheist will ever agree? How about those who believe in marriage between a man and a woman and the gay community.  What about blacks and whites, or americans and those from other countries. Will republicans and democrats ever work together?

The thing is that unity and agreement is probably not going to happen in the world as we know it. There are so many different personalities, beliefs and lifestyles for all of us to agree. Yet that does not mean that we cannot accept one another, respect one another and live together in peace even in our differences.

In a world like ours we probably will not see the acceptance and respect for one another that we should. But does that mean we stop striving for such a world? Do we just stop thinking of others and do only what is best for us? Do we really think our way is the right way and everyone else is wrong?

Especially as those who claim to follow the way of Jesus, we should be known for our love of others. Each of us has the right to follow what we feel is right and live according to our convictions. That does not mean everyone is right or wrong, but everyone should be accepted and treated respectfully whether we all agree or not.

LoveOneAnotherAsIHaveLovedYou

Jesus said to love God and love others. He did not say we all have to agree or live the same way. Jesus lived and walked among all kinds of people, many of those the religious people would not associate. Rather than look at all the labels we place upon people and groups, look at the human being and see a person that God created and loves.

If we see things differently, if we cannot agree or come into unity together, at least respect each other and treat people like you would like to be treated.

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Recently my wife and I were talking about some of our past church experiences. We also talked about some of our friends and some of the articles we have read online and the experiences others have had in the organized church.

We talked about how it seems many people mentioned being hurt or abused in the system. It is so sad that this happens in an organization that is supposed to represent the love of God. Yet many times people are abused and hurt and taken advantage of in the church.

church attendance

For myself and my wife our experience was pretty basic. We grew up attending a traditional denominational church every Sunday thinking that was the way God intended. We went to Sunday School and Junior church when we were young, then to regular service as we got older. We had friends we looked forward to seeing and we attended activities outside the Sunday morning service.

Through all the years we were involved neither of us were ever abused or hurt. We know things were not perfect yet there was never a reason for us to leave the church due to someone treating us bad or some event happening that made us mad.

That is why at this point in our lives we feel our choice to leave the organized church two years ago was because the Spirit has guided us along this path. We have come to feel the organized church is not what God intended when he said he would build his Church.

We were not chased away, we did not get hurt, abused or feel the need to get away. We were not over worked in the system or told to leave for any reason.

We came to a point where we were so unsatisfied with the same planned out service every week. We were seeing so much division within Christianity with all the denominations and interpretations. We saw judgment and condemnation placed on people rather than love and acceptance.

We know that christians are to be known for their love for one another, yet we saw so much arguing, fighting and disagreeing.

We read that when you come together each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. Yet each week one person got up and did all the talking while all the rest of us sat quietly looking at the back of the head of the person in front of us.

We read that we are now the temple of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, so why did people call a building the house of God? The Spirit was given on the day of Pentecost when the Spirit fell upon those gathered together. So why do people tell us to come to church because God was going to show up and the Spirit was going to fall upon the place.

We finally came to the conclusion that the organized church, even though many good things happen there and there are many people there who truly love God, was not what God intended.

people are the church

God now lives within us. The Holy Spirit has come upon us and we are his temple. We go about each and every day with the Spirit of God within us and we do not have to wait for a specific day in a specific building with one person doing all the talking.

Church is a people who show the love of God to all people, all nationalities, all faiths, all religions, atheists, gay, straight, black, white and any other label we can think of to put on people.

Church is us. It is a community of people living in the love and power of the Spirit serving one another and encouraging one another.

In the eyes of God there is no denominations, no buildings, no office of spiritual leader, there is neither jew nor gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

No, we were not hurt or abused. We were not upset or mad at the pastor or anyone in the church system. We just came to the conclusion that there is a better way. God is building his Church and it is us, not a building or an organization. It is a living organism made up of his people with the Spirit living within them.

We decided that going to a building once a week was no longer for us. The idea of separating ourselves from other denominations and from those who do not attend a church or those who do not accept God was not the way we wanted to continue.

Living each day as part of the body of Christ with the Spirit leading and teaching us, accepting all people and letting the love of God flow out to others makes more sense to us rather than sitting in a building with like-minded people and then going our separate ways until the next week.

We certainly do not tell others to do as we do. Each of us has to follow the leading of the Spirit and do what we feel is right. There are many people within the organized church who love God and seek to do what is right. Yet for us we are happy to be outside the walls of religion living each and every day as equally functioning parts of the body with Jesus as the head.

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Why does the word inclusion make so many of us christian people cringe?

inclusion

We often want to only include our preferred group. People who think like us and have faith like us. If you think differently we feel you should stay in your own group with like-minded people, but leave us alone. Sorry to say I used to feel the same way, but have thankfully changed my mind.

I am not necessarily just talking about organized religion or institutional church, but accepting people in general in our daily lives.

We see this so much within christianity, such a wide variety of denominations and interpretations of the bible. This is only mentioning fellow believers who believe that God is with us and loves us.

When it comes to including people who we see as completely different from us, it is even worse. African-American, White, LGBT, Atheist, Muslim, Jew and on it goes. We seem to think as believers in God we need to separate ourselves from those who see things differently. We think we should not associate with them or people will think we agree with them and are a part of their way of living.

Really, behind all the labels we put on people we are all basically the same, so why not associate and get to know people who we feel are different from us? We can learn from one another and get to know one another and find that we really are not all that different.

inclusionbyjesus

We see Jesus do this all the time when reading the gospels in the bible. He did not differentiate people based on their religion, belief, lifestyle or nationality. He did not separate himself from those who thought, believed and lived differently. He loved and accepted all people.

Obviously loving and accepting people does not mean agreement nor are we going to always get along in life and live happily ever after together. Yet I believe it does mean treating others the same, with respect, kindness, acceptance and with the love of God through the power of the Spirit within.

Inclusion is not a bad word. It is not a bad or unholy way to live. Inclusion is about ALL of us. Inclusion is about living full lives – about learning to live together. Inclusion makes the world our classroom for a full life. Inclusion treasures diversity and builds community. Inclusion is about our abilities – our gifts and how to share them. Inclusion is the way of God and the way of showing the love of God to all we meet.

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