I can’t stand pain. To the point I almost passed out the first time I got my ear pierced. While on a college trip to Scotland I just decided to go for it. A woman in the back of a hair salon used what looked like a gun.
As the needle, bolt, rivet, whatever, shot through my ear lobe the room began to spin. I rushed to the bathroom, embarrassed, but relieved it was over.
When I returned home my parents generously offered to buy me diamond stud earrings if I got the other ear pierced. I declined. The pain remained too fresh in my memory. I couldn’t bring myself to undergo any more discomfort. No matter how temporary, and minor, it still hurt.
It seems silly to have made such a big deal over such a small thing. At the time it was a big deal. Until one day, years later, when having my other ear done I realized, no matter how it hurt to get my ear pierced, the pain was nothing compared to what Jesus endured during his life.
The beatings, crown of thorns, and being nailed to a cross to hang until dead. Not to mention the ridicule, denial, slander, and betrayal he endured.
I don’t think any one of us can imagine such emotional and physical suffering. I honestly don’t believe any Christian, or decent human being, would want anyone to undergo the misery Christ did.
Yet we witness too many people, who say they love Jesus, causing anguish to others. Often in the name of God.
The contradiction between Jesus, who was inclusive love in action, and the exclusive religion that bears his name raises the question, which Jesus would consider worse.
The agony he suffered in life and while dying on the cross?
Or the pain of being betrayed by people who disrespect his life and sacrifice by judging, abusing, and excluding others in his name?
My vote is for the latter.
No matter if we are gay, straight, black, white, female, male, rich or poor, limitless numbers of people experience religious persecution. I know of a woman who was asked to leave a congregation because she wore a red dress to church. A family I know disowned their son for marrying a woman they considered a non-believer. My aunt was not allowed to wed the love of her life because the man was Jewish. A friend was told by the minister of a church she had to grow her hair long in order to be accepted by God and the congregation.
These examples, and countless others, are a result of a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of Christ’s Church as an inclusive community of love and kindness, and as a guide on how to live with the integrity of Jesus. The egocentric hutzpah to persecute, exclude, and attempt to dominate in God or Jesus’ name, while prevalent, is certainly not action aligned with Christs’ heart. Yet, it is behavior witnessed with disappointing pervasiveness in the Church and therefore sadly within society in general.
I believe the most important labor of love Christians perform is honestly looking at the personal relationship they have with Jesus. Which includes candidly challenging why the religion created in the name of Christ is too often elitist and cruel, when Jesus was a messenger of inclusive compassion.