“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God…” ~Exodus 34:6
I’m haunted by these words of atheist-author Sam Harris in the preface to his most recent work, Letter to a Christian Nation:
“Since the publication of my first book, The End of Faith, thousands of people have written to tell me that I am wrong not to believe in God. The most hostile of these communications have come from Christians. This is ironic, as Christians generally imagine that no faith imparts the virtues of love and forgiveness more effectively than their own. The truth is that many who claim to be transformed by Christ’s love are deeply, even murderously, intolerant of criticism or rejection. While we may want to ascribe this to human nature, it is clear that such hatred draws considerable support from the Bible. How do I know this? The most disturbed of my correspondants always cite chapter and verse.”
Have you ever considered that maybe the Christian emails you forward or the Christian petitions you sign or the Christian bumper stickers on your car actually violate the character of our God? Have you ever wondered if the Church itself is fueling the fires of atheism by the ways we interact or don’t interact with our community? Have you ever thought about the ways your words and actions at work or at the grocery store or on the airplane or in your neighborhood might turn people away from God?
Our God is a compassionate God. He’s compassionate. That’s who he is. And if the world knew about our God’s eternal compassion, they would fall in love with him. But how will they comprehend our God’s compassion if they don’t experience it in God’s redeemed people? How will they know the great compassion of our God if God’s Church is not reflecting it?