One of the funniest questions that I often hear in regards to my ministry is "you aren't one of those snake handling preachers are you?" How do I even answer that one? The answer is obviously yes I am a snake handling preacher but not like that, well sort of like that, ok exactly like that but not the same. You see I do handle snakes in my ministry, I often find myself handling venomous snakes when I am preaching and I have probably preached more times with reptiles than without, but it's not exactly what you think. The long and the short of it is that I don't bring venomous snakes into churches when I preach but I do often find myself amazed by their beauty and purpose when I am in the field doing the documentary side of my ministry. I believe that ALL things God created are not only good but VERY good and snakes aren't to be excluded from the list of things created that are VERY Good.
We all have a purpose and God has a plan for each one of us. Did you know that the venom from certain snake species like the Southern Copperhead are actually being used to save lives. Wow! Isn't that amazing! It's not the snakes that are bad, or even their venom, it's simply the context in which the venom is received. Its the same principle with Christians. It's not the Christian that is bad or even the words that are spoken from them that are wrong, it usually is simply the context in which it is received. Venom in the wrong context, delivered in anger and hostility, is received not as life giving but as life taking. That seems to also relate to our presentation of the Gospel sometimes. If it is delivered in the wrong context, out of a place of pride, anger or hostility it will be received as something other than life giving. I'm not saying that we have to water the Gospel down nor am I saying that we sugar coat anything when presenting our case for Christ. I am saying that we should check our motives and understand why we are presenting the Gospel. If we are using scripture to Lord over other people that happen to sin differently than we do, then maybe our context is wrong. If we are putting ourselves on a pedestal and talking down to unbelievers, are we doing it in the spirit of Christ or does that fall somewhere in the selfish ambition category?
I absolutely believe that Jesus loves you, yes you! I believe he wants to come to know you and I believe Jesus wants Christians to imitate and be ambassadors for Christ. I believe that our actions speak a million times louder than our words and that a kind word of encouragement will go a long way further with someone than pointing out the flaws they know they have. My prayer is that the church will stop pointing out the faults of the world, remove the planks from our own eyes, and encourage people to get to know the Jesus of the Bible and not the Jesus created by Christian culture. As a good friend of mine will often say, "we need to stop reading our Bibles as Americans and start reading it as Christians." I believe if we really loved Jesus like we say we do, then we would learn to love others the way Jesus loves us. Thank you Jesus for the grace you offered me as a lost sinner and I pray I can offer the same grace to others and patiently walk with them while they figure out this thing we call the Gospel.