I do some work with Larkin Street Youth Services, a San Francisco-based youth ministry. Seven or eight Larkin Street kids came out to a game recently. One of them had a tattoo on her arm, and when she saw mine, she said, “Hey, what does that tattoo on your arm say?” I said, “It’s Latin. It says Solus Christus.” She asked me, “What does that mean?” And I said, “In Christ alone.”
“Oh,” she said. She sounded disappointed. But then she looked at me, and she asked, “Are you a Christian? Are you a Catholic?” And I said, “I’m neither.”
“Really?” she said. And I told her, “Well, if I have to side with one, it’s going to be Christianity. But I don’t know if there is a side.” I thought about what to say. Then I told her, “I’ll tell you this. I’m a follower of Jesus Christ. That’s what I do. But honestly? I disagree with some of the things that Christian people say they believe. Especially with the way they handle people at times. And I don’t necessarily agree with the Catholic Church. I don’t agree with some of their theological views, and I don’t agree with how they handle people at times either.”
She was still listening, so I said, “I’m not really either, I guess. I’m more Christian, if I had to choose, but this is such a long definition!” She laughed. And I finished, “So, all I can really say is that I’m a follower of Jesus Christ. I love Him! So I just try to follow in His footsteps and I try to do what He tells me to do. And I mess up a lot. But I’m not going to come across as holier-than-thou. You know?”
Actually, she was very accepting of that, which was pretty interesting. I’ve been told that some of the kids in Larkin Street have been kicked out of their homes. They came out about their sexuality, and their parents kicked them out. So when I told her I was a follower of Jesus, I thought she would have a lot of reservations about me. But she accepted me.
I didn’t assume she was gay. But I know that some of the kids who came to the game that day could have been gay. And they might have written me off, or maybe distrusted me, for being Christian. And I wanted to make sure they knew how I really felt. I wanted them to know how much I love them. I love those kids no matter what. I love that they dream. I love their dreams so much, because these kids are very motivated to become somebody. They were kicked out of their homes by their families. They didn’t have anywhere to go. They wound up on the streets, and they might have even been trafficked. Really bad things have happened to them.
With these kids, I didn’t want to say, “I’m a Christian,” because I didn’t want them to think that I’m judging them. All I wanted to do was express the love of Jesus.
It’s getting harder all the time to say, “I’m a Christian.” I’m not afraid to say I’m a Christian. Sometimes I’m embarrassed to say it! I’m embarrassed by how people view Christianity, as a judging faith. The way people view Christianity is not the way that sinners viewed Jesus. Sinners loved Jesus! They knew He loved them! And as much as it is possible, I want to be viewed like Jesus was viewed, as someone who loves people.
Do you think the Christian churches are doing enough to distinguish themselves from the Pharisees? More on this next time. See you Saturday.