Image by Liv Nicks-Turnley

How I found Jesus in the Company of Sinners

I am what you might call a “bad” Christian. I drink, swear and take the Lord’s name in vain so often you might think He was a close friend. According to the Old Testament, many of my extracurriculars would swiftly chuck me into the fiery pits below. Yet, I have faith that I am unconditionally saved. My grandfather was the head minister at a Presbyterian church for 22 years, but I rarely attended services when I was younger. Although I did not meet God underneath the colored lights of stained glass windows, I still loved and knew Him well. I saw God in nature and sunlight, in the smiles of strangers and in the stories of loved ones. But where I first saw God clearly was in my mom’s Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings. I was a seasoned member of AA meetings by the time I was 10, even though I had never had a drink. The smoke filled clubhouse looked more like an office space than a church. It was eclectically decorated, mismatched chairs and couches left by members throughout the years. I would sit at a folding table and color while the recovering addicts discussed their tragedies and triumphs of the week. The meetings ended with the Lord’s prayer, which I would always join. I laugh at this now. I am the granddaughter of a well-known minister, but I learned my first prayer through sinners. When I tell Lewis & Clark students that I am Christian, I see a flash of fear in their eyes. Unfortunately, Christians have used
faith as an instrument to spread their own hate. Despite our shared faith, I myself was ostracized by the “good” Christians who knew all of the biblical stories, went to church camp and put “WWJD” (what would Jesus do) in their Instagram bio. Thankfully, for me especially, Jesus does not care about how many times you go to church or how many times you take His name in vain. Unconditional love is not something you can earn. If you could, it would cheapen it. His love is given freely, and there is nothing we can do to earn it or lose it. Avoiding sin is not a law, simply advice for living a better life. You cannot win the title “Christian,” and anyone who tells you otherwise is misguided. I believe a lot of LC students would agree with Jesus’ teachings. Jesus was a fighter for socialism and a protester against oppression, especially oppression of women. Jesus often pointed to women as models of faith. He protected and praised adulterous women, sex workers and poor women. Jesus fought for class equality. In Matthew 19:24, He said, “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” There are so many stories about Jesus confronting corrupt rulers that I cannot even think of a specific one to list. My favorite bible verse, 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” Jesus is radically loving, not judging. I know that I am an imperfect and flawed sinner, but I also know that I am saved, and nothing can take that away from me. I know Christianity has been used to spread hate, and I see how so many have been ostracized by Christians for living as they were created (Jeremiah 1:5). However, this was done by Christians, not Christ. I was introduced to Jesus by the ones most deserving of his message: sinners (Mark 2:17, Luke 7:47). Every Christian is a sinner, and there is nothing we can do to change that. We can, however, spread the love and message of Jesus, to give peace and hope to others. That is what I want to do on our campus. I know many will not agree with me, nor would I want that. Spirituality is like a cube with different colored faces. From my perspective, I see green, but another person may see purple. It is especially important on a campus such as LC to foster a culture of openness and extend that courtesy to Christianity. Simply sweeping the whole religion aside seems to be against the very values that are at the core of LC: respect, compassion and expanding our boundaries.

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