We Suck at Christianity—But That’s Kind of the Point
JANUARY 31, 2017
The world is mad at us. I mean, really, really mad. If you’re of a softer constitution and you happen upon one of these angry articles, or YouTube videos, or tweets, or Facebook posts, or books, or… well, you get the picture—you will probably get the vapors and faint dead on the parlor floor. The point is this—a lot of people hate Christians and Christianity, and that’s not hyperbole. There’s a deep, fiery, gut anger that they probably couldn’t fully explain themselves. And some of you think that’s a good thing.
We’ve gotten the wrongheaded idea that whatever we do in the name of God must be okay because we’re doing it in the name of God. So, every time we do or say something that gets a non-believer angry, we smile to ourselves and think, “Thank you, Jesus. You said they’d hate us just like they hated you.” We’ve got that sentiment all kinds of wrong. If you look at the ministry of Jesus, the lost were far less likely to get angry at him than were the religious types. Moreover, the lost were actually drawn to Jesus.
The lost simply hate us now.
Does that seem right to you?
Jesus said that all the rules in the Bible can be expressed like this: Love God, love each other. (rf. Mt 22:36-40) So, if our beliefs lead us to anything other than love, they’re wrong. I know some of you are inking up your heretic stamp even now, but at least hear me out. (That ink is really hard to get out.) I’ll give you a few verses that back this sinful blathering up.
Look at Colossians 4:5-6, which says for us to, “walk in wisdom toward outsiders (non-Christians), making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (ESV) Here, God is telling us to be calm, rational people who speak to others with grace and love, not signs and screams. So, is our speech gracious? Are our words seasoned, as it were, with salt? On the whole, the answer seems to be a big ugly no:
Then, when talking about the qualifications for an overseer in 1 Timothy 3:7, Paul says, “people who are not Christians must speak well of him, or he might become the victim of disgraceful insults that the devil sets as traps for him.” (GWT) This is a pretty clear verse, and speaks directly to what we’re talking about. One of the qualifications for overseer is that the lost people in the community like them. Does that sound crazy to you? If you listen to the hateful things people who claim to speak for us are saying, you’d think that was an impossible requirement. Because you’d think those people are our enemies.
None of these verses line up with the way those outside the Church view Christians today.
Do they think or speak well of us? No. No, they don’t. So, what does that mean? Well, it seems to indicate that we’re doing this wrong (read: without love). We’ve made enemies of those to whom Christ has called us to win with the Gospel of Jesus. Instead, we’ve made morality the god to which we are trying to win the lost world. Here’s the thing—the lost aren’t followers of Christ, therefore any rules Christians have don’t apply to them. Who are we to judge them?
Our job isn’t to make the lost better people, it’s to give them the same Good News we got. And, boy, do we need to hear it again!
Jesus said that the lost would know we belong to God by our love for one another (Jn 13:35). Someone, somewhere, got the idea that they would know us by our goodness. So, we sell Christianity (and I do mean sell) with loud voices screeching morality in nice suits and slicked back hair. All the while worrying that we might seem the slightest bit sullied (which we are) and so trying our best to appear more moral than the average Joe. Because, with all of our hearts, we think that seeming like we’ve got it together is the most important thing in the world. But, the worst happens when we start believing that our goodness is our witness; when we starting thinking that knowing the Truth is the same thing as being the Truth. “I’m not God, but I play one on TV!”
To get this straight, we’re black-palmed filthy with sin. Even our best attempts at morality, which seem to make us think we are perfect, are akin to a boy heating up his first microwave dinner and thinking himself a chef. Any knowledge we manage to get at just puffs us up until we spit it out so hatefully that any truth therein is lost on the hearer. We are liars and thieves and adulterers, murderers all, and if you dare think otherwise, you can add self-deluded to that awful list. We are constantly self-centered, hating that which we are not—the beautiful, the smart, the rich and the happy. Every one of us. Our well-crafted smiles plaster over a body riddled with sin…
…But we’re forgiven. We are loved. We belong to Jesus. And that’s our song.
We don’t have to pretend. We don’t have to act like we’ve got it all together. That’s not the message. No, I’m not saying Christians should sin willy-nilly. I’m saying to be honest about where you are, because it’s about what Jesus did, not how far along you are toward sanctification. What Jesus did is the Gospel.
That’s our witness.
It isn’t our goodness.
It isn’t our fake smiles and lack of television, or the fact that we have never had a beer.
It’s that we are just like every other lost soul out there—just as sinful and wrong—except that we found out God paid our debt. We said yes when we found out that He made a way to forgive us so that we could be a family again. Our inspiration, then, shouldn’t be how good we’ve become. (Let’s not fool ourselves.) Our witness is always how good God is, in spite of our sin. Any love I manage to show, any kindness I eke out, any love, it’s all because God lives in me.
So, yeah, I’m marginally better than I was, but it’s got nothing to do with all my striving and guilt. It’s got everything to do with my Savior. Our Savior coming for us, fighting for all of us, dying stained with our sin so that we could have a relationship with our Creator. That’s our story. Once again, that’s our song. Stick to that. Tell your neighbor you’re sorry you were so arrogant and judgmental, take him out to dinner and, if he wants to hear it, softly sing it to him.