The Christian Conundrum
I have a friend who is a new Christian and is navigating the world through blog entries on her blog – Navigating Christianity. I’ve gotten a kick out of reading her entire library of entries for many reasons. One is that it’s fascinating to see my Faith through another’s eyes. And two is because her mind is far from how mine operates. She’s very logical, scientific and digs deep into the things she’s working through. I tend to be more emotional and philosophical when I blog about my Faith so it’s been a very helpful thing to read through her perspectives.
She put up a post this morning that was oddly short and concise and it struck me. I read it a few times over and realized I wasn’t sure how to react to what she wrote because part of it smacks of truth but there’s more of it that challenges me on what I think when it comes to the gospel presentation and in a larger sense how The Church has earned some of the negative stripes. Before you go any further you should read her post – “Negative Perceptions” and come back once you’ve taken the time to read through it a few times.
Done reading it? Right, let’s get cracking. She starts off with this,
I think one reason so many people are repelled by Christianity (and why so many Christians have fluctuating faith) is because of skewed interpretations of biblical truths…
In this she nails it through the floor and into the basement. It’s very easy to rush to conclusions, twist verses and interpret something beyond the intent of the verse. I’ve been attending a young adults group at my church and something our pastor Nathan Hoag has stressed has been context, context and context. That and to fear the use of ellipses in any kind of anything as it usually is truncated for a reason. It is why studying the bible, studying the history, culture and just studying the heck out of it is so important. The Bible is Truth – and it’s an amazing tome of incredible hope, love and promise. Remembering that when we start pontificating on how a verse tells us something is important. Moving on…
Non-Christians take this to mean that Christians are putting themselves on a pedestal. However, the correct interpretation of this verse is, of course, that everyone is wicked. Sometimes I think apologetics and discussing evidence of Jesus’ resurrection is hopeless if we do not first focus on the negative perceptions associated with the Christian faith. No matter how likely the resurrection seems to someone, they will not choose to commit their lives to something that seems elitist and segregating.
It’s in this passage where I start to feel the red flags being raised on the carrier deck. The first part of this in which it is confirmed that everyone is indeed “wicked” is completely true. We’re all sinners. Christians are just as bad at messing up and doing stupid things as anyone in the entire world. If anyone tells you that being a Christian somehow makes you less of a sinner than anyone else, slap their grandma. Hard. We’re all hopeless and broken. Nobody is any better at being human than anyone else.
It’s in the second part where I start to feel my hesitation climb my throat and into my mouth. It’s not because I disagree with her – it’s that she makes a very strong case for some people ruining Faith and Religion for people. It’s here where I agree that if we paint with a very large brush – Christians are really good at being hypocrites and it’s one of the major complaints about Christians that’s repeated over and over. And it’s the truth. But the reason for that being constantly laid at the front door of The Church is that someone out there made a case that they were somehow better than someone else because they had Jesus and obviously they were going to stop making those mistakes and it made them better then someone else who didn’t.
It’s not that we’re any better than anyone -but that we’re better equipped to handle the constant temptation of sin and we’ve got Someone who we can talk to about it, work through with it and in the end work to get better at avoiding it. And He loves us beyond human comprehension. Our pastor Nathan illustrated it this last week by talking how God talks about us like ‘a bride’ and ‘a lover’. If you follow that through, God has a incredible and some would say uncomfortable love of us. There’s a worship song that talks about it.
“How He Loves,” John Mark McMillan
We are his portion and he is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in his eyes,
If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about, the way…
He loves us,
Whoa! How he loves us.
It’s an image and an idea that’s very weird but it’s weird because our human understanding of love is nowhere near God’s comprehension of the subject and that should shake us, scare us and move us closer to him. That kind of love is beyond anything we know. And that’s awesome.
And so I’m hesitant to agree totally with that second part and it’s the third part that has me shifting in my chair a bit. Because she hits straight to center mass without any subtlety which makes me love this short blog post even more. It this bit – “they will not choose to commit their lives to something that seems elitist and segregating.” Dealing with criticism of my Faith and The Church was a struggle for me in my younger years in High School and a bit of college. At that point in my life I would have responded with something like, “Well, yea! We’re going to heaven and they’re going to hell! It is segregation and elitist!” Thankfully I grew out of that stage and my Faith matured a bit more and I found a better perspective.
It is elitist in the sense that as Christians’ we’ve got faith in God, hope in His Son Jesus dying for our sins and guidance from The Holy Spirit in our daily struggles in life. And it is segregating in some sense – but that segregation won’t come until the last moment of the last hour. So I can understand why someone would see and feel that way because as I’ve already said – Christians as hypocrites is an accepted standard across the board. Doesn’t mean that’s the way God intends us to live out our lives – it’s just how some have which has created the “bad apples” analogy.
She finishes up with a real whizbanger because this is something I would shout from the rooftops if I could.
Apologetics are great, but in order to change negative perceptions, Christians need to first emphasize the fact that the Bible actually does not encourage snobbery.
I think why I really like how the blog post is that she used the word “snobbery” but it’s very accurate and pointed with its criticism of how some have taken the Teachings of Jesus into a place He never intended or wanted. The way I teach about my Faith is simple – I beat a path back to Jesus as fast as I can. He’s the center of it and that’s what matters. His love, His desire to live in us and His unwillingness to walk away from us despite it all – that’s the stuff that matters.
And that’s how a short post packed with awesome can inspire a nearly 1300 word response. Hat tip to my unofficial swing dance partner Jennifer at Navigating Christianity for giving me much more to think about tonight and into the weekend.
It’s day 6 of National Blog Writing Month – and it’s going amazing. Check out all the blogs blogging through the month and give ‘em a read!