Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Thoughts on Following Christ
It’s been hard to be a Christian lately… and let me explain. I have no trouble following Jesus (not that there is no struggle for me… following Jesus is the toughest thing I’ve ever done). I love following Jesus and talking about Jesus with people who are actually interested in joining with me in following Him. I’ll say it this way… I love Christianity but sometimes I don’t love Christians.
I’ve dealt a lot in the past (and recently) with closed minded bigoted Christians who care more about the doctrines of Jesus than actually following Him (I call these people fundamentalists). Today I was driving by Chevron and there were twelve and thirteen year old boys on the corner yelling through a bullhorn (how cliché?). They were crying out “I’m only twelve years old and Jesus has changed my life already.” “That is very good news,” I thought… “too bad nobody really hears them.” Now, I know that some peoples lives have been saved and changed through this type of evangelism but for every person whose come to Christ through it there are dozens of others who have been turned off to the idea of following Jesus. I was even turned off… and I am a Christian. We live in a culture who watches much more than they listen… especially when it comes to either politics or religion. If a politician has one skeleton in his closet his whole platform for candidacy is spoiled. It’s the same with any Christian or anyone of any religion for that matter. If their life does not consist with their teaching or if they live in a way that is not noble or good their whole religion is painted in the same light. As a disciple of Christ I am trying to act and live like my rabbi, Jesus. I believe that His life is one worthy of living so I want my life to stay the same. I represent Jesus wherever I go. When my life is in no way noble and people see that why should I expect them to want to live like I do. And I don’t mean being perfect. I mean living a healthy life, dealing with my problems and handling my faults in a noble manner. If a Christian comes across as pushy and arrogant then nobody’s gonna listen to what they are saying… and not only that, everyone will see Christianity as a pushy and arrogant faith.
And I don’t mean to say that people are always going to love Christians. John 15:18-21 says “If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me.” This doesn’t mean we’re supposed to make everybody hate us. There’s a very important word here “if.” The world won’t always hate you… it might. When the Church is helping and answering the needs of the world there’s a good chance the world’s gonna love the Church. When you’re living in a noble way and following Christ passionately and lovingly people might not always hate you… they have no real reason to. If you’re following Christ then everyone’s life will be better. You’ll be a better friend, a better co-worker, a better neighbor, a better person. So why might someone still hate you? If you’re trying your best to be a better person why would someone hate you? It’s very hard to understand and sometimes is very frustrating. Jesus tries to make sense of this for us; “because they do not know the One who sent Me.” Maybe this is why Jesus said “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”
If someone hates you for being pushy and arrogant it has nothing to do with weather or not they know God or truth. They have good reason to hate you. And it’s not just the world in this case, it’s Christians too. I am sometimes very turned off to Christianity because I see the lives of Christians who have missed the point completely.
I’m what you might call a “recovering fundamentalist.” For most of my Jr. High and High School years I was arrogant and misguided. I believed that God was simple and could be explained by simple lingo. Now, when I look back, I’m saddened by who I was. I had the best intentions but I was missing the point. I probably did a lot more harm than good… I used to be the person who makes it so hard for me to be a Christian.
What we have all too often seen is people taking really good things and making them too important. We take a good concept and place it on a pedestal higher than even God’s and the good concept becomes something less than good. Doing this is missing the point of our faith. We’ve all seen it and it can be far too easy for us to do ourselves. When we place the doctrines we’ve come up with to describe God (which are very good things, they help us reach a better and more intimate knowledge of Him) higher than God, It becomes a new kind of heresy. When we, in the words of Rob Bell (from His sermon “Directions 2.1” 2005) “hold the Bible higher than what the Bible holds up,” God, we enter into a new kind of idolatry.
Sometimes I just want to disassociate. I don’t want anyone to think I am anything like some of those people. It makes my life so very frustrating. I am exhausted. I am at a place in my life where I don’t want to even be called a Christian.