Christianity is hard for many to swallow. Not nearly as much because of theological flaws as moral flaws. In most conversations about the church that I’ve had with people who wouldn’t consider themselves a part of it, the term “hypocrisy” comes up. Hypocrisy is the saying of one thing and the doing of something else altogether. Most people understand that Christianity is generally about living a good life, not doing bad things, and occasionally doing a few good things. This is not completely a misconception because Christianity does entail doing good deeds and refraining from doing evil. Essential to the Christian faith is the realization that the world is broken, bleeding, and cursed, and God is at the task of restoring it back to rights by means of using His people to do so. Therefore, the Church is built upon the notion that we can make the world better. We, God’s people, can do justice and make the world right by the power of the indwelling Spirit of God.
Essential to the religion of Christianity is that it is not for personal life. Keeping it to ourselves, as some suggest we do, would be something other than Christianity. Christianity is built upon the good news of Christ, which is to be taken to the ends of the earth, the good news which is good news for all (if it were not good news for all it wouldn’t be good news at all). The good news of Christ is that the world, which will not restore itself, will be restored. So, therefore, we mustn’t keep it to ourselves because that would be something other than restoration… that would be individualism.
The reason this kind of faith is so hard to swallow is not because people don’t want the world to be restored but because the Church has messed it up in the past. The kind of faith that people have perceived the Church to have has not been the kind of faith that people want to share (this is why they want it to remain “personal”) because it has not brought the kind of restoration people want. Or hasn’t it?
Of course when people talk about the harm the Church has done they are thinking of the kind of church that brings the bombings of abortion clinics, the warring upon of Muslims now as well a in the past (namely the Crusades), and other such realities. But perhaps that’s not the Church of Jesus Christ. Perhaps people are making the mistake of seeing the hypocrites of the Church as the Church and the honest to goodness followers as the exception to the rule rather than the other way around. Maybe people should be thinking of folks like Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Theresa, Oscar Romero, and Desmond Tutu.
If hypocrisy is what deters people from the Christian faith then we should have some hope in this. This means that deep down inside people know that these hypocrites are not truly representing the Christian faith, otherwise they wouldn’t call them hypocrites. The hypocrisy in the Church is not representative of the Church, but it is representative of the church misunderstood. What if people started considering the good the real Church has done and the restoration it has brought?
What story are you telling with your life? The story of restoration or of hypocrisy? What if we told and retold the stories of restoration—from Paul and the early Church to Mother Teresa? The Church is the restorative movement in the world not the damaging one. The real Church is the solution not the problem. Maybe if we embraced our brothers and sisters who are working in the world more tightly then others would begin to embrace them too. Maybe then Christianity wouldn’t be so hard to swallow.