I self-identify as Christian.
Christian: one who believes in the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Such a loaded word, isn't it?
Because to you and me, it likely means different things. Probably in part because of these (not so) hypothetical "Christians" we may have encountered:
- A nun giving her life to live among and serve the poor
- A pastor in a multi-million dollar church building full of parishioners driving luxury vehicles
- A worship leader urging people to "come as they are"
- The men standing on a downtown street corner holding signs saying "you must change to find God"
- Friends who agree that science and religion twine together intricately beautifully to explain the hows and whys of this world
- Lecturers pitting evolution and creationism against each other
- Church groups building homes, hospitals, and orphanages internationally
- Crusaders ripping through borders on a killing spree
- A college girl going door-to-door to engage in dialogue with her neighbors, in an attempt to keep local laws less discriminatory towards the LGBTQ community
- Politicians using religious buzzwords to further their agendas
- A pope trying to move his church forward with unprecedented love and understanding
- Priests molesting young boys
- A woman creating safe spaces for prostitutes in her city
- A church picketing soldiers' funerals
- Those perceived as "shoving" their religion "down the throat" of others
- Those who sincerely believe they have the meaning of life and a peace beyond measure and cannot keep it from those around them
- A man standing on a college campus with a microphone condemning girls walking past to hell for wearing skirts he considers too short
- A former addict with a young family and a story of redemption
- The holiday church-goer, popping up every Easter and Christmas but never engaging otherwise
- The judgey self-righteous, bragging on their own goodness and looking down on those who don't measure up
You may have an idea of the people I respect and the ones I avoid from this list. Honestly though, it doesn't matter what I or society thinks. There is a judge and a judging time, and that is not me and not now (John 12:48).
Lord knows, I've made my own mistakes. I will never claim to be a prime representative of this faith I've claimed. And neither would anyone who is honest with themselves. In fact, I apologize for when I fail you. When Christians fail you. Fail the world. When we do not show the love we have received.
But in this failure lies the beauty of the whole thing. We're a messed up bunch, and the God we serve knows that. And he loves us anyway.
Fellow friends who identify as this loaded "Christian" word, we will never get it all right. That's just the way the cookie crumbles. But be bold in that identity anyway. Strive to be a part of the solution (Colossians 3:12-14), and not a continuation of the problems that destroy healthy Christian community and drive our non-Christian friends away. Be bold, so that the worst of us are not the only ones seen and heard. Be bold, so that misunderstandings can be avoided, and knowledgeable dialogue can come from all sides.
I guess what I'm saying is, don't let your interactions with any of these people affect your relationship (or the potential of a relationship) with the devine. Don't open your heart to the people, if you don't want. If we've failed you, we must earn your trust. But the God? This whole Jesus thing? Maybe consider it.
Blue Like Jazz, I believe Chapter 12 titled "Church: How I Go Without Getting Angry"