I Am A Christian, And I Suck

Dwight L. Moody said, "Of one hundred men, one will read the Bible; the ninety-nine will read the Christian."

Brennan Manning said, "The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable."

Dave Burchett said, "Christians, like physicians, should vow to do no harm. But forgive us, Lord. Because we do."

Let’s face it—to paraphrase Matthew P. Turner, we all suck. No way around it—we are all messed up in one way or another when it comes to our relationships with others and how we deal with them. We’ve all at one time said something utterly stupid, done something hurtful or thought something we know we shouldn’t have about a fellow brother or sister in Christ (I think I’ve successfully knocked off all three of those in a record breaking 30-second span before—check out Guinness Book of World Records and there I am under "World’s Fastest Hypocrite").

It’s so easy to feel superior when we know that God’s grace is available to us. Yet it is so easy for us to forget that that same grace applies to everyone, even that young upstart youth pastor who refuses to wear a suit and tie to worship (and the older church member who tends to drive the upstart youth pastor crazy with comments like that).

Okay, I know that example is pretty lame. It’s just my attempt at biting sarcasm to get you to empathize with the plight of upstart youth pastors everywhere. In all seriousness, we tend to point out the specks in the eyes of alcoholics, drug addicts, prostitutes, homosexuals and whoever else falls short of our own self-righteousness, while totally missing the planks of greed, jealousy, hatred, prejudice, judgment, insert other character flaw here … in our own eyes. No wonder we’re the cause of so much negativity in the world.

Dave Burchett, who I mentioned above, is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People. He starts the book with this self-realization: “I am a hypocrite. I can be arrogant and selfish. I have been known to stretch, conceal, or slightly message the truth. I am sometimes inconsiderate and insecure. I struggle with lust and impure thoughts. My ego often rages out of control, and I battle foolish pride. I can be lazy and foolhardy with my time. I get angry, petty, and ill-tempered. I am sarcastic and cynical. I am a Christian.”

With the exception of the “arrogant” part, I think he pretty much nailed me in the head. He goes on to say that because we all tend to exhibit some of these traits, “bad” Christians have harmed many people. He makes a suggestion that may help us: "Those of us who follow Christ in this culture will never achieve all that He desires for us until we are willing to open every nook and cranny of our own behavioral house for remodeling and cleaning. Only then will we begin to live the kind of lives that others will find intriguing and distinctive."

I guess to put it in hip,TV-based relevance, we need to do an “extreme makeover” on our "behavioral house" so that we can feel comfortable “trading spaces” with others. Yeah, I know, that was fairly lame, too. I think Burchett said it better, as doesJesus:

Do you have the nerve to say, “Let me wash your face for you,” when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor. (Matthew 7: 4-5, The Message Remix)

So, let’s get off the soapbox of pointing others out and start looking at our own lives. Anyone got some sneer-away for me?

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[Jonathan Tompkins is Director of College Ministries at Shandon United Methodist Church in Columbia, SC. He does his best not to suck but fails often, especially when his youth mercilessly pick on his bus driving skills and caffeine-induced excitability.]

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