What If They’re Right?

The day before yesterday, I was sitting talking to my neighbor.  I loaned her a book by one of my favorite authors a while back, and she told me that she had finally started reading it.  She had first loaned it to her granddaughter to read.  The book was Patrick by Stephen R. Lawhead, and it is about the famous St. Patrick whom we all celebrate, depending on our lifestyle and culture, with wearing green and leprechauns and four leaf clovers or excessive amounts of beer or some varied combination of those things.  I’ll be honest – I don’t know much about the real St. Patrick.  I’ve never looked into how much Lawhead may have embellished in his novel, but I know he does not claim it to be anything other than historical fiction.  Either way, what Lawhead wrote is all I know about our beloved Patrick, and that is scant as it has been some time since I read the book.  So, as my neighbor began discussing it, I have to admit that my recollections, for the most part, failed me.  I cannot confirm nor deny her allegations against Patrick until she completes (if she completes) and returns my book.  However, this is what she thought of him.  She said that she got to about page 235 or so, and had grown increasingly more angry with Patrick, culminating, at this point, in her throwing down the book and refusing to read any more.  She said she was thinking something like, “If what he’s got is Christianity, I don’t want any part of it.”  Now, my neighbor is a Christian, so she was just upset with Patrick’s version of it, I guess.  She went on to tell me that she was frustrated by Patrick’s ingratitude, arrogance, selfishness and lack of personal growth in the face of undeniable truths.  She asked me if he redeemed himself, and although I feel like I remember that he did, I cannot remember the story well enough to be certain.  To be honest, I don’t remember being angry with Patrick once while reading this book.  In fact, I remember identifying with him greatly.  I almost told my neighbor this, but then I was afraid she wouldn’t like me anymore.  Sorry, guys, I’m getting to a point here, really I am.   

My point is about my knee-jerk reaction to people saying anything like what she thought about not wanting Patrick’s kind of Christianity.  This reaction is composed of myself saying something to the effect of, “You can’t blame God for how stupid Christians act,” or “That’s why we need Jesus, because we’re not perfect” or “Of course Christians make mistakes, too.  If they didn’t struggle with things, no one would listen to them because they would not be able to relate to the masses.”  Or it may contain a reference to what Ghandi said when asked what the biggest obstacle to Christianity coming to India was: “Christians,” he stated.  Now, I didn’t say anything of this sort when talking to my neighbor yesterday for a couple of reasons.  One being, as I stated, this lady is actually a Christian, so Patrick was not really a stumbling block for her; she just disapproved of his kind of Christianity, and by this I mean the way he lived (or didn’t live) it out.  Another reason I did not give any of my usual retorts is that my neighbor is nearly seventy, and, well, I am not quite thirty, and somehow my trying to impart my version of “wisdom” to her seems a little silly if not presumptuous.   

But there is another reason – just this: of all the arguments against Christianity, which is heard the most?  Christians are hypocrites.  What if they’re right?  I’m starting to believe maybe I should pay more attention to it than giving it the canned answers I usually do…that maybe my responses carry within them a lack of accountability that is part of the reason Christians are such hypocrites.  The Bible does say that we will be known by our fruits.  I am sitting here trying to imagine if I could see my life as a tree; branches extending out to everyone I’ve come into contact with and the people they’ve come in contact with and so on.  I wonder what my fruits would look like.  I think I’m kind of glad I don’t know, because I can recall far to many times when I’m sure the fruit is not pretty.  Now, here’s the deal: I’m not advocating a kind of legalistic Christianity that crushes you and throws you out when you mess up.  Grace is the most beautiful part of Christianity…the fact that it is unconditional is astounding.  However, I’m afraid the problem is that there is not enough grace.  I, as a Christian, am not very grace-ful to others in return.  And I’m not talking about balancing books on my head.  I’m talking about extending that unconditional love to everyone I come into contact with.   

I realize that I also said something about accountability above, and somehow that may seem counter to unconditional love.  However, accountability should be a reaction to wanting to help others become their best, do their best, be what God created them to be.  I don’t mean a schoolmaster running around cracking a whip and threatening you with beatings, just itching for you to do something wrong.  We’re so screwed up in America that we can hardly even understand the concept of loving correction.  I try to talk about it here, but feel like I have to explain its validity to do so.  Accountability between Christians is encompassed in this unconditional love that I was speaking of, not opposite to it.  And by the way, God never tells us to call un-believers out on their sins.  He just tells us to take them the Gospel.  Why should we expect them to live by a morality they do not believe in?  This is why I consider all the boycotts in the world to be hopeless failures.  (It wouldn’t take me a far stretch to say that I think they are completely contradictory to Christianity, but I’d have to study and ponder a bit more to go that far.)  All of the Christians pointing fingers simply make everyone else want to point fingers back, and I would wager that it brings no one to Christ.   

You could all be reading this post and thinking I am being very condemning and making you feel like a useless dirt bag as a Christian.  That’s not my point.  I’m not saying that we have to be perfect.  I am saying that for all of the people out there saying, “Christians are hypocrites,” I wish I could find a few who said, “Well, I don’t know…I know this one guy….” I am conceding to non-Christians that they are valid in their mistrust of us.  And I’m not claiming to be included in the precious few good examples.  I don’t think I’m very good at showing people the love of Christ.  So, even though all of my customary answers to this accusation are still valid – God should not be blamed for our stupidity, etc., etc., there is a better answer to this.  Let’s change.  When people look around and find no positive Christian examples in their lives, no one who breaks the mold, no one who lives differently, makes them feel differently or treats everyone differently, then there is something wrong.  Where are we? 

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1 Comment

  1. zephaniah317 said,

    June 25, 2007 at 11:29 am

    Excellent post. The church overall is far too concerned with fixing people and making them conform to religion, and not enough concerned about loving people where they’re at. God’s love fixes people, not the list of rules and regulations. It is more than possible to invade today’s culture with God’s love and be swept away by it. Jesus did it, and we’re called to do the same. The worst thing anyone could ever call me is “religious.” And I need to change more than I’d like to admit.
    Thanks for the post.


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