unChristian: overcoming failure

Category : CS Lewis, Daniel, faith, taking action

          

It’s pretty clear that as a group Christians behave in very unChristian ways.  We simply don’t present ourselves well to the world.   

As with most things in this world, there’s probably no easy answer.  We’re all broken.  We all make mistakes.  Even our good intentions often turn out to be miserable failures.  But what should we do if we fail?  What happens when we try our best and we still screw up?

There are two things I think will help. 

1.  We don’t need to be perfect.

CS Lewis once said “a Christian is not a man who never goes wrong, but a man who is enabled to repent and pick himself up and begin over again after each stumble.”  If we could be perfect on our own, Jesus never would have had to sacrifice himself for us.  Instead we need to remember that sometimes we fall down so that we can learn to stand back up.

The Bible is filled with examples of people failing and having to learn to get back up again.  Moses killed a man.  Peter denied Jesus 3 times in one day after promising he’d never leave his side.  David committed adultery.  But their stories don’t stop at the fall.  Their stories continue, showing each of these people learning to get back up again (some faster than others). 

And that’s what God wants for us.  He wants us to get back up and be vulnerable with others, to love them, and to show them who God is. 

2.    It’s okay to say, “I don’t know”

Sometimes Christians feel if they don’t provide perfect answers to every question “outsiders” will think we don’t know what we’re talking about.  Or maybe that’s just me!

Now I believe Christianity provides an answer to everything.  The more I study who God is, the more I realize just how well Christianity explains the world around me.  But just because there are answers, doesn’t mean I know them!  And that’s an important distinction to make. 

Take Daniel’s story.  Daniel prayed for 21 days with no answer.  On the 21st day an Angel came to him and said, “I have come in response [to your prayers].  But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days.” (Daniel 10: 12-13)  If this angel hadn’t explained this to Daniel he would have had no idea why his prayers had gone “unanswered.”

As Shakespeare once said, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”  Sometimes the world is so complex that we don’t know exactly what’s going on.  And you know what?  That’s okay. 

There is no way to always be perfectly Christian towards other people.  As I said, we’re all fallen and broken.  But that doesn’t mean we should give up trying.  The goal is to always move closer to resembling Jesus.  And as long as we do that, we’ll ultimately change the way “outsiders” view Christians. 

what I’m reading: unChristian

5

Category : book review, choice, faith, feeding my brain

         

Gabe Lyons came up with a crazy idea to actually study people’s opinion of Christianity.  He wanted more than anecdotal stories, he wanted some evidence.  To do this he enlisted the help of David Kinnaman of the Barna Group.  Their research led to a book entitled unChristian.     

But if you’ve been reading this blog for the last few days, you’re not surprised that unChristian is my “book review” this week!

unChristian has had a profound impact on me in a short period of time.  It’s really shaped the way I look at interacting with the world. It’s made me more sensitive to how I talk about God, and how I interact with people who don’t share my faith. 

Some people are looking for an excuse not to believe in God, and when we set a poor example, we’re only supplying that excuse.  But I’m not sure there’s much we could do about that.  If you’re motivated to reject God, you’ll find a reason.

What’s concerns me more are the people who are open to God, but because of our arrogance, pride, and general unpleasantness, we push them away.  And this is the thrust of unChristian.  The book shows just how strong of an impact we have on “outsiders” (their term for people “outside” of the church).  It’s filled with information, statistics (mostly percentages), and a ton of ‘hard truth’.

As I was reading it I couldn’t help but relate this back to my own life.  The book lays out six areas where Christianity is seen as unfavorable to the world.

We’re…

1.  hypocritical
2.  too “salvation” oriented
3.  antihomosexual
4.  sheltered
5.  too political
6.  judgmental

Too many of those areas touch close to home.  I’m often too quick to judge, and too slow to listen.  I’m quick to criticize, and slow to act.  I’m quick to point out flaws in others, and ignore my own mistakes.

And each time I do that, I run the risk of pushing someone away.  That’s the message I take away from this book.  That’s what I want to remember as I go into the world. 

One of the things that drives me (and therefore R3) is my own faith journey.  I had to learn who God was the hard, lonely, and painful way.  And  once I did, I found myself asking, why no one told me who Jesus really was.  Not the hippy version.  Not the wimpy version.  But the bold, dangerous, courageous, loving, and forgiving Jesus. 

Sometimes I send an unChristian message without realizing it.  And that’s something I need to find a way to change.  I can come up with a lot of excuses why – I’m tired, I’m lazy, it’s too hard, it’s too dangerous.  But are those really good enough?  Are those excuses Jesus would have used? 

I can’t always control what another person hears when I speak.  But I can be more aware of the message I send.  And how I act. 

As a Christian I should run to someone who is suffering, not holding back because they don’t believe what I do.