One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the frequency with which Christians who are “on fire for God” do stupid and sinful things (I include myself in this indictment, so don’t get defensive). Although most of us claim to have a saving faith in Jesus Christ, and show many outward signs of the transformative work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we all find ourselves time and again falling into old habits and traps that have caught us a thousand times. Even highly popular and respected Christian leaders have at times been exposed to grueling ridicule as their private failures revealed them to be no better than the “sinners” whom they seek to tame.
Everyone longs to be in a meaningful relationship with another person. It’s as natural as your desire to eat and sleep. Yet even though we spend so much of our young lives seeking after it, many of us often balk at the opportunity when it finally comes along. We look at our parents’ marriage, our peers’ relational drama, and our own shortcomings, and decide that maybe this “relationships” thing is a can of worms better left closed. I know I’ve certainly been in that position before. The problem is not that we don’t want to be close to someone; it’s simply that we fear the vulnerability which that closeness brings. After a certain point in every relationship, the time for “putting your best foot forward” is inevitably replaced by the intense weakness of being totally transparent, and for the first time allowing someone else to take a look at all of your personal junk. Not only is it intimidating to be known that intimately, I think for many of us there’s an even greater fear that because of our past hurts, we’ll end up hurting the person we care about.
“If we are faithless, he remains faithful. He cannot deny himself.”
-2 Timothy 2:13
I think sometimes we’re all guilty of harboring the secret fear that God might be angry at us. I know I struggle with that from time to time, and I’ve been a Christian long enough that I should “know better” by now. The New Testament is literally brimming with verses about God’s unending love and his unlimited patience. Yet we all go through seasons throughout life (or even throughout a single day) when we suspect that God must be angry at us for some offense we committed. The idea of a judgmental God represented by a long-bearded, white-robed man sitting on a throne is not new. It started for most of us in children’s church, when we saw God represented through cute cartoon drawings designed to teach us all about him and how he loves his children and wants us all to believe in his son Jesus. As we grew older, and learned to be more rebellious towards our parents, that haunting image of the man on the throne watching our every move began to sneak back into our minds. Even though we’ve heard all the sermons about the forgiveness that we have in Jesus, we still secretly suspect that the reason we don’t get the answers we want when we pray is because we did something wrong.
First, for the benefit of my theatre-loving friends, let’s take a moment to sing the song.
Good, now that that’s out of your system, let’s continue…
One of the greatest misconceptions I think all people of faith have is that they’re not doing a “good enough” job in keeping their faith pure. This is one of the primary attacks against Christianity by non-believers; that the church is essentially peddling guilt as a kind of emotional blackmail to get people to do what we want. As much as I hate to admit it, I think this assessment is not totally unfair. While those within the church who actively seek to promote feelings of guilt are few in number, their evil has far-reaching consequences for those of us who try to bridge the gap between the church and the unbelieving world. We as Christians are often forced to answer for the crimes of those either in the present age or in ages long past who have perpetrated evil, manipulative schemes in the name of God. This, frankly, needs to stop. Just like you can’t categorically condemn and harass all German-born citizens for the crimes of Nazism, so too the majority of Christians are innocent of the kind of self-serving manipulation of faith that has earned us all a bad reputation in the eyes of the “forward-thinking” world.
I'm J.R., a US Navy veteran and Linguist. This blog is devoted to insights and experiences I've gained over the years.