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.
I’ve met a lot of people lately, myself included, who have numerous and recurring problems which they can’t seem to overcome without encountering five more unexpected setbacks. Obviously everyone has issues, and I don’t intend to make light of anyone’s struggles, but I think sometimes we’re all guilty of tolerating and feeling discouraged by our problems, when instead we should be chasing after them with a sledgehammer. Jesus promised every one of us that we would have problems in this life, but as John 16:33 clearly states, we shouldn’t be focusing on those problems at all, but rather on the Savior who overcame ALL the troubles of this world.
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.
Before we begin, please watch this video. (It’s about 10 minutes long)
If you’ve ever read Psalm 139, then you’re familiar with the phrase “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” In one of my previous posts, I concluded by saying that one day in life you will come upon your ultimate test, whatever that may be. I believe that God has given every single one of us a moment in history for us to shine. Our talents and abilities were given to us by God with the intention that we should use them to glorify Him. When you start working in the area of your giftedness, you may discover that you are ten times better than the people around you who work just as hard to do the same job. This is not a coincidence; it is because God delights in you as his child, and he has empowered you to do more through him than you ever could have on your own.
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.
Evangelism is a frightening word, equally so (maybe even more so) for Christians as it is for non-believers. Among non-believers, the word implies one-sided, salesman-like conversations where strangers or acquaintances try to pressure you into coming to their church while being as friendly and irrationally happy as possible. For Christians, the word implies having to talk to someone who will undoubtedly write you off as either a fanatical lunatic or a hyper-judgmental hypocrite, so you naturally come into the conversation as timidly and apologetically as possible, leading to the near-certainty of rejection. Yet our pastors are constantly “encouraging” us to share our faith as openly and as often as possible, though the encouragement often carries with it the unwanted psychological burden of being forced to sacrifice all of your friendships with non-Christians by turning the natural flow of conversation into pure awkwardness. Because these conversations are such a massive cliché by now, it’s become almost impossible to broach the subject, even with people whom you trust and know will most likely still be your friend even if they’re not interested in your church.
I'm J.R., a US Navy veteran and Linguist. This blog is devoted to insights and experiences I've gained over the years.