Today I read about a Christian man who claims to have the ability to teleport, cure cancer, and repair avionics problems in flying airplanes–while he’s standing on the ground. He was eventually convicted of fraud for taking money from the relatives of deceased people with the promise that he would resurrect them. Wow. That’s a Christian for you. (At least I think he claims to be a Christian.)
There was this firefighter I worked with and I found him to be obnoxious–and he called himself a Christian. And I said to myself the words, “Man, how can this guy call himself a Christian.” (We’ll talk more about him a little later.) Maybe you’ve never encountered someone like the guy who says he can teleport, but I know you’ve experienced obnoxious Christians before. I know you have because I have. And I know you have because I’ve overheard people talking. People saying things like, “I just can’t believe she said that–and she’s a Christian!” Or, “Man that dude was obnoxious–and he’s a Christian!” Or, “That guy is such an idiot–and he calls himself a Christian!”
So why? Why do they behave that way, these Christians?
How Can He Call Himself A Christian?
When I read this one certain passage of scripture a certain part of me cries out: “Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!”
It’s the passage where Jesus tells the parable of the wheat and the tares. A tare is a weed. It’s a weed that looks very nearly like wheat. And what Jesus says in his parable is that an enemy has sown tares in the wheat field of the Master. So the Master’s servants come to him and say,
“Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?”
“An enemy did this,” he replied.
The servants asked him, “Do you want us to go and pull them up?”
“No,” he answered, “because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let them both grow together until the harvest.” (Matthew 13:24-43)
I’m sure you see what he’s saying here. He’s saying let the true Christians and the pretenders take root and inhabit the same field. Don’t pull out the pretenders, we’ll separate them at the end. (Jesus explains the parable himself toward the end of the chapter)
This is so not how I would do it. As I said, when I read this a certain part of me cries out, “Nooooooooooo,” and for an obvious reason: perception. If Christ’s church operates this way, from the outside, some people will perceive the pretenders to be Christians and will paint the whole of Christianity with a broad brush, a brush colored by the pretenders. One of the questions I have for Christ when I get to heaven is, “Why did You do it this way?”
Meanwhile this side of heaven, I don’t know why He did it this way, but He did. It can be difficult to do but you can sometimes spot a poser by ignoring the way they dress, the Bible they’re carrying, and their church lingo, and picking up on a pattern of not following Jesus Christ’s words. If you sincerely want to be able to tell the difference, study the gospels. Read what Jesus said. See if you find any instructions for his followers to gossip, or be rude, or stingy, or unkind.
In the end what this means is that some of the Christians you find obnoxious, aren’t Christians at all.
One Day This Happened
One day I had a leak in my shower drain. I tried to fix it the morning after I was worn out from running calls during the night at my fire station. So I drug my sleep deprived body under the house, through a space around 20 inches high, and covered a distance of about 30 feet, to see what parts I would need. (Did you know we have an abundance of black widow spiders in the Rogue Valley? Did you know most of them congregated under my house that morning?) Then I went to the hardware store and bought the parts. Then I came home and crawled under the house with the black widows again. I installed the parts, then I crawled out from under the house. Then I went in the house and ran water in the shower. Then I crawled back under the house. Then I found that it still leaked. Then I made some adjustments. Then I crawled back out from under the house. Then I ran water. Then I crawled back under the house. Then I found that it still leaked. Then I repeated this process several more times–without success.
Then I kicked the dog.
Seriously, I did–I kicked Bear, our 75 pound husky-shepherd mix. That was more than 20 years ago. I had never done anything like that before, and I have never done anything like that since, but I did kick the dog, that one time. And if any of the neighbors saw me do it, I can imagine them saying, “And he calls himself a Christian?” (Honestly, I felt so bad, I said the same thing to myself.)
So yeah, sometimes genuine Christians behave badly. But it could be they just found out they lost their job, or they’re stressed because one of their kids has a life changing disease, or they’re going through a divorce, or they just crawled out from under their house for the fifth time. Christians are human beings and just like anyone else, we have bad days.
So the firefighter I mentioned near the beginning of this post, the one I worked with and found to be obnoxious. The one who called himself a Christian. I said to myself, “Man, how can this guy call himself a Christian.” But the thing about the firefighting profession is that you live together 24 hours at a time. It winds up being about one fourth of your life during your career you live with other firefighters, so you get to know them really well. Eventually I got to know this obnoxious guy really well, and I also got to know some of his close friends really well. I learned that his obnoxious behavior was nothing compared to who he was before he became a Christian. He was a bad dude before he was a Christian, and he was a better dude after he became a Christian. Over the years I watched him grow. Today we’re friends.
I know a lot of Christians like that obnoxious guy, most of them firefighters. Each one is a work in progress. Yes they behave badly, but without Christ in their soul, they’re far worse.
They’re not what they should be, but they’re not what they once were either. They’re a work in progress. (That’s me too by the way–just ask Kathy.)
You Will Always Find Christians Behaving Badly
So that’s why we’ll always find Christians behaving badly: because they’re not really Christians at all, or because they’re experiencing a bad patch on the space-time continuum, or because they’re just bad–but better than they were without Christ. Getting to know a Christian better can make a difference in what you think of them. But for me the biggest difference maker was (and is) getting to know Christ. The more I learn about him, the deeper I experience him, the more of myself I give toward seeking him, the greater my love for believers and unbelievers alike.
Try him. See what he does in your life.
You might also like 7 Ways to Draw Closer to Christ
[Image via Dawn Danby – Creative Commons]
In my own experience, I know many, many, many amazing Christians. Christians who are forgiving and accepting and nonjudgmental and gentle and respectful and humble. Most of the Christians I know are like this.