April 27, 2011

That's Not Funny, But It Just Might Be True

A little more than a week ago I was sent a link to the Christian Post. It was something I knew I wanted to interact with but I was just about to launch a Holy Week set of blogs so I had to wait until today. The article was about comedian/atheist Ricky Gervais giving a message just before Easter saying that he was 'a good Christian'. What was this startling claim about? Did Ricky convert? No. But he did compare his life to the 10 Commandments to see how he was doing. His self evaluation, a 10/10 he passed with flying colours.

What was his point in this you may ask; he believes that he is a better Christian than many Christians. The sad truth is he is very likely right.
Now I feel I should say this right away, Christianity is not about following an ethical set of principles, though it does have a set of principles that we are expected to follow. Also Christianity is not a list of do's and don'ts. Though again I and probably any Christian could jot down a list of generally agreed upon do's and don'ts.

Christianity is about forgiveness and grace. It is about recognizing that all people have a sin problem that they cannot solve by themselves so they turn to Jesus for help. Now along with this forgiveness (Jesus as Saviour) we are told to go and sin no more, we are told that we must follow the way of Jesus (Jesus as Lord).

In that light  we are great at making statements like the following;

These are all patches and bumpers stickers. They also are useless.

Now these are on the one hand very true. We are not perfect, we are not finished, and in a sense Christians are in a relationship. But on the other hand, these distinctions are completely 'in house' and all together unhelpful for relating to the outside world.

Outsiders don't get this. And we can't blame them for that. When they look at us what do they see? What they see is a group of people who claim to be morally superior that often acts morally inferior. They see the people of God behaving badly. 

Like it or not, fair or not, true or not that is our image. 

We claim to hold the keys of the kingdom. We claim to be the followers of the only way to God. We claim to have all the truth. Many of us even claim that all other religions, philosophies, and good deeds are in some way created by, or motivated by evil. And if we are going to make such claims we really need to have our own house in order. 

Lately it seems like we do not. 

Sure there are some big events that sick in everyones minds. The crusades, the inquisition, the witch trials, are some easy examples. Some more modern examples are things like fallen pastors such as Ted Haggard, the sexual abuse scandal of the priesthood, just about everything Westboro Baptist does or says, and of course pastor Terry Jones burn a Quran day.

The big events are bad, very bad. But they are not the biggest problem we face. Our biggest problem is the small things each of us do on any given day that tarnishes the name of Christ. It is the unkind word we speak, the forgiveness we are slow to offer, the lie we are caught in, the gossip we spread, the grudge we hold. That is the stuff that makes outsiders throw their hands up and say, 'well then what's the point'.

It is things like this that allows people say, 'If this is what Christianity is all about than I want nothing to do with it!' 

We need to stop giving people like Ricky Gervias good reason to stand up and claim to be a better Christian than actual Christians. We need to do acts of justice and kindness. We need to be a voice for the poor, the orphan and the widow. We need to go into the lonely and forgotten places and bring God's love. And each one of us needs to display the Fruit of the Spirit in all of our relationships. 

We can only do this by living up to our name, by being a mini-Christ, a Christ emulator, a Christian.