What Kind of Christian?

So I was introduced to someone the other day and after some small talk the ensuing conversation led me to identify myself as a Christian.

Normally I would self-identify as “a Jesus follower” rather than as “a Christian,” but the conversation path led to my saying, “I am a Christian.”

Immediately I was asked, “Well, what kind of Christian? Are you a ‘hate-Christian’ or a ‘love-Christian?'”

I am not exactly sure how I replied because I was so shaken by the question. I’m pretty sure I responded with something about Jesus saying that his followers are known by love, but I can’t be certain it made much sense.

I just kept thinking, “This is what it has come to? Really?”

A few days have passed and I am still frustrated at the current reality. But after some reflection, I am more concerned about being able to authentically claim to be “a love-Christian” in an age where people are very familiar with “hate-Christians.”

Annoying Christians

A recent survey has findings that provide a much-needed slap in the face to me and other Christians. I read of the survey, which was conducted by LifeWay, the research department of the Southern Baptist Church in an article in USA Today.

The survey was conducted among U.S. adults who are “unchurched,” a term they define as someone who has not been to a church, synagogue, or mosque in the last six months.

Check this out —

72% say “God, a higher or supreme being, actually exists.” But just as many (72%) also say the church is “full of hypocrites.”

Indeed, 44% agree with the statement “Christians get on my nerves.”

You might be surprised to know that one these negative reactions to the church doesn’t bother me so much. I have no problem with people saying the church is full of hypocrites, because one, that’s true (realizing that most people confuse imperfection with hypocrisy) and two, I can’t think of a better place for hypocrites to be than in church.

The statement that slaps me is that which indicates that a whole lot of people find Christians annoying. More than ever I want to be focused on what Jesus said was most important — loving God and loving people.

May God forgive me for the times when I have made church into a organized religion machine rather than as a refuge for the hurting, a healing center for sinners, a safe place for open and honest fellowship, a hub of vibrant worship, and an outpost of loving interaction with the community. May God help me learn from those who find me and my Christian family annoying.

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:5-6).

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).

On Fighting Monsters

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.” Friedrich Nietzsche, from Beyond Good and Evil

Have you ever become what you hate? You know, when you see something wrong, some injustice, some way in which people are treating others unfairly and you just want to react furiously to that injustice?

The struggle for me is to, in reacting to the monsters of unfairness, injustice, even slander to end up becoming what I hate; that is, I become just like what I am condemning. In fighting monsters, I often end up becoming one myself.

If you are like me in this way, perhaps you could benefit from spending time praying through the following Bible passages. And as we pray we can take time to confess, repent, and ask for strength to overcome and be more like Jesus.

Matthew 5:38-42 NLT
“You have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘If an eye is injured, injure the eye of the person who did it. If a tooth gets knocked out, knock out the tooth of the person who did it.’ But I say, don’t resist an evil person! If you are slapped on the right cheek, turn the other, too. If you are ordered to court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.”

Romans 12:14-21 NIV
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

May God protect us from ourselves. May He keep us from becoming monsters!

For Consistency in the Christian Life

LORD, what is the matter with us that we are so fitful and moody,
so changeful — one moment professing our love for Thee,
and the next moment yielding to temptations
that lure us away from Thee?
One moment, cheerful, smiling, and kind,
and the next, glum and surly.
Lord, we do not understand ourselves!
What strange creatures we are!

Yet, we do not pray, our Father,
that always everything should be the same,
for we would get tired of unending sunshine,
and long for a shower of rain.

We do not pray that our way may always lie on level places,
for then we would long to see a mountain.

We do not pray that always our lot might be favored
with pleasant strains of music,
for then we would long for the ministry of silence.

But we do pray, O Lord, that there might be some pattern of
consistency in our relations with Thee.
Teach us how to maintain life on an even keel,
that with a balance life of faith and trust in Thee,
and kindness and love toward each other,
we shall not be at one moment up in the sky
and at the next at the bottom of a well.

Help us to walk with our hand in Thy hand,
knowing that Thou Thyself didst come down
from the mountaintops to walk in the valleys.
So may we not give way to despair when we too return to the valley,
but know that the trail will wind up again.

But whether on the mountaintop or in the valley,
may we ever be aware that Thou art walking beside us.
And if Thou art with us,
what difference does it make where we are?

In Thy Name, we pray. Amen.
___________

from The Prayers of Peter Marshall

So What’s New?

“We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4).

“. . .having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:12-14).

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3).

Paul makes it clear, we are buried with Christ, then raised so that we can live a new life with new hearts and new minds, with new passions and new pursuits.

So as I reflect on these passages I have to ask a simple question.

So what’s new?