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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Those Awful Christians

There should be a sub-title on today's blog. It might read, "God's grace is bigger than you think."

Have you ever spent much time around today's Christians? They're awful people. They sin. They have issues. They're broken. They squabble. They even persecute each other! I have spent many years closely connected to my local church(es). The experience has been both rewarding and painful. At times, I've looked at the people I'm in community with. I want to turn to God and say, "Lord, have you seen these people? Do you even know what they're like? And yet you tell us to get into community and be one with them. What were you thinking!"

Christians in business aren't much better. I worked in a Christian company, started by an entrepreneurial missionary. It was awful. He was awful. There was quarreling and distrust. There was lying and failure. Disappointments and frustrations. Resentments and anger. My goodness, there were even firings and lay-offs! You go in thinking that a Christian company run by Christians will look and behave better than the rest of the world. But often times it doesn't. It makes you want to question God.

I think most of us have a fundamental problem when it comes to relating to other Christians. We read our Bibles and see a certain standard of behavior. Naturally it is a sinless standard. So when we see people who are sinning and think we could write a book about "Christians behaving badly," we often are tempted to question their faith. We wonder how they could be Christian and act that way they're acting. I know, I know - we're not supposed to judge each other. But let's be honest here ... we do judge each other. We can't help ourselves; we're that broken!

I think it was Ghandi who was quoted as saying something like, "You know, I might become a Christian if I didn't know so many of them." So it appears that others who are intelligent and spiritual are judging us. What kind of evidence are we giving them to judge us with? When we decide to call ourselves a Christian, it connotes some specific things. First, it says I am a Christ-follower. Secondly, it says I am in the process of becoming Christ-like. So let me ask you, how well are you following Christ? How much Christ-likeness is emerging in you?

So I just finished reading the Gospel of Mark this morning. I noticed something pretty relevant to this story of horrible Christians. All of Jesus' disciples failed him. They were Christ-followers behaving badly. They all said they would die with him - and just hours later they all deserted him. Peter even tried to defend him - but ended up denying him three times. We all know that story. What we might overlook is that when Jesus rose from the grave, it appears that among his first words were to instruct someone to "go and tell my disciples ... and Peter."

Why did he single out Peter? Hadn't Peter deserted him worse than the others? Yet Jesus went on to build his church on Peter. So the thing I notice here is that Peter was broken. He failed Christ. He was not a good Christian. He was a work in progress. Jesus value everything he was and everything he would be. At the same time, Jesus forgave him for his shortcomings. And then Jesus went right on using him.

This makes me conclude that perhaps, indeed God's grace is bigger than we think. While we look at so-called Christians sinning and conclude something --- perhaps we're concluding the wrong thing. It would seem that these saints are sinners. And the sinners are saints. Did you get that? The sinners are the saints --- because Jesus makes it so.

Let's face it, until Christ returns, Christians will continue to behave badly. They will fail him, deny him and fail to represent him in their deeds, actions and even thoughts. Still and all, the sinners are the saints. Jesus makes it so. God's grace truly is bigger than you think!

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