If we’re going to be ambassadors of Christ and we’re going to be real, we have to be ready to admit when mistakes have been made – by us, and by other Christians.
That doesn’t mean that we have to be ready to point the finger at Christians in the public eye (I won’t do that, mostly because it’s very tempting), but it does mean that when someone says, “X was a Christian, and they did Y and it made me never want to have anything to do with this Christ person” that we have to be ready to say, “Ugh. No, we’re not supposed to do that.” People need to hear this stuff! Particularly people who have been hurt by people using our Lord’s name.
As Christians, we know that human nature is a black and evil thing, and we know that although we are given the power in Christ to overcome human nature, we still struggle with it. We have a personal relationship with Jesus, and we know His holiness, justice, love and light don’t have any truck with darkness… but guess what? The people who don’t know Him? They don’t know anything except what they see in the media, and what they’ve seen in their experiences. Someone tried to beat the demons out of their kid? Guess whose friends think Christians are (at best) dangerous nutjobs? Yep. Someone drops in on every tithing sermon ever? Guess who thinks Christians are all about getting the money out of your wallet? And on. And on. And on.
We don’t operate from a standpoint of strength anymore. The white hats are gone, they got ripped up and thrown into the mud. Quite a lot of American Christians don’t realize this yet. We might *be* the good guys, but we have too many folks who have done too much bad stuff that hang out in our posse.
So, what should we do? If we were a regular organization, we could have a bureau of internal affairs. We’re *supposed* to have a bureau of internal affairs – that’s what we depend on to discipline the members of the Church who are out of the will of God. But excepting members of the Catholic church (who have to admit that their bureau seems a bit cracked ’round the edges) and the Amish (who aren’t reading this) we don’t have solid church authority any longer. No parish priests with connections to the Vatican and thus to all other parish priests. No small towns, where word can get around – nope, we live in a highly mobile society where members of churches who get disciplined usually just leave their church.
We try hard (at least every church I’ve ever been in tries) to give as much education on Christian living and how to be good parents and spouses and workers and evangelists… but even though the classes are popular, let’s stay honest – our track record is lousy. (Okay. The track record of those who say they’re Christians but don’t read their Bibles regularly or attend regular church services is lousy. Hm. So … what I’m saying here is that people who don’t do the things they know they should do in religious terms also don’t do the things they should do in secular terms. Wait. That’s totally consistent).
The only thing that I think that we *can* do is admit that there is an advantage to saying that you’re a Christian, especially if you’re not planning on making any of the sacrifices that go along with *being* a Christian. Just like in the times of the early Church, it was advantageous to burn a little incense to Caesar… now it’s advantageous to show up to services on Easter and Christmas if nothing else. People who want to take advantage of the popular (albeit waning) religious clique are always going to do that. *That* is part of human nature. And yes, it’s dark and black and … you know, painting it white makes it exactly what Jesus called the Pharisees – white washed graves. Pretty on the outside, rotten on the inside.
And yes, some of the true believers are a bit nuts, mostly because they’re badly educated and they don’t understand Grace. If you’re working frantically for your salvation, if you’re trying endlessly to be “good enough”, you can get yourself into all types of creative trouble.
So, as far as I’m concerned, although the Church has done amazing stuff, some members are … well, they’re humans. And it’s okay to say that humans are fallible humans, even if the humans in question are members of the family. We need to admit our failures, if we’re going to be real. We need to own the bad stuff as well as the good stuff. We need to talk about the stuff we did that was awesome, admit the stuff that we did that wasn’t awesome, discuss how the latter *does not fit* with the instructions in our holy Book, and show that we’re going to keep trying to make our God proud. We need to make ourselves real, so that the world can see that He is real.
Christianity is all about confessing our sins and repenting from them, right?
No one ever said that honesty was easy.