Mistakes Have Been Made

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.

5 thoughts on “Mistakes Have Been Made

  1. Maeve

    I greatly enjoyed this post. If I may offer a perspective from a cradle Catholic – sometimes I get the feeling that although your statement “Christianity is all about confessing our sins and repenting from them, right?” is true, things sometimes degenerate into “are you repent-y enough?”

    My own denomination has, of course, a specific sacrament for the forgiveness of sins – one I’m grateful for and make regular use of. But in denominations which lack this sacrament, there seems to be a need to view/assess another’s repentance. I admit that I don’t understand this, because in my entire experience, atonement, repentance, and forgiveness (and penance) are between me and God, not between me and others directly (although a penance might involve some action to make right a situation).

    So, I end up coming away with “in order to show ME that YOU are sufficiently repentant, YOU need to do ‘X’ “. I find this a difficult concept because it is highly subjective, but I can only imaging that for folks who are not Christians, it makes those of us who are appear extremely judgmental – as though we, not God, are the arbiters of what constitutes forgiveness, repentance, remorse, etc. I don’t know if I’m making sense here.

    1. hearthie Post author

      Oh you’re making great sense! WP didn’t email me this comment and I’m just now seeing it… I’ll give you a proper and thoughtful response soonest.

    2. hearthie Post author

      More thoughtful response: Yes. You’re right. Because we degenerate from being good and serious Christians to being Pharisees. Why else would our Lord have warned the disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisee?

      It’s a nasty problem to be stuck with, and we should be up front about it. On the one hand – you have people who want to make other people “prove” that they’re really sorry… when the blood of Christ cleanses from all sin. On the other hand, you have people that say things with their mouths that they don’t mean. They do stuff, and they’re not sorry – or they’re sorry that they got caught. So there is a natural human tendency to want proof of repentance (the turning away from sin).

      I don’t, to be frank, think the solution is within flesh. Only the Holy Spirit gives the discernment to see into the hearts of men and know who is genuinely repentant and who just doesn’t want to get in trouble with Aunt Irma.

      I think that this is where the more liberal denominations and the removal of Christianity from the default position of cultural authority do us a favor. No one is going to sit under Church discipline these days unless they genuinely *are* repentant. They can just leave.

      You put up a very good question!

  2. Maeve

    I’m getting to the point where my attitude is becoming one of “Maeve, it’s not your business to determine whether or not someone is truly repentant – you need to mind your own business and worry about the state of your own immortal soul.” And then, of course, reality sets in because we DO have to deal with people in a real world, and many of them are not honest or trustworthy – and how do we tell? I think in these cases, you hit the nail on the head that if we truly do believe in the Holy Spirit, then we must also act in this belief. And that’s the truly difficult part. It makes me wonder if the louder the demand for “proof” is not somehow related to our own weakness or our own lack of faith in the Holy Spirit – sort of a mirror being held up. I’m going to really have to think about this. And something else I’ve noticed, how very little we want to acknowledge someone’s conversion – and that’s what it often is, really – a conversion of heart and mind. When we’re confident in our own position it’s so easy to decry someone who is new or weak in faith and spirit; so easy to denounce; but we don’t offer encouragement or a guiding hand or compassion or even a grain of trust. I think it’s all about pride really. Gets in the way of everything. Now I really have a lot to think about and I’ve very much enjoyed this conversation with you.


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