Lucia says she feels “cornered” when her non-Christian friends point out to her Christians who are behaving in unloving ways. Are Christians required to “defend a definition of Christianity they don’t even believe in” she wants to know?
Those who claim to follow Christ are sure to be under scrutiny, and frankly, they don’t always pass the smell test. Lucia’s non-Christian friend offers examples of people who say they love Jesus and yet treat others unkindly. Mahatma Ghandi is believed to have said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
When Christians are “unlike our Christ,” the whole reputation of Christianity may be called into question. We can expect that. But we can also reason that it is irresponsible to condemn an entire population based on the shortcomings of one. When you go to the farmer’s market for tomatoes and find one tomato that is overripe or bruised–you do not decide to go home without tomatoes, imagining every single tomato in the market is equally damaged, or that tomatoes are an inedible fruit. You look at each tomato individually and judge its worth by the standard for “good” tomatoes: Is this one firm? Ripe? Without spots or bruises? If you’ve ever found (and eaten) a good tomato, or several, then good tomatoes do exist, and tomatoes are indeed edible.
We do not have to defend the bad behavior of those who profess Christ, nor should we, Christ, or Christianity be rejected out of hand for it. The bellwether for Christianity is Christ–and he is beyond reproach. He never sinned. Christians on the other hand are fallible human beings–and can rightly be expected to sin. The beauty and power of the gospel is not found in excellent human behavior, but in extravagant, divine grace.
The same apostle Paul who said, “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ,”1 also said, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” 2
Paul’s desire is clearly to imitate Christ in all he does. But he is well aware of his fallibility in doing the right thing–the very thing that Jesus would do. He’s honest. He’s not a hypocrite, professing one thing and doing another, banging a self-righteous drum the whole time. He’s both aspirational (“I want to be like Jesus”) and confessional (“sometimes I am not.”) In this, he points to the necessity and beauty of grace through the blood of Jesus Christ:
“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”3
Paul emerges from his frustration with his own behavioral shortcomings with an exclamation of the goodness and sufficiency of Christ. Lucia does the same when she gently points her non-believing friend away from her concerns about human behavior and toward the person of Christ. (6:20 – 6:31)
1. I Corinthians 11:1
2. Romans 7: 15-19
3. Romans 7: 18-25a
15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Video Segment: ( 0:31- 1:05) “So… one time she showed me a video of like, Oh, a white person saying – they found a group of kids that were apparently middle-eastern – And the guy in the video was like yelling at them. (2:10- 2:45) – Honestly, I didn’t know what to say. Cause – it really – just – frustrates me as well. And I didn’t have an answer for her. And I was like, “Well, this is what they believe in.” But also……They’re, they’re doing it in the name of, like, God! I think that’s one of the biggest moments that made me feel really like, cornered. It makes me feel like ALL Christians don’t show love or kindness, and I’m not that type of Christian. So I feel like I have to have to defend a definition of Christianity I don’t even believe in. It’s really, I don’t know – confusing.”
Christianity, by contrast, claims that the God who created the stars and galaxies also created us for special relationship with him, and calls us to the kind of radical, self-giving love that overflows from his own heart. Faith in a loving, rational God, who created humans in his image and calls us to love both our neighbor and our enemy, is not only the historical source of our beliefs about human equality but also their best justification. And yet Christians can make no claim to innate moral superiority. To be a Christian is to acknowledge your utter moral failure and to throw yourself on the mercy of the only truly good man who ever lived. ~Rebecca McLaughlin