I’ve been reflecting lately on what people expect of Christian’s. I teach and develop people from all backgrounds and faith traditions. Once they discover that I’m “safe,” they’ll share with me a variety of stories, opinions, and anecdotes about their interactions with Christians and churches. They’re not always positive. And, of course they’re not always fair, either.
It seems that those who are questioning or want to find a reason NOT to believe Jesus is who the Bible says he is, hold Christians and their leaders to a ridiculously high standard. Even the slightest flaw, the wrong look, or any other incident and the whole “Christian thing” falls apart.
In no other area of life are people so dismissive. We’ll put up with all sorts of poor behavior from our heroes and heroines, from our family, from our politicians (in whom we trust?), and in our friends. But, with Christians? One slight move and I’m outta’ here.
I think there’s a lesson here for those of us who follow Jesus, a practice that we don’t always get right, but one that has served me well in a few decades of Christian ministry and leadership. And it’s one that I thing we see in Jesus and don’t see it’s opposite.
One of my big concerns today is that some Christian leaders are just grumpy and give off a vibe that is anything but caring. I can’t figure it out. A second concern is that some seem confident in determining who is or will be saved and who won’t or isn’t so they excuse poor behavior toward them. Really! I wish it wasn’t so.
Ambition too often overrides the better virtues for Christian leaders.
It’s difficult to find biblical principles or commands that it is okay to treat poorly those who are rejecting the Gospel. In fact, if we look to Jesus and Paul, we see them struggling for the sake of the Gospel and the Kingdom. Struggling…for the purposes of advancing Christ’s redemptive work. That’s the side I want to be on versus one that looks more like the Pharisees.
I think this requires two things of us. No, wait, three things. First, this is not about being nice. Anyone can be nice regardless of their faith. Nice people abound all over the world. And nicety doesn’t tell a story. Second, this is not about believing whatever. If we’re struggling to represent Christ, then we A) need to know the One we represent and B) we need to be familiar with his work. We’re going to get questions and they’re real, deep, and important to those who ask them.
What this is for me is best described as a tractor beam of love. Which means that C) once someone is in my circle of influence I strive to care for them, value them, and nurture them forward. I am comfortable being straightforward and instructive with them (see “B”), but no matter what they do or say, I am not leaving.
And it’s here that many fall away because often people will “test” our commitments and sometimes on purpose. This means, wait for it, there will likely be a moment where someone is mad and angry at you. Will you get mad back? Will you then leave?
I’ve been at this ministry gig a long time now. I’m amazed at how many Christian leaders are grumps. How many fail to perform the fundamental act of Christ-like ministry: Love others. Even those who work “under” them in churches. Life’s too short to be a grump, to not care, and to try to sit on a throne that already has One there.
I’m telling you, because I sit with Christian leaders in their last days on earth regularly, much of what you think is important now you’ll see isn’t so important later. Importance, prestige, and fame are empty paper bags that fade. BUT… you’ll measure your “success” in people. Don’t spend your life stepping on them to get somewhere or miss opportunities to love, care, and help transform others’ lives in life-changing ways.
One of the most consistent traits I see in the lives of those who see others come to faith in Christ is that they are grace-fully loving. They are in the friendship for the long haul regardless.
Make a list of five non-family members in your life that you can work to draw closer to this month of June. Then go and do it. And, for those who aren’t Christians around you, remember they’re watching your life to see if following Jesus matters.
It does, doesn’t it?