Being Christian 1

Part one of three

I say I am a Christian and some people cringe. Not all, mind you, but some. And if I am really being honest, I cringe a bit too. Not because I’m not sure if it’s true but because I wonder what people hear when I say that word: “Christian.”

Donald Miller in his book, Blue Like Jazz, addresses this very thing. He writes, “In a recent radio interview I was sternly asked by the host, who did not consider himself a Christian, to defend Christianity. I told him that I couldn’t do it, and moreover, that I didn’t want to defend the term. He asked me if I was a Christian, and I told him yes. ‘Then why don’t you want to defend Christianity?’ he asked, confused. I told him I no longer knew what the term meant. Of the hundreds of thousands of people listening to his show that day, some of them had terrible experiences with Christianity; they may have been yelled at by a teacher in a Christian school, abused by a minister, or browbeaten by a Christian parent. To them the term ‘Christianity’ meant something that no Christian I know would defend. By fortifying the term, I am only making them more and more angry. I won’t do it. Stop ten people on the street and ask them what they think of when they hear the word ‘Christianity’ and they will give you ten different answers. How can I defend a term that means ten different things to ten different people? I told the radio show host that I would rather talk about Jesus and how I came to believe that Jesus exists and that he likes me. The host looked back at me with tears in his eyes. When we were done, he asked me if we could go get lunch together. He told me how much he didn’t like Christianity but how he had always wanted to believe Jesus was the Son of God.”

An article on from 2008 backs up what Miller says. The article mentions a LifeWay Research survey that found the majority of people see the church as a place of hypocrites (72%) yet surprisingly, about the same number of people would “be willing to listen” to someone share about Christianity (71%).

People are confused. They would love to—need to—hear the message of love but could do without the feeling of being judged. That ol’ “holier than thou” feeling. There’s the rub. In order to tell about grace, we need to recognize our need for grace, and that can come across as condemning. Tell the truth in love, we’re told. Very hard to do. 

Being Human connection: The balance between Godly truth-telling and love is a fine line. Only Jesus got it right.

More thoughts on topic this to come…

Featured artwork: “Holy Women at the Tomb of Christ” by Annibale Carraci, 1585. Web Gallery of Art