A few weeks ago, I had more traffic than usual on my blog as I dove headfirst into the Brittany Maynard story. I am always fascinated by the stories that attract people’s attention, especially when there’s more to the story than a simple cursory glance. Stories that you have to pick up and roll through your fingers, glancing at every side as you try to determine just what it’s made of, those are the stories that attract me.
In the midst of my writing, a friend from high school reached out and gave me some insight on his impression of what I had written. I was intrigued at how he was reading it because it wasn’t exactly how I saw it, so I engaged him in a conversation. In the midst of the conversation, I learned more and more about myself and about my friend. I did my best to respond in a way that told him that I was sincerely seeking answers and not trying to proselytize or convert anyone to my own way of thinking. While there may be times to do that, a first conversation or post hardly seems the time for that.
As we dialogued back and forth, he complimented me in my reaction and approach towards the conversation. To say that I was relieved would probably be an understatement. As I shared my own convictions with him, I was saddened to hear about another conversation in social media that was taking place on the wall of a friend of his. There was lots of judgment, lots of insult hurling, lots of people stating opinions without entering into dialogue or seeking to understand another’s perspective.
Why do we do this over and over again? Why do we approach conversations as competitions that need to be “won” rather than experiences in which we can learn?
Honestly, I think that Christians are the worst at this. We somehow think that every conversation needs to end with everyone on the floor, praying the Sinner’s Prayer, and then singing Kum Ba Yah until Jesus returns. In our efforts to speak the truth we forget the “in love” part of it. In our efforts to show our convictions, we feel the need to always be right.
I’m not saying that we don’t hold to strong convictions, that seems to be a dying art in our “everything goes” culture. With relativism pressing in on every side, speaking in absolutes is unpopular, but I believe, necessary. But there’s a better way to do it, and hurling digital hand grenades is not the way to do it.
In talking to my friend, I realized what I had so many times before, people judge Jesus by how those who follow him act. It seems unfair, but it’s a fact of life. When we don’t hold to his teachings, we not only make ourselves look bad, but we make him look bad as well. When we tout our strong convictions and then consistently fail to live by them, we make it look like Jesus is the one who is wrong.
One thing that I love about the Apostle Paul is that he lived what he believed. He knew that it wasn’t popular, he knew that it was counter-cultural, but it didn’t stop him. The Gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing. God has made the lofty things of this world to be low and made the low things to be lofty. Paul was confident enough in his convictions and how he lived them out that he was not afraid or ashamed to say, “Follow me.”
I was reminded of Donald Miller’s “Blue Like Jazz” when Miller talks about how he and some of his friends set up a confession booth in the middle of a hedonistic weekend celebration at a Portland college. His friend, Tony, says, “Here’s the catch…We are not actually going to accept confessions…We are going to confess to them. We are going to confess that, as followers of Jesus, we have not been very loving; we have been bitter, and for that we are sorry. We will apologize for the Crusades, we will apologize for televangelists, we will apologize for neglecting the poor and the lonely, we will ask them to forgive us, and we will tell them that in our selfishness, we have misrepresented Jesus on this campus. We will tell people who come into the booth that Jesus loves them.”
I’m not perfect. I’ve done my fair share of misrepresenting Jesus to those who desperately need to know that he loves them. But I see that, I admit it, I’m making steps towards recovering, towards redemption, towards restoration.
As many times as I’ve read the Gospels, I don’t recall any story where someone got themselves all “cleaned up” and then went to meet Jesus. In fact, Jesus usually met them, doing what they were doing, wherever they were. They probably felt unprepared, insignificant, inadequate, but that’s how we should all feel in the presence of holiness and perfection. Jesus met them there, found them where they were, but didn’t leave them there.
When we meet people, they will judge Jesus by how we live. Most people aren’t opposed to convictions, they’re opposed to inconsistency. How are we doing in representing Jesus to the world? Is it time for us to set up confession booths in our neighborhoods, in our schools, in our workplaces, in our homes? Is it time for people to take our confessions of where we have fallen short, where we have failed to live up to the name by which we all must be saved?
We can’t live up to that name…..EVER, but that doesn’t mean we just give up trying. We try not because we think we can earn something, but because we are grateful for that amazing thing called grace that reaches out to us in our dirt, filth, pride, and aloneness and calls us “beloved” and calls us to live different, to be different. We are driven by gratitude, not guilt or obligation.
How about we confess that?