One time I was talking to a friend of mine. She was telling me that she thinks I can make it in life and I told her that she could too. It was so nice. She wasn’t a Christian or anything, so the things she said weren’t based off of cliche, overused Bible verses about God’s plan for our lives or anything. I think I said something like, “Man. It really is nice talking to someone as encouraging and refreshing as you.”
And she said something about how that was weird to hear from me. Because I like Jesus and all, and you’d think I’d get enough of that from all my Christian friends, since we believe the same way.
And I was kind of like, “Well. Sometimes. Certain ones. A lot of Christians just like to beat you up though and put a label on everyone. They don’t get it. I didn’t used to get it. I thought there were pot heads and homosexuals and drunks and whores. And that your goal in life as a Christian is to not get one of those labels. But they’re people. With stories and things that make their heart happy and things that make their heart sad. Some of my favorite people in the world are the ones that the Christians put labels on. But I don’t know. You get it. You see me as a human with dreams and hopes and passions. You see everyone that way and you accept them. And that’s how it’s supposed to be, I think.”
And I told her about some things that Christians have said to me in my deepest struggles, and she looked really upset. She said, “That breaks my heart; they’re typical Christians.”
If that’s a phrase that breaks someone’s heart, we’re doing something wrong. This girl has obviously been pursued by God. She’s told me too much about the things that her heart feels for me to doubt that. But she still hates church, and she still thinks Christians are dumb, even though she likes the idea of God. She would never ever ever become a typical Christian. She sees us all in the light in which she’s been exposed to by those who carry Christ’s name around.
Either we don’t realize what responsibility we have when we take His name, or we don’t care. Or we’re just really self-righteous still, in spite of the fact that God has made it evident that we have been saved by grace.
Like it says in Romans 2:24, “For, as it is written, ‘The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.'”
We carry His name, and sometimes that’s a harder task than I would expect it to be. Because if I’m being honest, I think the name “Christian” has done more harm than good. There’s a reason people don’t like hearing it. We’ve represented it so poorly.
I’ll use an example from my own life.
I went to a new church this past week. I do that a lot, I know. But the second I stepped in the door, I wanted to leave. It wasn’t because anybody was being stuck up or rude or unwelcoming. In fact, I walked in kind of early, and didn’t run into anybody for a while. It had nothing to do with the way I was treated when I walked in. It was because of the way the stairs were made.
The physical structure of the stairs, the white plaster wall lined with wooden rails, reminded me of the church I grew up in. It looked almost identical. And that was enough to make me want to leave. I hated the church it reminded me of. It was one of those. The kind that excludes you from everything no matter how hard you try, the kind with leaders who play favorites, the kind where you’re intentionally ignored and overlooked, the kind where they make you cry on your eighth birthday, the kind that’s nothing but a political game.
It honestly took a lot for me to not leave. But once I found people, they were really nice people. They cared about what I had to say. They didn’t hate me or want to make me cry. They said things that made sense and they even seemed like they cared about demonstrating the love of Christ. They looked like they practiced it and they looked like they were real.
That wasn’t what I expected. And that’s not what a lot of people expect from someone with the whole Christian label. I know a lot of people who still have a bad taste in their mouth whenever they even hear the name, like I felt when I saw the stairs in the church. So that’s why I care so much about being as transparent and real and loving as possible. Because I ran Christ’s name through the mud in the past with my pride and my self-righteousness and self-seeking. And the closer I’ve grown to Him, the more I’ve realized the way that I act looks nothing how the way He has loved me. I want more than anything to demonstrate that love as good as I can, with his grace, so I can see the people around me start to reconsider the Christian label that they’ve hated so much.
I feel like I’m up against years and years of corruption in the name of Christ when I tell people I’m a Christian. And that’s why it’s so important to me that I let Him work through me as much as I can, so people can see who Christ really is. And it’s not something I can do in my own strength, I can assure you of that.