Saturday, May 21, 2005

 

Keeping It Real

"And I must be an acrobat to talk like this and act like that." - "Acrobat" by U2 from Achtung Baby

Polls of non-believers have consistently shown a wide dichotomy between their feelings toward Christians and their thoughts about Christ. By and large, non-believers have a favorable impression of Jesus Christ while they typically express varying degrees of disdain toward Christians. The hypocrisy issue undoubtedly plays a large part in this.

To which a Christian could justifiably assert that his flaws (and those of all of mankind) are the very reason for needing a Savior. But I think this rebuttal lets us believers off the hook too easily. I suspect there is more to the "hypocrisy" sentiment, which should provide us with more than a little reason for introspection.

Growing up I was surrounded with a church community that did not show any sort of vulnerability in its spiritual journey (as far as I can recall anyway). To a kid, there was a sense that these people had it all together. To an adult, the reality reveals itself as more like a false sort of piety and assuredness.

Until a couple months ago, I never once heard a pastor (from the pulpit) admit to any sort of real weakness or express doubt in his spiritual walk. Congregants responded accordingly, perhaps fearing they may go to Hell for confessing a crisis of faith. Or maybe they just thought it would weaken the message of salvation by admitting to some doubts and frustration with their faith.

Beyond the fact that this attitude is very unhealthy to one's own spirituality, I think it is off-putting to non-believers. It seems disingenuous and phony to outsiders and as such it lays the groundwork for calls of hypocrisy when the inevitable failures and sins manifest themselves. People don't want a sales pitch from a self-righteous Christian. They want honesty - in all its dirty, ugly glory. It is through our own brutally honest tales of brokenness and weakness that the Truth and strength of Christ will resonate.

In Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton made an intriguing and shocking observation:

Christianity alone has felt that God, to be wholly God, must have been a rebel as well as a king. Alone of all creeds; Christianity has added courage to the virtues of the Creator. For, the only courage worth calling courage must necessarily mean that the soul passes a breaking point - and does not break.

In the garden Satan tempted man: and in a garden God tempted God...Then the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the cross: the cry which confessed that God had forsaken God... They (nonbelievers) will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist.

When I first read those words, I was a little angry with Mr. Chesterton for writing such things about my Lord. It seemed to border on blasphemy at first blush. But now I wonder if he was in fact getting to the essence of Christianity by confronting those seemingly unfathomable words of Christ rather than sweeping them under the rug or explaining them away.

Mark 15:34 - "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?"

It's in this sort of blunt questioning and soul searching that we may truly deepen our understanding of this glorious, personal, and yet mysterious God of the Trinity. And in the process of so doing I suspect some folks may just happen to catch a glimpse of Christ in us.

This is a Savior, afterall, who shared in the human experience, including even those times of isolation, sadness, and temptation. If our Lord did not shy away from expressing his subjection to such hardships, why should we? Personally, I think that accusations of hypocrisy will melt away once we become truly genuine and vulnerable.

Comments:
Odd...or serendipitous. i just went on a rant yesterday about the whole judgement thing (do we or don't we?) and my feelings of unworthiness in the midst of Biblical wisdom. I usually feel like a terrible representation of God, and a pathetic witness.
Also, I've jotted down some future bloggings on God's taking Satan's side for a time, it would seem, on Calvary. Dunno, never read Chesterton.
One clarification, through our failings, we should become more holy...thus, very different from non-believers. This can be hard to deal with, but an abundance of humility, I agree, is the supernova of glory.
 
Chad,

Thank you for posting this call to humility. My wife and I as new Christians struggled for many years to reconcile the attitudes of the believers around us and their behaviors.

We came to faith through recovery and 12 step, and have even run Christian based 12 step recovery groups. Yet with many of our erstwhile Christian "friends," we felt pity and a patronizing dismissing of our ways of relating and communicating vulnerability.

They chose not to be vulnerable with their fellow believers. When life turned difficult, many spun totally out of control, as if they were wholly unprepared for the consequence of unresolved damaged emotions (and sin).

This is not to fault them, but it was sad, and we needed to keep searching for a true fellowship, which we found :) Praise God.

But this notion of acknowledging that we are sometimes very far from God (not Him from us, but us from Him) is both very hard to accept, but very freeing to admit.

Thanks Chad. Difficult, but necessary message.
 
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