It’s a tangled web we weave when first we practice to believe. Because unlike any other faith, Christianity offers redemption through grace, the goodness of God and the sacrifice of Christ, rather than the goodness of our own lives. And yet, the caveat is added that once you are a Christian you ought to live like you’re earning that place in heaven. So there is a constant back and forth, we sin but we’re saved. But if we’re saved we ought to act like we never sin. And so, we white wash our sepulchers with the calm joviality of Tom Sawyer painting a fence.
It’s no wonder Gandhi famously pronounced that he would have been a Christian if he hadn’t met so many of them.
I was sitting in a living room of a family I know, respect and love. “Would you vote for Hilary Clinton? Do you really like her?” A member of the family asked me. Not wanting to ruin the evening but not wanting to lie, I responding by joking, “She’s not bad. Contrary to popular belief she doesn’t have the number 666 tattooed on her forehead.” I received a few nervous laughs before I was reproached.
“No matter what she says, I don’t believe she’s a Christian.”
Wham, bam, thank you Lord. Right then and there her soul was judged.
In his book What’s So Amazing About Grace?, Phillip Yancey recounts a story about Hillary Clinton being invited to a Bible study. After bracing herself for the usual barrage of criticism, Hilary entered the Bible study only to be met with an apology. We’re sorry for the way other people have been treating you and judging you, was the message the women sent to the much-maligned first Lady. And it’s the message I want to send now.
Christians are people, normal, awful ugly people. We try to do right, we screw up and bam we have inquisitions, crusades and witch trials of all variety. So we try again and inevitably we fail again. Christians both justified the slave trade and pushed for abolition. Christians both ignored Hitler’s actions and attempted to end his reign of terror. Whenever there has been a side or an opinion, there has been a Christian to support it or deny it, use it for gain or ignore it and feed the poor. Christians are supposed to be the messengers of God here on earth but like a prepubescent game of telephone we screw up the message and it comes out something like, “Spongebob is gay.” But please, don’t shoot us messengers, just put us in jail for a while.
I so badly want to condemn all the corruption that I see around me among Christians. But I’m just as bad; I guess that’s why I turned to Jesus in the first place. So all I can ask is that you see that we are trying just like you. We are working just like you and sometimes we get it wrong and sometimes we get it right. But the point is to never stop trying.