Christian FAIL

18 11 2010

Are you familiar with Failblog.org?  It’s not a Christian site, and definitely some pretty crass stuff goes there.  But the overwhelming majority of the stuff is just plain funny.  And why?  Because it helps us laugh at ourselves.  It laughs at the pride and overblown egos of those of us who think we’ve got it all together.

What does this have to do with anything?  Well, first off, it has a lot to do with where we are as a church.  No, I don’t mean Parkview Community Church, where I work and attend (Although I readily accept that as truth there too).  I mean church with a “big c”.  The body of Christ.

The truth?  All too often we’re failing miserably due to our pride, our bloated sense of self-righteousness, and our desire to “save the world”.

I’m been reading some pretty awesome books over the past year (well, a couple) and what I’m excited about is that there is a growing movement inside Christianity that is starting to recognize our failures.  That we’re starting to really grasp what it means to live in a “post-Christian society”, and more importantly, that the reason we’re in that post-Christian society is our fault entirely.

God didn’t leave.  God didn’t change.  God is constant, loving, ever-powerful, ever-glorious, and ever-faithful.  So what does that leave?  Who tarnished the influence of the church?  You and I did.  Big ole Christian FAIL.

First off, some are quick to get tense and feel like they need to defend the church, or themselves and say “well, MY church did THIS to help THESE people, and I gave THIS time/money/service to help THESE people and therefore you are wrong!”

You, sir or madam, are precisely who I am addressing.

Do you realize what the bible says when we read in Isaiah 64:6, when the prophet says:

“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”

We are those people.  We are those who have been given generations of proof of God’s constancy and love.  We are those who have been given example after example of true followers of Christ.  We are those who have been given blessing after blessing.  And sadly, we are those who ignore it and say “let’s do it our way!”

There’s nothing wrong with trying to save people.  Unless you don’t realize that you can’t save anyone.  There’s nothing wrong with trying to help people live more Godly lives.  Unless you don’t realize that a lot of people don’t believe in God and therefore think your rule-set is flawed from the word “go”.

The point I’m trying to make is that sure, the world seems to be in decline, spiritually.  But this is not some external force, some random “other guys” that are doing it wrong.  The world is not to blame for Christianity’s decline in reputation and followership.  We are to blame because we have forgotten what it means to love people.

We do a lot of things, us Christians.  We do a lot of good works.  And those good works are pretty awesome.  I’m not bringing those things down at all.  Digging wells to give needed water in remote areas of the earth is awesome.  Feeding the hungry is necessary work.  Clothing the needy is a great kindness.  Sheltering the homeless is perfectly rational and loving work.

But if we do it simply because it’s the right thing to do?  We’re missing the point.

We need to do these things out of compulsion from two sources of unimaginably powerful love:

We need to do these things because God loved us when we were unlovable (which, by the way, is still now, even after salvation.  You got saved, you got covered, but you still stink.  Me too.)

We need to do these things because we have ALREADY BUILT RELATIONSHIPS that had nothing to do with our service.   Relationships that weren’t dependent on anything other than God’s love for those people, and our desire to love them too.

Another important distinction here:  We need to continue those relationships after the service is complete.  After we dig wells, we can’t just say “Well, there’s God!  Enjoy!” and walk away.

A relationship is a maintenance thing.  A relationship doesn’t mean one person gives, the other takes, and then no one speaks anymore.  That’s a transaction, not a relationship.

We’ve been too preoccupied for far too long with transactions.  We’ve been so busy tallying up deposits into the kingdom that we’ve forgotten that our investments are people.  That we’ve forgotten that these people are no less than us.  That we are no better than they.  That we didn’t find them in a low place and raise them up.  That’s what God did, and we are fortunate enough to have participated in God’s glorious process.

We have forgotten the joy of service to God.  We do, however love service for “doing the right thing’s sake”.

You know what?  Muslims, Jews, Atheists, Buddhists, Satanists and anything else that is not Christian can do good work for good work’s sake.  In fact, Athesists would argue that it’s part of the propagation of the species.  That doing for others helps us, and therefore fits nicely into survival of the fittest (we all survive when we’re all fit, right?).

So what is a distinctive of Christianity?  What separates us from them?  God.  That’s the ONLY thing that makes our work different.  But only if we let God do His thing through us.  We toil, and we slave and we work SO HARD for nothing.  And we call it God’s work.  It’s despicable.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m pointing this finger right at myself, while I write this.  I’m ashamed at how long I’ve cowered under the banner of “just lead them to the church and all will be well.”  I forget that I AM THE CHURCH.  WE ARE THE CHURCH.  The pastor is part of the church, and a very useful and necessary one.  But he or she is not the church.  The worship band is not the church.  A really moving piece of worship music is not the church.  WE ARE THE CHURCH.

We need to love people.  We need to remember that Christ loves these people.  That he loved us when we had nothing to offer (again, this is now, not some time in the past when you were less worthy than now.  Newsflash!  We’re still not worthy!)

This needs to motivate us towards love and good deeds.  This is what we must do.  We need to stop failing, and start loving.  Start building REAL relationships in our communities.  Start loving people who we are certain won’t love Jesus.  Because Jesus still loves those people.   We need to love them also.  We need to love without expectation.   We need to love without preconceived notions of what will happen after we love them.  We need to pray for them, that God will soften their hearts, but hand-in-hand with that needs to come the prayer that he will continually do the same for us.

We need to stop failing and start loving.  Will you join me as I offer my breadcrumbs and fish heads?  It’s a gross offering, but it’s all I’ve got right now.  And I know God will do as he wishes with it and to Him be all the glory, honor, majesty, dominion and power.  Amen.

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