Let’s face it, Christians are not perfect, and some of us are further from perfection then others. (A big collective gasp was heard around the world). Yet we strive to love, imitate, and worship Someone who is perfect. One of the ways we do this, is by admitting our imperfections and our failures. By this we can work on putting our pride to death and we can also learn to trust Jesus to help us reduce and avoid our errors. So what areas do we all need help with? Below are ten errors I have made, and am pretty sure every other Christian in the world can join me.
1. We fail to be like Jesus
For a group of people that has “Christ” as part of our name, we sure suck at being like Him. During my middle school years a band by the name of “Insane Clown Posse” was reaching its highest level of popularity. These guys dressed like… insane clowns. They amassed a large movement of dedicated followers – called Juggalos – who also dressed like insane clowns. These Juggalos did a very good job of becoming like the (crazy) band members. Christians are often not as good (though some are farther along the way than others). We often join everyone else in being snobby, impolite, greedy, lusty, and hateful. We ought to be more like Christ, who was none of those things.
2. We ‘try hard’ to become like Jesus
Whoa there. Seems like I am switching sides here. Yet, I mean what I wrote, one of our errors is “trying to become like Jesus.” To clear up the confusion that may be caused by semantics, yes we ought to imitate Jesus, and that is a good thing. What is not so good is that we ‘try’ to ‘become’ like Jesus at some future time. The error is that we focus on the future personal achievement of making ourselves good like Jesus. Instead, we ought to focus on our present relationship ‘with’ Christ (John 15:5). Instead of trying to achieve our future goal to become someone who is similar to or like Christ, we should presently be in Christ.
3. We judge those that sin differently
Everyone who grew up in a church knows that certain sins are much worse than others sins. Or are they? There is always debate about this issue, and indeed some sins, like mass murder, cause so much havoc, that they are worse by effect. And yet, all sin is potent enough to cause separation from God. What gets lost in this debate is that we often think ‘our’ sin is the less bad one, and ‘their’ sin is worse. So we get angry at the alcoholic or pornographer, but excuse away our pride and jealousy. We have created categories of sin that are “ok” because we do them, and others that are “despicable” because we don’t struggle with them. We need to stop shaming others, and look into the mirror.
4. We don’t have the appropriate answers
I am not all knowing (though my wife would smile and say “oh yeah? That’s not what you said yesterday.”) None of us know everything, and the little we know, is not always right. Sometimes we give answers to others, especially to children and unbelievers, that are not appropriate, gentle, or correct. Instead of saying, “I really don’t know, but let’s research it” we often make stuff up. “Mom, why did God make people? And John grows up thinking God is a (lonely) joke. Sometimes our made up answers are so far-fetched and illogical, it makes others think that Christianity lacks answers. Instead lets recognize there are a lot of mysteries and things we don’t know.
5. We are slow to change our ideas when needed
Human beings like to maintain a grip on the world by knowing facts, keeping track of idea, and maintaining systems. We all do this. Sometimes those systems are not good enough. I once had a worse system of thought about God and the Bible than what I’m striving for today. When I started to realize I was wrong, I didn’t want to admit it because it was scary to lose control and realize so much of my ideas were not in line with certain things in Scripture. We need to be less focused on defending the ground where we grew up and stood for ages on, and more focused on exploring the ground where Scripture stands. Doing theology by defending what you simply assume is right is not the best way. Our theology should stem from our Bible, not our upbringing (and unfortunately those two don’t often perfectly overlap).
6. We mix up conspiracy theory with the Bible
I spent a great deal of time in my youth on conspiracy theories. They made me feel empowered and illuminated the boring parts of life with a feeling of “specialness.” And so too do we as Christians engage culture through the lens of numerous conspiracy theories. Sure enough, there has been many conspiracies acted out in order to hurt, kill, and destroy Christians and others. And Satan is on a conspiracy to destroy the church. But that doesn’t mean that every single thing in our life is a conspiracy. Satan is not hiding subliminal messages in every single cartoon and the US government isn’t secretly preparing forced labor camps for all Christians. We need to be more normal, enough said.
7. We are prejudiced towards those who dissimilar
Some churches are getting better at this, but most of us still need to grow in our ethnic diversity. In the church in heaven there are people of all nations, tribes, and colors (Rev 7:9). In our churches, that are housed in very multicultural city centers, there are far less nations and colors. Russians are with the Russians, African Americans in their own groups, white yuppies have their own church, and so forth. For the most part, our friendships extend, predominantly, to people who dress, talk, walk, and look very similar to us.
8. We tend to make Christianity all about morals
When I was a (pimply) teenager I had a “WWJD” bracelet. It was made out of red cloth and had white letters. And my mother made me get rid of it, because in my culture the moral thing to do included not wearing bracelets. (She might have even said “What would Jesus do? Would he wear a bracelet?”) Instead of asking what would Jesus do, we should be fixated and enraptured by “What Jesus did.” He died on a cross specifically because I didn’t follow my bracelets advice. This is the good news (Gospel) of Grace. We don’t need pure moralism, the other religions got that covered.