The Other Christian

Along one of my favorite hiking trails there is a bench that overlooks a little pond.  Sometimes there are swans there.  I’ve yet to determine whether they are naturally migrating swans or if they were deposited here, but I often like to pause on my hike and sit to watch them.  This past weekend as I approached my bench, I noticed something different: the graffiti artists had been out.  Not just with ink, but with a knife.  There were the ubiquitous carved initials and secret codes and then one that made me angrier than all the others combined.  Someone had carved into the seat the Christian fish symbol with a tiny cross in the middle.

Now I suppose a non-Christian could have done this, but my assumption is that it was a Christian.  Someone who tried his/her hand at evangelizing through destruction of property.  That’s just great.

I stewed about this for the rest of my hike.  This is precisely the kind of nonsense that leads folks to sagely quote Ghandi: I like your Christ.  I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.

The Bible is pretty clear about how Christians should act: with love, goodness, gentleness, patience, kindness (Galatians 5:22-23).  We should be taking care of God’s good creation (Genesis 1:26-31).  We should be thankful for the gifts He has bestowed (Psalm 107). We should not be partaking in idiotic gestures like carving fish symbols into public property.

And we should not be publicly calling our Christian brothers and sisters idiots.

That last part, in case you were wondering, was written for me.  Because here’s another thing the Bible is pretty clear about: we should examine our own heart before we examine someone else’s. “First take the log out of your own eye,” Jesus told his followers. “and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of  your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). 

How often am I that Christian that someone is watching, thinking, wow, she certainly doesn’t act Christian?  Maybe I don’t deface property, but there are plenty of times when I’m preoccupied, self-absorbed, angry, selfish, frustrated… shall I go on?

First take the log out of your own eye, Jesus said.

I get easily frustrated when I see Christians acting “so unlike your Christ.”  But as I was trudging back to my car, it suddenly occurred to me: other Christians are not the benchmark of Christianity anymore than I am.  We are unlike our Christ.  This should not make us run from Christianity.  It should make us run to it.  In fact, the entire foundation of Christianity rests upon the recognition that we are fallen human beings.  We sin.  We do idiotic things.  We are unlike our Christ.  And this is exactly why we need Christ.  The fruit of the Spirit, Paul wrote, is love joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23a).  The fruit of the Spirit.  These are not things we accomplish on our own.  These are things that Christ accomplishes within us.

The foundation of Christianity is not other Christians; it is Christ Himself. We do not come to Christianity because we want to be like other Christians; we come to Christianity so that we may become like Christ.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8b-9).

Have you observed an un-Christlike Christian lately?  Rather than getting angry, take a moment to look in the mirror.  If you’re anything like me, it will be a humbling experience.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.  Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted (Galatians 6:1). 

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