Would you be interested in getting to know someone if all you knew about her was what she didn't do?
Christians don't lie, cheat, steal, and gossip about their neighbors. Christians don't smoke, drink, use illicit drugs, cuss, play cards, dance, watch R-rated movies, read horoscopes, or cross their fingers. Christians don't have premarital sex, but they do have sex only to have babies and not because they actually enjoy having sex. Christians don't talk about sex unless we can spell out the word and whisper it. Christians don't like homosexuality but say we would love homosexuals if we actually knew any. Christians don't believe in a woman's right to an abortion because if everyone just stopped having premarital sex it wouldn't be an issue. Christians are suspicious of, if not against, the public school system, science teachers and curriculum, and sex education in schools. Christians love the Right because they are right.
Sounds like a fun girlfriend, no?
It's oversimplified and doesn't take into context how complex religion's relationship to culture is. And it's not a completely fair assessment, but like I tell my kids, life is not fair. If we Christians are honest with ourselves -- and as a Christian, I am trying to be honest with myself -- the oversimplified descriptions are not completely undeserved.
We Christians have a PR problem. For most of my Christian life I have done a fantabulous job of communicating what I am against and somehow forgotten that even as I believe in a perfect God I am not close to perfect. I'm much better at telling another Christian about what I believe than I am at sharing about my faith with someone outside of my faith. I have often forgotten how to live out the love, forgiveness, grace, and mercy God poured out on me. Dare I say we have forgotten?
A group of us at church are reading and discussing Tim Keller's book, The Reason for God. Sunday morning's discussion was on Chapter 3: Christianity is a Straitjacket, and the discussion could have gone on much longer, I suspect. I sat there thinking not only of the friends and family who see Christianity as a straitjacket, but also of those who have been hurt, not by a church building, but by those of us who claim our usual Sunday seats inside the building each week. Because when we say we know people who have been hurt by "The Church," that really means us Christians, not the building, or some "Church" out there (I'm waving my hand out over there).
I thought to myself, no, Christianity isn't a straitjacket, but maybe we should redirect our conversation away from those who aren't Christians; we should make that claim to those of us who are Christians and make sure we are not wearing one. Perhaps we've already spent enough time telling people what we are against instead of living out what we believe and know to be absolutely true. Maybe? Even a teeny, weeny bit?
Am I kind and compassionate, or am I more often than not judgmental? Yes. Do I live and love freely, or is my love cheap and stingy and picky? Yes. Do I want God's grace and forgiveness for myself, and do I forget to extend that to others? Yes.
I have some work to do. Yes.
Kathy Khang is a regional director of multi-ethnic ministries for Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and blogs at morethanservingtea.wordpress.com