All right, enough folderol. Back to work. Here's my vote for Top 10 Ways Christians (Including Me) Tend to Fail:
1. Too much money. It seems to me that a rich Christian is an oxymoron. Jesus was fairly abstruse about a fair number of things, but he was crystaline about Christians needing to give their all to the poor. In Luke 12:33, Jesus says, "Sell your possessions and give to the poor." At Matthew 19:21, he says, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor." In Matthew 6:24, he says: "You cannot serve God and Money." I just don't see a lot of wiggle room there. And yet, somehow, we all keep finding just enough to allow us to keep all the stuff we love so much.
2. Too confident that God thinks we're all that and a leather-bound gift Bible. I'd like to humbly suggest that we spend a little more more time wondering how we displease God, and a little less time being confident that we do.
3. Too quick to believe that we know what God really means by what he says in the Bible. The Bible is one extremely complex, multi-leveled work. We're sometimes too quick, I think, to assume that we grasp it. Take this passage, for instance, from Luke 8: 9-10: "His disciples asked him [Jesus] what this parable [of the sower] meant. He said, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, ‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.’" Now, I don't care who you are, or how many theology degrees you have, that is one thick thought. And that's Jesus "explaining" one of the most accessible of his parables! Are we really all that confident that we always know exactly what Jesus meant by everything he said? Wouldn't just the slightest bit of doubt sometimes be in order?
4. Too action-oriented. I think we Christians could stand to spend less time acting in the name of God, and more time reflecting on the (ever subtle) majesty of God. More passivity, less activity, I say. More meditation, less machination. More reflection, less correction. More contemplation, less administration. More mysticism, less cretinism. More prayer, less Bayer. More ... okay, that's enough. Sorry. I have rhyming issues.
5. Too invasive of others generally. It is my personal, humble, no-need-to-send-me-hate-mail opinion that we Christians are sometimes too eager to mix Church with State. They don't (and again: just my opinion!) belong together. One is good for we Christians; one is good for everyone. As much as I personally would like it to be, America is not a Protestant country. It's a Catholic country, and a Jewish country, and an atheist country, and a Buddhist country, and a Mormon country, and (yes) a Muslim country. It's a country for everyone. Religion is a personal, subjective affair for the individual; politics and public policy is an impersonal, objective affair for everyone. Better to keep them separate. Fair is fair.
6. Too invasive of others personally. We Christians are sometimes too eager to get up into the faces of others about their personal religious beliefs. I know most of us believe that the moment someone who isn't a Christian dies, that person is immediately herded onto the worst Down Elevator ever, and that we must therefore vigilantly strive to turn everyone who in this life isn't a Christian into one. Noble sentiment! But what we seem to too often lose sight of is how impossible it is to talk someone who isn't a Christian into being one. I think maybe we should spend more time "just" living as Christians, and letting God worry about the non-Christians. I'm pretty sure he can handle that job. He saved me, and that phenomenon sure didn't have anything to do with anyone ever telling me I should become a Christian. Trust me on this: I was saved in spite of Christians trying to save me, not because of them.
7. Too quick to abandon logic. I think when talking to others about our faith, we Christians too often resort to a language and line of reasoning that leaves good ol' fashion logic sitting on the ground behind us, waving a sad good-bye. "It's true because the Bible says it's true" can't mean anything to a non-Christian, because (hurt though it does to admit it, I know) it's such a manifestly illogical assertion. "It's true because the Bible says it's true" is no more a reason for anything actually (as in objectively) being true than was your parents' old, infinitely frustrating "Because I said so!" As a logical argument, "It's true because someone with a vested interest in it being true says it's true" is Beyond Useless. Why in our dealings with non-Christians we so often fail to grasp that is a total mystery to me.
8. Too fixated on gays and lesbians. Can we followers of Christ maybe just stop already with the fixating on homosexuality? I know it's a "hot button" issue. I know we understand our stance on the matter to be unassailably Biblical. I know we're deeply concerned about the "homosexual agenda." I know. We all know. Maybe we could just give it a rest for awhile, though? Even for just a week? Wouldn't that be nice? It's not like gay and lesbian people are going anywhere. They'll all be there when we get back. Maybe we could just give them, and us, a rest for a minute.
9. Too insular. When I became a Christian, one of the things that most amazed me about Christians is the degree to which they tend to hang out only with other Christians. We should stop doing that. How are we supposed to share Christ's love with non-Christians when we barely knowany non-Christians? Time to widen that social base, I say. (Plus, Christian or not, we still want to throw good, fun parties, don't we? Well, let's face it: The pagans have all the good music. We might as well invite a few of them to our next party. Maybe they'll bring their CD's!)
10. Too quick to condemn fellow Christians. It's been my humble, limited experience that too many Christians spend entirely too much time thinking and talking about how wrong the beliefs and practices are of other kinds of Christians. Maybe we should spend a little more time thinking about how all we Christians are the same, rather than how we're different. Maybe fundamentalist and "liberal" Christians have a lot more in common than we tend to remember, or reflect upon, or celebrate. Maybe if we concentrated a little more on our similarities, non-Christians observing us would have less reason to doubt that, at its core, Christianity is, in fact, all about love.
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