In a crude analogy, we’re advertising Coca-Cola by saying it tastes like turpentine and then growing antagonistic towards those unwilling to take a swig.

And yet, God took the risk anyway, because He knows that the other end of the spectrum is also true. As much as it damages the reputation of Christ for those who call themselves Christians to live the antithesis of His teachings—on the flipside, it makes quite a statement when a flawed human makes a right decision with nothing in it for himself other than taking a stand for Christ. It is the single most tangible way to prove the intangible. This was God’s plan: that when the world looks at each of us, they would not simply see a follower of Him. In some miraculous and unexplainable way, God knows that when the world stares at a flawed human who somehow occasionally chooses holy and unhuman actions, they see a picture of Jesus. It is the one true arrow that God’s grace allows us each to be. A conduit for a relationship between someone else and God. This is why He took the risk. This is why He took the risk on me.

But something happened along the way.

Somewhere along the road of offense and defense, I stopped being a little Christ and instead began filling out the application that I had labeled Christian. It was not a definition based on the actual namesake, but rather, on those who frequent the clubhouse. And in the midst of being an American Christian among all the other American Christians, I stopped truly searching the nuances of who Christ was and is in order to fully grasp what a little Christ might, indeed, act like. Certainly, I soaked in the Word of God in seasons. I knew the key stories—the greatest hits: the miracles, the Beatitudes, the Passion Week, and whatnot. But I chose not to apply the reality of all the truth in between His words and actions into my own behavior. I allowed Jesus to seep into my church world—but not my relational world, my romance world, my business world, my creative world, my habits, my mouth.

I read His words.

I learned His words.

But I did not fully belong to Him.

Because of this, I became a sort of half-breed. I segregated myself—splitting my soul into two segments: one that would openly serve Jesus and one that would secretly protect myself. I became like people I deemed my-kind-of-godly instead of becoming like Jesus. I pursued Christian success instead of pursuing Christ. I spoke witty insults as commonly as profound prayers. And, in the process, I called myself a Christian without ever becoming a little Christ at all. I became something else.

Not truly Christian—but rather, merely Christianish.

As a church community, it is time we asked ourselves a startling question: what if we’re not really following Jesus at all?

Our Christian intention has sharp edges. It has the ability to mold and shape, but also to stab and permanently damage. We have been wagging these blades carelessly for far too long while distracted by some very non-Christlike habits, behaviors, and dysfunctions. Because we are unable to notice our own distraction, we keep on waving our razors, impressed with our own cutlery skills until we suddenly find ourselves the benefactor of unintentional but irreversible wounds. And I don’t simply refer to wounds made by a few. They are made by us all. By you. By me—by Mark Steele. Yes, we do our best to remedy these wounds, calling our efforts misunderstood and leaning on God’s grace—in hopes that we can pick up off the floor that which we amputated and use the excuse that we handed it back. But it’s not enough, not even close to enough.

THE WRONG ROAD

How did modern evangelicalism lose its balance? How did some behavior fall into an accountability category while other distractions remained unaddressed and, therefore, socially and religiously acceptable? For me personally, my efforts had become more centered on how to cope with my own dysfunctional life, and less concentrated on what it really means to follow Jesus. I was more than off-balance. I was traveling the wrong road completely.