I am not very comfortable in “Christian” settings. For a long time now, I’ve said that I “don’t like Christians”, but that’s meant to be at least somewhat tongue-in-cheek. I know that Jesus is life, that there is no life outside of him; and for me, everything I do, and see, and experience runs through that filter.
I am also quite fond of others who see the world around us from that perspective: knowing the loving Creator Father who made it, and us, and Jesus whom he sent, and his Spirit in us. It’s wonderful spending time with others who share that same understanding, passion, and reality.
But I recently had a moment of clarity on this subject. It’s not Christians that make me feel uneasy, it’s being at any event or location where Christians are “being Christian”.
It’s that pretense, that front, that game playing … that is what gets me to put my own guard up, and, sadly, it’s why I usually try to avoid “Christian” events.
When the language becomes Christian, when certain behaviors are expected, beliefs—not in Jesus, but in the “traditions of man”, as Paul often labeled them—are silently presumed to be firmly held and agreed upon; this is when my stomach usually tightens into disquieted knots.
I love being with other believers, but if the reason for gathering is somehow labeled “Christian”, or all the participants know that they are there to “be Christian” … I think that’s where it starts to fall apart.
And the reason is that we are not supposed to BE CHRISTIAN.
We are supposed to love each other. Love God. Be loved. The things that we think mark us as believers are evidence of lives changed from within, by God himself. Not our own efforts at all. That’s so important.
It’s completely from, for, about, and through him.
So when we who live our lives wholly with Jesus are in a setting that is not specifically “his”, I find that those times are more relaxed. (As long as we’re not “being Christian” and condemning wrong behavior that is acceptably condemnable.)
This is part of the problem. “Being Christian” is often akin to thinking a certain way on various issues, behaviors, and doctrines. (This is why there are so many splinters of the church. Doctrinal spats create unending levels of division between believers.) Christians are against homosexuality and gay marriage; six-day creationism versus evolution (and every other theory of our origins); taking God, prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Bible out of public arenas like schools and other government buildings; and many Christians hold strong views about politics that they tie to their “Christianity”.
How do any of these things make us “Christian”? In what way do they distinguish us as followers of Jesus? How are we like him by conforming to these standards?
Jesus prayed for us. Did you know that? Right before he went to the cross, John records the words he prayed. He prayed for the people he was with, and he prayed for us. Listen:
“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.
“I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!
“O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me. I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them.”1
To Jesus, our unity was paramount. We in him, he in his Father, Father in him, he in us. That we as believers—centuries and millennia in the future—would be visibly, notably united was foremost in his heart and mind as he faced death on the cross.
Jesus’ unity was not just a doctrinal thing. He spent time with people who may have disagreed with him. He certainly spent time with some who were different from him. He was usually chastised in regards to whom he chose to spend his time with.
He was not “being Christian” at “Christian” gatherings.
Why can’t we just be together, and enjoy each other, and share the variety and diversity of our lives and selves together, with no need for judging, condemning, conforming, reforming, or any other manipulation of each other; whether directly or by inference?
I don’t know. But that’s why I don’t enjoy Christian gatherings. It’s a bunch of Christians being Christian.
We are most like Jesus when we love, accept, offer grace and truth together—which I think is much less common practice than many Christians admit—and truly love people who most need loving.
Which is all of us.
I don’t want to be a Christian. I want Jesus to live his love through me. (Just as he prayed for us above.) I want to be so close to him that people recognize his scent on me. Not through any of my own strength, or practice, or perfecting… just the work he is doing in me. It’s not at all about me. Only him. And you.
If we all live like that, being together with Christians who are truly “being Christian” would be the most amazing place on earth.
Because HE is embodied in us. (We’re not trying to be his body.)
Oh man. That would be spectacular.
We just have to stop trying, and let him change us. Stop being Christian. Be loved. And Christ will be in you.