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Could You Believe?

Christians have a bad rap, and rightly so.  We are known for saying that we believe one thing, and living a completely different way.  Moreover, we claim to have the solution to the world’s greatest problem, while contributing to it at the same time.  We are judgmental and intolerant.  We are hypocrites and we are fakes.  There is no question in my mind why people outside the church are somewhat cynical about those who call themselves Christians.
It seems like every day I hear about something a church or someone inside the church did that was just plain ridiculous.  For example, how many people have you heard about who left a church over the color of the carpet, the dispute over pews vs. chairs, or the tweaking of service times?  I feel bad for pastors nowadays, who cannot even focus their time and energy on ministry as much as corralling all the crazies who can’t get a clue.  Somewhere along the line we’ve missed the whole point of following Christ.  Most people probably couldn’t put that at the top of the list for the point of going to church and being a Christian in the first place.
I wonder how many people who call themselves Christians have really thought about who Jesus is.  I wonder if they have spent time trying to figure out the puzzling things that He said.  I think that sometimes we forget that Jesus wasn’t out to bless us with everything we could ever want.  Following Him means sacrificing what we think we need and want for something much better:  the treasure of knowing Him.  Well, that’s going into another topic that I will discuss at a later time.  The point is, Christians have missed the point.
Probably the most frustrating thing to me, especially the last couple years, is that the actions of Christians are causing those who do not know Christ to despise Him.  It’s not like it should come as a surprise to us that people would base their opinions of God on our behavior; Jesus told us from day one that was the way it was going to be.  I feel that for the first 20 years of my life, I was very sheltered in the church and separated from “the world” as we refer to it in churchese.  My understanding was that “the world” was a dangerous place that was out for my downfall.  However, I read in the Bible that “God so loved the world”, and that always puzzled me.  Christians live as if God said, “For God so loved the Church”, rather than strengthening its members to recognize the dangers of different value systems and equipping them to live lives around the truth that “God so loved the world.” 
I was listening to the radio yesterday and they were discussing certain phrases that we use in the Church that those outside the Church would not understand.  Things like “washed in the blood” and “carrying your own cross” come to mind.  There are also terms that we use that carry bad connotations like “sin” and “witnessing”.  I wonder sometimes if we even know what these terms mean.  We say things like, “love the sinner, hate the sin” but it’s true that it’s easier to see the sin in others’ lives than in our own.  Jesus meant what He said when He told us to take the plank out of our own eye before taking the speck out of our brother’s eye.  There I go speaking churchese again.  Many of my friends, if they were to read this blog, probably would not understand what I just said.  That’s ok…the message was for my church friends.
For the purpose of this blog, we’ll refer to sin from now on as the things in our lives that keep us from knowing God more. 
As I look at my life and contemplate who I want to be, the biggest question is how affiliated I want to be with the Church.  I believe that God believes in the Church and that He is at work in restoring and redeeming her.  Many times I wonder if God has in mind for me to be part of that redemption plan.  It’s hard for me to love or hate the Church.  The Church helped make me who I am today, and I would say that despite its flaws, it helped raise me well.  I am thankful that I have parents who love and follow Christ, who raised me in the Church, and taught me truth.  However, as an adult it is hard for me to love the Church because I see how superficial so much of what we do really is.  There is no passion; only duty.  I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time feeling duty toward something that does not capture my passion, and I cannot be passionate about something that I do not feel is worth my life.
I believe that sin is anything that gets in the way of a relationship with God.  There are times in my life when I have felt that going to church is a sin, because it has kept me from knowing Christ better…the real Christ.  Right now I am in this awkward stage of growth where I wonder how much I should even share with people, because I know that some of the things I am saying and even moreso could say will anger some Christians I know.  Honestly, I’m not too worried about angering Christians, because if what I am saying and struggling with is upsetting a Christian, then maybe he/she should re-examine how open he/she is to growth as well.  There are two things that I am most concerned about in my life right now:  how well am I following Christ?  And am I representing Him well to those who do not know Him?
What does that look like in my life?  How does the way I spent my time reflect those values?  What do my non-Christian friends think of God because they know me?  These are questions that bug me all the time, and I think they should bug me.  I keep going back to the song “Could You Believe?” by Twila Paris, and it has caused me to ask a lot of questions about who I am and how I reflect my Best Friend.  Here are the lyrics to the song and then I will share what I have been thinking as a result:
He was a friend to sinners
He was a gentle man
Beautiful, humble master plan
His voice could pierce the darkness
Quiet an angry sea
I hear Him saying follow me
I look in your eyes and I tell you these things
But somehow I know that it’s hard to believe
Could you believe if I really was like Him
If I lived all the words that I said
If for a change I would kneel down before you
And serve you instead
Could you believe
He was the Lamb of mercy
Undying hope of men
Waiting for love to come again
He is the light of heaven
Radiant Prince of peace
I Hear him saying, “Follow Me”
I look in your eyes and I tell you these things
But somehow I know that it’s hard to believe
Could you believe if I carried my own cross
If I saw that the children were fed
If for a moment I held my opinion
And quietly led Could you believe
I am meant to be a pure reflection of the truth
So above it all I pray that I will not obscure the view
Could you believe if I stood here transparent
And through me you could see his eyes
Could you believe if you saw right inside me
and there was no disguise
Could you believe if I was really like him
If I lived all the words that I said
If it was clear that I held in my heart
What I know in my head
Could you believe, could you believe
Looking at me, could you believe
Could you believe?
The song is written by Twila to a friend who does not know Christ.  Day after day I wonder what I would say if I could send a message to my friends who do not know Him.  I know that every day I spend with them, I am sending them a message of sorts.  I would be an idiot to think that they were not watching me closely.  Could they believe in Christ if I lived out everything I said?  Even in writing these words, I am making a statement.  In my blog I have said a lot of things and made a lot of big claims.  Do I live those out in my life?
The hard part for Christians is that we are flawed human beings called to reflect a perfect and holy God.  There is no way in this universe that we could do so without messing up.  We all lose focus from time to time.  We all fall.  We all need to give the same forgiveness to ourselves that God calls us to give to other people.  In light of the cross, there may be hope for us yet.  All in all, the work of God does not depend on flawed human beings trying to reflect a perfect and holy God.  The beauty of God is that He masterfully uses the brokenness of failed attempts at perfection and our willingness to allow Him access into our lives to create a much better work than we thought possible.  My cousin Steve says, “God works with humility far better than pride.”
God didn’t just give us a mission before He left to sit on His great throne and watch it all happen.  He is active in the world.  My fear for the Church is that it might become obsolete.  There are times in my life when I have seen God more at work at a bar than in a stained-glass sanctuary.  The thing is, God doesn’t work the way we think He does, no matter how mature and developed we think our perception of Him is.  As the Bible says, God so loves the world, and He is willing to do anything to save it.  He didn’t just give His life on a cross as an experiment.  That action sealed the deal on His love for us.  I don’t want to miss what God is doing in the world because I’m superficially worshipping Him with overused praise songs, disillusioned by a culture that is irrelevant to the world we live in.  At the same time, I don’t want the Church to miss what God is doing in the world, because for maybe no other reason, there’s nothing better than being in the center of God’s will and being a part of His epic plan of redemption.
And I don’t want to get in the way of God’s work in the world.  I sincerely hope that there is nothing in my life that makes those who do not know Him question the validity of Christ’s message.  As Twila said, “I am meant to be a pure reflection of the truth, so above it all I pray that I will not obscure the view.”  Are the things that I know in my head truly held in my heart?
My thoughts on this topic will probably continue in the future.  Please feel free to join in the discussion and add your thoughts as well.  Let’s make this journey together.
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About the author chelseamaxine

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