- “I know what Dutch people are like”
- “I know what left-handed people are like”
- “I know what red-haired people are like”
- “I know what people from Arkansas are like”
- “I know what French people are like”
- “I know what lawyers are like”
- “I know what landlords are like”
No, you don’t; you know a few, not all.
- “I know what Christians are like”
No, you don’t; you know a few, not all.
We are a community of the broken. We are fallen. We are flawed. So naturally you are going to see us at our worst as well as sometimes at our best. You’re going to see us not living up to the standard we should. You’re going to see us when we’re “moving toward the cross” and when we’re “moving away from the cross.”
Ideally, we are people of love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness… Ideally, we are people of grace. Ideally, we reflect the character of the Christ we follow. That’s what we call “positional truth.” In terms of “practical truth,” we miss the mark, often by kilometers; by miles. Just as suddenly, we sometimes get it right.
But we’re also not all the same. We have good days and bad days. We have people among us who are a real embarrassment to us, and people who truly model the life of Jesus in everything they do.
We are a community of faith. You don’t have to be “pure” to get in. You don’t have to “clean up real good” to join. It’s a “come as you are” party. And people do.
There’s no status, no seniority, no gender, no ethnicity; nobody can claim “spiritual dominance,” or “spiritual oneupsmanship” over any of the others. It’s as long and wide and deep as any cross-section of the broader society.
In fact, there’s no generic portrait of a Christ-follower that captures us all. There’s no homogeneity. There’s no ‘Mecca’ to which we must travel. No rites or rituals in which we must participate. No prescribed term of missions service we must all complete. No earthly head who speaks for all of us. No secret mantra we all recite.
There is respect for elders, yet sometimes “a little child will lead them,” and truths are spoken “out of the mouths of babes.” Younger brothers — even youngest brothers — are sometimes served by older brothers. Newcomers can make as viable a contribution as seasoned veterans. The next generation is free to reinvent the wheel. The generation after that is free to rediscover the ancient practices and classic disciplines.
It’s an upsidedown kingdom. An insideout kingdom. It’s a family. It’s “two or three gathered together” in a living room Bible study; it’s a multitude of people on a grassy hillside listening to a summer conference speaker. It’s elegant cathedrals and small country chapels. It’s quietness and solitude. It’s the making of a joyful noise with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.
There’s the doctrine — what is believed. There’s the ethics — how that belief is lived out. There’s the experience — what happens to us when we believe the orthodoxy and live out the orthopraxy. There’s the ‘macro,’ big picture version of Christ-following; and there are people hung up on the ‘micro’ issues, or a number of individual ‘micros.’
There are those who have locked in for life. There are those who will leave and then return. There are those who will leave. There are those who will look in, but as one looking through a window from the outside.
Some will give tirelessly to this — in every waking hour. Some attend services at Christmas and Easter. Some give substantial parts of their income. Some give the minimum required to stay on a membership list. Some grew up with this faith. Others came as adults. Some nurture their children in their beliefs. Others feel their kids need to choose, to ‘take ownership’ of their concepts about God.
Personalities are factored in: While one person may be demonstrative about their faith, another might be reticent about their personal beliefs. Whereas one person might be given to an emotional, relational kind of worship; another might prefer a formal liturgy, a quiet, controlled worship environment.
…do you still think you know what Christians are like?
I’m part of this, and I don’t. I just know that I’ve joined myself to a company of people who are trying to live a new life in a new way; a group of people who I otherwise would have nothing in common with.
Now, we have everything in common.