Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Not Above Us or Below Us, But Through Us

Gandhi is quoted as once saying, "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

Even though he died long before I was born, and certainly before I became a Christian, I can't help but feel personally injured by this statement. But I ask myself, "who am I to be mad at?" Gandhi? No, not him. He spoke the words, true, but he merely gave commentary on the outsiders' point of view of the Christian religion during that time. No, the blame for such a sentiment belongs to the Christians representing the church, and by name, represented Christ. 

Because I feel bad about such an opinion of the Christian religion, I have to ask myself, "Am I doing anything to change it?" 

This question is one that every Christian should ask themselves. This should not be an "ask yourself once in a lifetime" type question, but a daily soul-searching. The problem is that sometimes we get so caught up in the game of being better than a group of people that we feel are inferior to us. Or perhaps we strive too hard to impress another group of people, hoping they will accept us. We have this awful habit of comparing ourselves to others and coming to one of two conclusions; that we are either better than they are, or that we need to be better so we can impress them. 

However, our generation of Christians are not alone in such a mindset. Consider what the Apostle Paul said about the Apostle Peter in Galatians 2:11, "But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed." What was Paul talking about when he said that Peter was to be blamed? In the following verse, Paul explains his criticism of Peter saying, "For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision." Paul called Peter out on his treatment toward the Gentiles, treating them like "Second-Class-Christians" (as if there were such a thing) in certain company. Paul reminded Peter that Jesus Himself ate with Gentiles, and more importantly, that Peter was no longer justified by the old law, but through Christ, whom the Gentiles were also justified (vs 14-16). Peter got wrapped up in keeping up appearances with certain others who were sent to Antioch by James that he essentially turned his nose up to those Gentiles whom he previously had fellowship with. One night at dinner Peter is seen laughing and joking with his fellow workers, both Jew and Gentile, and the next night his seat is found empty.  

However, there is application in this lesson for todays Christian. I, myself, am so often guilty of comparing myself to others and deciding that I am either better than they are, or (subconsciously) deciding they are better than me somehow. Or maybe I try to impress them. But now here I am, at this moment finding myself in an uncomfortable place, asking myself, "how much more work could I get done for the Lord if I were to adopt a neutral self image?" A self image that is truly grounded in the belief that I am no better or no worse than anyone else. How much more affective could I be? It is only when I decide to let go of the temptation to be better than someone that I can put myself into their shoes and find out what they truly need -without any preconceived notionsand know how to be a better minister to them.

I cannot affectively minister to those whom I can best reach if I am constantly trying to be someone else. It is a simple fact that I can reach people that you cannot, and visa-versa. If I am too busy trying to write like, preach like, or act like 'Joe Somebody', then the people most deeply affected by the true me are left without. Psalm 139:13 says, "For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb." God created me to be me, and you to be you. Why would we want to change His creation?

Is this what Gandhi was talking about when he said our Christians were so unlike our Christ? I honestly can't answer that. What I can say is that when we have a distorted internal image of ourselves, it causes a distorted external image of other people's true worth. If we are to see every person not as above or below us, but as the precious soul that God wants to save through us, it must first start with how we see ourselves. To remove all misconceptions should be the first step in fulfilling the commandment of '...making disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19).

As for me, I intend to change my self-image. One day and one soul at a time.

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