The things we are sharing on Facebook are negatively affecting how people see Christians. They are damaging our credibility and creating a stumbling block to those who would hear the Gospel from us.
When I was young, DC Talk was my jam. “Free At Last”, “Walls”, “Luv is a Verb”, “Heavenbound”, and more were on constant repeat to the point where, had CDs not come along, I would have worn out the cassette tapes by the time was I was 10. There was just something about rap/hip hop that I loved; my mom likes to say that DC Talk and (early) Michael W Smith (Go West Young Man) helped me learn how to speak.
Have you ever had a choice set before you that you knew, without a shadow of a doubt, was going to change the rest of your life? Can you look back and think of a moment where you chose a direction to take that completely altered your future? I know I can.
I was raised in a Christian Pastor’s home. A Baptist preacher. I grew up going to christian summer camp, vacation bible school, awana, etc. At every one of those big events I responded to the Altar Call and “asked Jesus into my heart” because the day after the last time I had gone forward, I felt liket it “didn’t count”. The Camp High was gone and I couldn’t understand why I didn’t feel like a Christian. I must have gone through those motions 8 or 9 times.
Brace yourselves. It’s time to talk about the media.
I’m not talking about what you should and shouldn’t watch. I’m not talking about media addiction (which is a fun topic actually – I’ll have to tackle that sometime). I’m talking about how Christians are portrayed in the media.
Because we have to face facts: we’re kinda the running joke.
The Bible is oftentimes hard to understand. As modern day readers we have to take into account our own bias and the original intended audience. If you want to get technical, I took a class in 2010 at Multnomah called “Advanced Bible Study Methods” which gave a long list of requirements on how to study scripture.
- Identify the TYPE of literature
- Identify the GENRE of literature
- Determine the major DIVISIONS in the passage
- Subdivide those into UNITS
- Identify the FORMS of literature
- Identify REPETITIONS of phrases and words
- Identify KEY WORDS
- Decide on the meaning of KEY WORDS
- Identify and decide the meaning of FIGURES OF SPEECH
- Note CONNECTING WORDS
- Determine how the SENTENCES are RELATED to each other
- Identify RELATIONSHIPS between UNITS
- Revise subdivision and division TITLES
- Determine how the major DIVISIONS RELATE to one another
- Decide upon the MAIN IDEA of the entire book or passage
- Decide upon the PURPOSE of the entire book or passage
Scripture is difficult to get a handle on! Some Godly men and women spend their entire life studying scripture and still come to have better understanding later in life; the key, I think, is to not force our own understanding onto scripture and misinterpret what is there.
I remember a specific time during my freshman year in Bible College when, after a class, I went to talk to a professor. I was really having a hard time understanding why interpreting scripture in a way that was not originally intended was ALWAYS wrong. The verse in question was Revelation 3:20 in which Jesus says
“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.”
I had heard this used many, many times as a Gospel Message: Jesus was standing at the door to sinners hearts and was knocking and they only needed to let him into their lives. But if you read the context (surrounding passages) that message was not what was being communicated! Jesus was talking to a church that was “lukewarm” and had lost its zeal for the Him: his urging that he was at the door knocking was directed at CHRISTIANS not non-Christians. I went to my professor and asked why it was such a bad thing to use the passage as a “come-to-Jesus” verse and he responded by asking where I would draw the line in repurposing scripture – God’s Word was not for me to fit into my own box but to study and learn more about him – even if I was interpreting scripture in a “good” way, it was still wrong.
So let me fix what I originally said: the Bible is oftentimes hard to understand correctly. It’s actually very easy to come to a simple understanding of scripture but that doesn’t mean it is right.
I say this as much to myself as to you, my friends: never stop reading and studying scripture. Never stop asking God for understanding and clarity. I believe I have a more clear understanding of Revelation 3:20 than I did a few years ago but that doesn’t mean I’m done looking at it and trying to discern God’s Word more fully.
To take inspiration from a famous quote by John G Mitchell, co-founder of Multnomah University: Read your Bibles, folks!
“Hi, I’m an Apple.”
Almost everyone remembers those “Apple vs PC” commercials from a couple years ago. They featured a cool, hip, young guy as an Apple computer and an uptight, all-business, old guy as the PC. When I made the switch to Apple back in 2007, I thought of myself as that image of a Mac user.
Everything else took a back seat.
A few years ago, a friend at church said off-handedly that when he thought of me he thought of an Apple fanboy who knew a lot about computers. This gnawed at me because, moments earlier, we had been discussing our identity in Christ. What I was hoping he would say was “church leader” or “Christ-follower”; at the very least, “Christian” had to make an appearance in that description, right? It was at that moment that I realized that my outward expression of faith had become clouded somehow – it wasn’t on purpose by any means but I was not as clear with what I believed as I had originally thought. I had proudly claimed to be a “geek” for awhile but it seemed that that particular title had supplanted “Christian” in my friends eyes.
Changing gears: I have talked to many Christians over the years who are homosexual and the most common title those individuals placed on themselves is that of a “Gay Christian”. Every theological idea or cultural opinion is colored by their sexual orientation and place in society; their identity did not seem to be found in Christ but in what they decided was truly important. I believe it says a lot about your priorities when you define yourself as a “______ Christian” (or “Christian ______”). Substitute anything in there and it still applies: feminist, vegan, athlete, filmmaker, musician, etc.
Let me be clear: this post is not meant to be about the morality or scriptural support/condemnation of homosexuality. I’m merely using this as an example as I feel it will be understood by the broadest number of readers. If you are interested in that topic, I suggest checking out the Christian Ethics book I mentioned in a previous post.
The title of “Gay Christian” has a tremendous amount of cultural baggage; many who practice homosexuality define themselves by that one aspect of their lives – the problem with defining yourself like that is that if you have already found what defines you – be it sports, tech, entertainment, gender, or sexual orientation – is there room for anything else? It doesn’t seem like it.
I often say I’m a geek; it describes the social practices that I most often partake in (gaming, movies, comics, legos, etc). However, I am more aware now than I was a few years ago that it is incredibly easy to lose focus and let our other pursuits overtake what should be #1. No matter where you are in life, remember this one truth: There is nothing as important as Jesus.
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” – Colossians 3:1-3
So, just to clear up any misconceptions, let me redefine myself for you: I am a Christian; a “little-Christ” who has made a commitment to follow Jesus, the son of God and Savior of the world, and am striving everyday to serve him with my life. I love my wife and I like technology, movies, and disc golf but none of those things define me in as big a way as being a Christian.
What are you defined by?
“I’m not the shoes I wear; I’m not the clothes I buy; I’m not I house I live in; I’m not the car I drive. I’m not the job I work; You can’t define my worth by nothing on God’s green earth; My identity is found in Christ.” – Lecrae
My roommate from freshman year at Multnomah introduced me to Caedmon’s Call and I’ve been hooked ever since. I love this song because it so perfectly describes how our faith tends to not stay at the same level all the time but, thankfully, grace does not change.
– – – –
Sometimes I believe all the lies
So I can do the things I should despise
And every day I am swayed
By whatever is on my mind
I hear it all depends on my faith
So I’m feeling precarious
The only problem I have with these mysteries
Is they’re so mysterious
And like a consumer I’ve been thinking
If I could just get a bit more
More than my 15 minutes of faith
Then I’d be secure
My faith is like shifting sand
Changed by every wave
My faith is like shifting sand
So I stand on grace
I’ve begged you for some proof
For my Thomas Eyes to see
A slithering staff, a leprous hand
And lions resting lazily
A glimpse of your back-side glory
And this soaked altar going ablaze
But you know I’ve seen so much
I explained it away
Waters rose as my doubts reigned
My sand-castle faith, it slipped away
Found myself standing on your grace
It’d been there all the time