Jesus Isn't Like That! Why I am Still a Christian
In this podcast, I confess how incredibly inappropriate I am at church and how it has led to people being really open with me about their struggles. Nothing makes me doubt my faith more than the behaviors of people who call themselves Christians and the over all church culture in America. Yet, despite all of the things I have seen and the hurt I have personally experienced, I think Jesus is really awesome because I know that the New Testament paints a different picture of him.
Welcome to the relaunch of my podcast. I’m honored that you are listening.
And guys, I just gotta be straight up with you: I’m really weird, especially when it comes to church. See, I can’t stand fakeness and uptightness. When I’m around it, something trips in my brain and it flood with inappropriateness and offensive comments...which I truly try to filter.
But, OH MY GOODNESS, me trying to do mom’s groups was the WORST!
Because as a young mom, I struggled a lot with anxiety and depression and I was extremely insecure. Every time I went to a mom’s group, it felt like it was a gathering of with-it mom’s sitting around humble bragging and complaining about things that weren’t actually problems.
There was this one group I tried out. It was a church group that had invited the community in. So it was half church ladies and half, well not church ladies... I really wanted make some mom friends, but as I sat there listening to the church mom’s share all their cute stories, that thing in my brain tripped. Then a woman shared a story that went like this: “The other day, little Timmy threw suuuuch a temper tantrum. I was trying to hurry out the door and he threw off all of his clothes and went running down the hall screaming about how he didn’t want to go to school. Then he fell on the floor and started flailing around and hitting his head. I was late to my appointment at the spa and I was so afraid Jeanine wasn’t going to be able to fit in my manicure, pedicure and massage. It was baaad.”
And I don’t know where this came from, but I immediately said, “I can totally relate to that….
See, the other day, I didn’t want to go to work. And there really is something completely freeing about stripping off all of your clothes and running around naked and yelling. The flailing is fun too but I don’t recommend hitting your head on the floor because I had such a headache at work that day.”
I seriously don’t know where that came from. I didn’t even have a job. But half of the women were laughing hysterically and the church ladies were like, “Uhmmm….we don’t know what to do with that.”
And the crazy thing is that afterwards, all these moms were reaching out to me to share stories of stuff that they struggled with.
And y’all, I have a ton of these stories that I should probably repent for. I like to think it comes from a noble place. And it’s totally reinforced by people opening up to me and sharing their stories. I know that it’s heavily influenced by me having ADD, being easily amused, easily bored, and hating fakeness. But I gotta admit, a lot of times, I’m just an obnoxious jerk who enjoys messing with people. I’m serious. Jesus had done a lot of work on me. I’m not a good person on my own.
And that’s not even my worst story. My worst story...well, not my most inappropriate story, but the story where I shocked the most people was at a women’s conference, which is always a questionable thing for me to go to. In my defense, I was trying not to share and they asked, so it’s pretty much their fault.
At this conference, they had us break up into small groups so we could share.
Well, I’m sitting in this room with 20 Christian women that I don’t know. This super shiny woman (oh and super shiny is what I call people who are so put together, and with it that they seem to glow, like maybe it’s their halo or something. I just always want to mess up their hair, y’know) So anyway, this super shiny woman comes in and says she want us all to share about a time when we were hurt by a Christian. No one said anything. They all just looked at her. I was thinking, for sure I was NOT going to open up that can of worms.
Then the shiny lady made the fateful decision of asking me, “Cindy, you haven’t shared anything. Do you have a time when you’ve been disappointed or hurt by someone who called themselves a Christian?”
Well...I would call my response, verbal vomit, because I just spewed out a whole bunch of stuff I’d been holding inside and it was not pretty. I started with abuse I had experienced as a kid, continued to talk about shunning, the shame culture of the purity movement, racism towards my ESL students, and being told that struggling with mental illness was a sin.
And...it was bad y’all. I mean, after my verbal vomit, there was this awkward silence where women were looking at the floor, the ceiling, each other, and the shiny lady. No one was looking at me and everyone was hoping for something to relieve the awkwardness.
Finally, the shiny lady said, “How are you still a Christian?”
I immediately replied. “Because I KNOW that none of that is what Jesus is like.”
And if you think about it, it’s funny, or sad, I’m going to go with funny because I like funny. It’s funny that, that was her question. I mean we were at a retreat where we were going to be talking about church hurt. When I laid out an array of thirty years of seeing Christians being jerks, she didn’t know what to say. I think she was prepared to give a defense of Christianity based on the behaviors of other Christians.
But when we are faced with the behaviors of so many Christians behaving badly, I think it leaves us all asking that question. Why is anyone a Christian when so many of them act so badly?
Nothing makes me doubt my faith more than the behavior of other people who call themselves Christians and the overall American church culture. It’s not just the things I’ve personally experienced, it’s also the things people like you tell me.
I know that some of you have been deeply hurt by people who call themselves Christians. Some of you have been abused by church people. Some of you have been shamed by the culture of church people. Some of you have been absolutely hated by church culture because of your sexual or gender identity. Others of you have put up with disrespect your entire life because you were taught to live up to an unattainable standard. Some of you have always felt like second class citizens in God’s kingdom simply because of your gender.
And the list of atrocities being done in the name of religion goes on and on. As you consider your own disappointments, those of people around you, and the abuses we’ve all heard about in the news, we all have to wonder, “Why are any of us still Christians?” “How do you know that’s not how Jesus acted when it sure seems to be the way his followers act?”
And here’s the deal, y’all. I know that all the hurt I’ve experienced from church people and the atrocities that I’ve heard about, witnessed, and read about, I KNOW that Jesus wasn’t like that because I read the Bible and I know what Jesus did.
I know that Jesus empowered women. I know that he stood for justice. I know that he constantly preached against hypocrisy. He taught us to examine our own hearts and to actually become better people. He freed people from shame. He forgave people and empowered them to overcome their guilt. He dismantled every religious belief that said some people were better than others. Even the extra-biblical accounts of Jesus affirm that Jesus was all about empowering people. We may not all agree on every single doctrinal issue, but even the most cynical doubter can see that the abuses I’ve outlined so far, do not align with what Jesus did and taught.
Towards the end of Jesus’ ministry, an expert in Mosaic Law asked Jesus what the most important commandment was. In other words, “what is the gist of what we need to do to be in God’s kingdom?”
Jesus answered: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it. Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Mt. 22:37-40
Jesus basically said, it’s all about loving God and loving other people.
Then Jesus sacrificed himself and somehow became an offering for us so that we could have power to pursue the immeasurable love that Jesus demonstrated.
In Ephesians 3:17-18, Paul gives us an incredibly powerful description of what Jesus’ love is like. A description which very clearly separates him from the church abuse I have been talking about.
In these verses, Paul says, “ I pray that you, being rooted and established in love may have power together with all of the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.
And get this! Paul was writing to people who were already believers and he prayed that they would have power from God to understand just how completely, unbelievably, amazing Jesus’ love is. He described it as surpassing all knowledge. Jesus’ love is a love that we can learn to live in, grow in our knowledge of, and be completely changed by, but we can never fully comprehend it. I’m not kidding, or trying to sound like I’m shiny, but I’ve been reading the bible since I was a kid and there are still times that I just sit and go “WOW! This is just crazy-awesome.”
So, yeah. I KNOW that none of those things I talked about earlier represent Jesus, because I know what he did and I know a little bit of his love that surpasses knowledge.
It is knowing that none of that abuse represents Jesus that gives me hope and makes me still want to follow him.
When we know what he did, we see a love worth following and pursuing. When we think about all the abuse in church culture, the answer isn’t in finding better Christians or focusing on the good ones, it is in looking at what Jesus demonstrated. Jesus wouldn’t have been worried about how to maintain our broken system, he spent his time empowering victims and demonstrating how much God absolutely loves them.
Can you imagine how differently people would view Christianity if we were known for being like Jesus? If we were known for constantly growing in our love of God and others? I mean how cool would it be to be part of a Christian community that had the reputation of “They really love God and people over there at that church”?
We can form those kinds of communities. We can grow together with other believers and live in a transformational love that rises above the current church culture and shows the world that Jesus is not like any of that abuse we have seen.
It begins with knowing him and knowing him begins with reading his story.
In my next few podcasts, I’m going to be sharing with you some of my insights on how I read the Bible. But for right now, I hope you are excited about the why. I hope you are beginning to imagine what it would look like if we all took our eyes off of the mess of American church culture and began to look at what Jesus did. I hope you want to know what he’s like.
My challenge for you is to go start reading the book of Luke and look for the love that Jesus demonstrated in every story. Don’t obsess on some deep theology, just ask “How does this story demonstrate love?” Then spend some time thinking about how freaking amazing that is! God in flesh walking around demonstrating love to people!
If you do this, please share with me what you find! I love hearing from you!
All my contact info is on my website: www.rumandcolaforthesoul.com
You will also find a transcript of this podcast there.
Also, I’m starting a private online community for people who are recovering from church hurt and who want to grow in Jesus love. IF you are interested, send me your email address and I will send you an invitation.
Thanks for listening.
I hope your soul has been energized and calmed, like it just had some rum and cola!