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“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ” (Mahatma Gandhi).
I’ve seen this quote from time to time, maybe you’ve seen it too. If I’m being honest, it annoyed me at first. My (sinful) knee-jerk reaction was defensiveness:
Really? I mean, we’re just humans. Of course we’re not like Christ all the time.
The problem with that defense is that we, as Christians, are called to be like Christ (1 John 2:6, 1 Peter 2:21, Ephesians 5:1-2, John 13:13-17).
But lately I’ve been thinking that many of us, as Christians, may not be acting very Christ-like. Maybe we’ve lost our way. Maybe Gandhi has a point. Maybe others can see what we can’t.
Maybe we’re so busy following our “rules” about what to do and what not to do (wear this, read that, don’t say that, don’t drink that), too busy trying to be “good Christians” and making sure that others are doing the same, that we’re acting less like Jesus and more like Pharisees.
If you think about it for a moment, when you hear the word Christian, what kind of person do you picture?
Someone who goes to church on Sundays? Maybe someone who dresses conservatively or listens to worship music on the radio? Someone who will pat you on the shoulder and say “I’ll pray for you” when you’re going through a tough time?
Now think about what Jesus was like. Did He care what people wore? Did He only hang out with the religious leaders? Was He a rule follower? Did He say He’d pray for those in need?
Not the Jesus I know. The Jesus I know allowed His disciples to pick grain on the Sabbath because they were hungry. He healed a man’s hand on the Sabbath, too. He didn’t wear the best clothes. He rode into town on a donkey. He touched lepers. He hung out with thieves and tax collectors. He loved adulterers and prostitutes. He fed the hungry. He healed the sick. He saved lives.
He cared more about the people around Him than His own reputation or the reputations of others.
Do you know who He rebuked with the strongest of words?
Was it the sinful woman who washed His feet with her tears? Nope, He forgave her and defended her against the judgment of others (Luke 7:36-50).
Was it the adulteress who was about to be stoned to death? No, He defended and forgave her too (John 8:1-11).
How about Matthew? A sinful, thieving, tax collector. Surely Jesus had some strong words for Him. No, He forgave Matthew and made him a disciple (Matthew 9:9-13).
Jesus saved His strongest rebukes for the Pharisees. Those who maintained the letter of the law without caring about the actual, hurting, struggling people around them.
That is incredibly convicting for me.
How often have I been that Christian?
How often have you?
And, the more I really examine my heart, I feel like I can see the reality for what it is:
I am unlike Christ more often than I am like Christ.
And that, my fellow Christians, is a problem.
And it’s time for a change.
If we have the audacity to call ourselves Christ-followers, then we should be following Christ.
We have to start being real about our struggles and allowing others to be real with us, believers and unbelievers alike.
No more acting perfect on the outside while we hide our hard hearts on the inside.
We need to be willing to live real life with people, however messy or difficult it may be.
No more saying, “I’ll pray for you” while refusing to actually lift a hand to help.
It’s time to stop caring whether someone looks like a Christian and get to know their hearts as Jesus does.
Let’s stop being afraid to get dirty, stop being afraid of the muck and mire in each other’s lives, and start being authentic with one another.
It’s time to stop acting like being a Christian somehow makes us above others.
The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).
Being a follower of Christ makes you a servant of God and, therefore, a servant of others.
When people see us they should be able to identify us by our Christ-like qualities and how we love one another (John 13:35).
We need to keep this constantly in our hearts and minds as we interact with others on Jesus’ behalf. Responding as Jesus would, with grace and love. Remembering that we are talking to people who have feelings. People whom we should be reaching for the Kingdom of God, not turning away with our Pharisee-like behavior. We need to stand firm in the Word of God while loving others in spite of their sin and in spite of our sin.
It’s time to live out an authentic faith, It’s time to stop worrying so much about what other Christians think of us, stop worrying about being “good Christians,” and start living like Jesus.
It’s time to start becoming more like Christ.