You know, for as much as I’d like to believe I am a sympathetic and/or empathetic person, I’ve come to realize that my limited role in many of these situations is much more humbling. I imagine many Christians feel somewhat similar. What do I mean by that? Very simply… I mask much of my indifference toward the plight, struggles, heartaches, and fears of others with sympathetic notions of concern. I lament over the state of our humanity and culture, but rarely see myself in the trenches of the fight. It’s quite the humbling indictment to my character, but is an ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY realization for engagement to be possible with any shred of integrity. I hear statements all the time with which I internally agree. I even have these thoughts in my own mind.
“My heart breaks for them!”
“They just need Christ so badly!”
“What they’re going through is so difficult!”
I won’t sit here in front of my computer and disagree with any one of them. In fact, to a large extent, the statements themselves are true. It’s about this same time, though, I have to step back and address the tragedy of my own indifference beyond the sentiment. It’s a worthwhile exercise and reflection; however, it alone does not address the deeper, more imminent need of GRACE. For only by grace do we experience a change of heart, that changes perspective, that changes our actions. Any other starting point leads to emptiness, exhaustion, and discontentment.
A few months back, I wrote an Apology post. I still feel it was/is a necessary expression of the Christian’s current state of affairs, especially in America. I find it fascinating that my typical posts addressing the intellectual facets of Christianity and their correspondence to reality go largely without further dialogue… especially considering those are what most non-Christians claim as the major obstacles to belief. But… write one self-deprecating and highly opinionated post that basically throws Christians under the proverbial bus of our own bias, and the feedback and interaction comes pouring in. Let’s be honest, everyone loves acknowledging how hypocritical Christians tend to be these days. In many ways, I think my fellow Christians feel as though the best way to get others on our side is to show just how depraved we truly have become. And sadly, us Christians now feel it’s more appropriate to apologize for our God and our actions than to speak of His truth and demonstrate His love.
Considering all of this… acknowledging our personal shortcomings in the realm of following Christ is not and should not be an apology or argument against the Truth of the Gospel or the Truth of Jesus Christ, on whom Christianity hinges. It’s true that we (I) can be judgmental. It’s true that we (I) can be indifferent and apathetic to others. Far from being a deterrent to faith in Christ… these moral failures are actually one of the most encouraging realities of Christianity.
Imagine if Christ held His followers to the lowest common denominator standard by which we all act. Imagine if His sentiments were “What’s good for the goose…” Imagine if the Sermon on the Mount were permeated with messages catering to the indifferent hearts and minds of that day.
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’But I tell you that anyone only those who is angry with a brother or sister actually get caught will be subject to judgment…”
Matthew 5:21-22 (emphasis mine)
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, also hate your neighbors who offend you love your enemies and pray
seek revenge for those who persecute you…”
Matthew 5:43-44 (emphasis mine)
The absurdity of this notion rears its ugly head immediately. We rightly recognize the nobility of the virtues presented by Jesus. What we typically gloss over is the impossibility for any person (Christian or not) to meet the standard He set. So why are the Christian’s shortcomings so encouraging? Because every person recognizes the truth of these virtues, and every person recognizes their failure to meet the perfect standard of these virtues. In short… we ALL fall short. And we all subconsciously recognize it! We’re all in the same jacked up, imperfect boat. Assenting to this fact drives us DIRECTLY into the heart of the Gospel message.
Therefore, I will not (and neither should my fellow Christians) apologize for espousing a truth we all recognize and affirm in our daily lives… especially considering how far off the mark we all end up. Our failings are a perfect example of the necessary and freely available forgiveness found in Jesus’ sacrifice. For those in Him, we are free to pursue His perfect standard, abounding in grace.
So, two things…
- I have much to do. Much more to improve upon. Much more open-hearted empathy to strive for. Much more accountability to seek for my own life. There is no doubt about that. Not because it results in my salvation, but because there is a Holy God who recognizes my inadequacy, but loves me regardless.
- My shortcomings… however egregious… are not an indictment against the truth of Christ. Do not neglect the truth you already affirm. Are you willing to consider Christ as who He believed Himself to be?
This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
There is an awesome and infinitely fulfilling promise that is yours, and freely offered. It turns apathy into empathy, and shifts perspective from inward gratification to outward affection… for Glory beyond your understanding in this life.