The Olympics and Christianity
Everyone loves an inspiration. We all root for the come back, the success of the disadvantaged and the victory of the one who beat the odds. I love it too! That's why I adore the whole comic book genre of movies so popular these days. I watched with anticipation last night as Superman came back to avenge and make right all that had gone wrong in the world. He was alone, an outsider striving to overcome adversity. And he did. All was right with the world and my heart soared watching the final scene. I read articles and books chronicling the success of the underprivileged and disenfranchised and I marvel at their fortitude and perseverance.
But, I have a confession. Anymore, I am less and less attracted to stories that highlight a successful person (politician, athlete, academic, etc) by pointing to their Christianity. It's not that I'm not inspired by their stories, and it's not that I am envious of their success (although, even in that comment I understand my own heart's unending ability to deceive myself into believing I'm not envious). I would just like to enjoy a good story without having to make it about religion...any religion. Because generally speaking, that's what we end up hearing. It becomes not so much about Jesus and what he has done, but more about the religion of Christianity and what the person has accomplished.
Jesus Juke-ing and Christian-izing
You've probably heard of the Jesus-juke. If not you can read about here. Jon Acuff describes in detail what happens when someone tries to make joke filled conversation something serious and holy. In a similar way, I think we do this in a lot of other areas. We tend to Christian-ize everything, making it all about the religion. So we peer intently into the face of athletics, academia, and culture - looking for the one evidence of God. The problem is we're too close. We're looking too hard. If we step back, we'd find that God is not just in it, he created it. He is all over it (and over it all) and, by the way, does not really need our help pointing it out! (Please don't get me wrong - I admire Tebow and the many who have stood for their faith in the face of an unbelieving world.)
Was Helen Keller Christian?
This may be a weak analogy, but I thought about Helen Keller. Although we know her story, could any of us recount her knowledge of God or her reliance on her faith?
Do we know anything about her Christianity?
I honestly could not tell you. I've read about her and I can tell you all about her adversity and struggle, her hard work and perseverance, her overcoming her disabilities and the inspiration she was to me as a child growing up, but her faith or lack thereof is not something I remember. And, that's o.k.
I'm Just Like You
Constantly seeking to Christian-ize everything in our culture leaves a bad impression. What you say?!? How can that be? It leaves a bad impression because it tends to send a message that Christians are different from everyone else (and I don't mean in a good way). The message is this: "I am a Christian, I have overcome because I'm a Christian (which leaves out all those who have overcome despite not being a Christian), and not only do I feel better about myself, but I pity your low estate. Frankly, the world has heard enough about how much better Christians are doing compared to them. The truth is, none of us are getting it done.
What is the message the world needs to hear more than that?
"I'm just like you".
"I struggle the same way you do. I have fears and doubts just like you."
"I am in the midst of struggling with temptation and sin just like you are."
"My marriage is falling apart, just like yours.
"My child is going off the deep end, just like yours."
"My finances are a mess and I'm struggling to pay my rent, just like you."
If you are in Christ, you know your hope comes from outside of yourself in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The reason this is such good news is because we know we're in a heap of trouble. We need daily doses of the gospel to remind us we are all sinners in need of a Savior. The world does not need to hear another "I'm successful because of my Christianity" story. The world needs to hear "I'm messed up, I'm just like you, and even though I'm a Christian , I still struggle just like you do. I have a Hope that comes from outside of myself and because my hope has nothing to do with me I don't count myself better than you, and I don't look down on you. Knowing this helps us live life together right where we are...
Let the games begin!