This is from Sept 14, 2011. I feel this way still sometimes when I am asked where the group feeding our houseless community is from. I don’t want them to think we feed because of guilt or obligation as Christians, but we do it because we want our friends to have food! It also now includes a few more words and a picture!
I have something to confess.
Sometimes I am scared to be open when talking to people.
When people ask what I was doing in Asia, I hesitate. When they ask what I do in my free time, what books I read, what podcasts dominate my library, I hesitate.
I take that back. When non Christians or people I assume are not evangelical Christians ask, I hesitate. I don’t want to be one of “those Christians”. You know the one that defines the word in your head. I can’t just come out and say… I go to church groups… I listen to sermons… I was a Christian missionary.
“Christian” is one of those words that people harbor feelings, memories and maybe images with. And missionary, even more so. We all do it. Think of what is associated when I say “beggar” or “low-rider” or “environmentalist” “hippie” “redneck” “obese”. We all have images, memories and maybe even smells associated with some people.
These are the things I think of when someone tells me that they are Christian…
Free Breakfast, Bad signs, VBS, Legalism, Hypocrisy, Justified killing, judgment, Jerry Falwell, Mark Driscoll, Bill Bright
When I just Googled “Christian” the first image was a tacky cross clip art collection and the first link was sponsored by a dating site.
When in fact I should think….
Jesus, freedom, redeemed, family, “I am Loved”
Last year, I was hanging out with a coworker and her friends. She left for some food ordering and I was left at the table with a guy I barely know. He is feeling me out…what do you do?…where are you from?… ”What’s your story?” is basically what he’s asking.
He mentioned going to Korea to teach soon. I got excited and mentioned I have thought about going back to Asia as well.
“Back?” He asks.
Yeah, I lived in Malaysia for 2 and half years.
Oh, what did you do there?
<Pause> Well, I worked with local churches and sat on the beach a lot. Ha…ha…ha…h…a
Oh cool. So you are Christian?
<Pause> Yeah, but not one of those…
Ha-ha, yeah I dig that. I was raised Christian…kind of
He went on to tell me about his time in the Catholic church, struggles with Mary versus Jesus, the Pope, politics, and his tilt towards Eastern religions currently. He also said he appreciated people with personal faith. One point!
Now I know this might upset some readers but I told him that’s awesome. I wasn’t going to get all Jesus freaky on him. I’d done that in the past with others and he had already experienced that from others. I also let him know I didn’t believe I knew him well enough to judge and challenge him. He knew his mistakes and gifts better than I do. He had read the Bible, and it is doubtful as we ate pizza and beer he was going to have a supernatural heart change that necessitated me preaching to him. Partially I was not about to tell a man about sin, when I was most likely going to be drinking the rest of the night and might start showing him more about my sin than God’s redemption.
Mostly, I wanted to be associated with the term Christian in a positive way. I want to be the salty, bright light in people’s lives that they know will listen and help if there is a struggle in their or another’s life. I want them to think of me instead of the pamphlet throwing, condemnation dispensing street preacher when they think of the term Christian. Think of me- The broken, messed up, sinful, just trying to get through today and tomorrow but BLESSED beyond all comprehension Christ seeker I am. And maybe then when someone is feeling like they need a change i.e. are ready to change their life, they won’t be afraid to ask a Christian friend for help. In that moment, a lost soul is saved but until then I am not the one to judge who is lost and who isn’t. I solidly believe in those moments I am simply a conduit God is acting through who is just as in need of a savior as everyone else in that bar/ park/ office/ mall/ library. And that is how I define Christian while telling people I am a follower of the Jesus Way.
What do you associate with the term Christian? Is it positive or negative? Am I off base on this? Please let me know.