For a long time, I attended a church that was associated with a relatively unpopular tradition of legalism and condemnation. Every time someone would ask me where I went to church, I would tell them, quickly following that statement up with, “but it’s not one of those type of churches,” and a self-aware look, so they knew that I knew my tradition was a little crazy.
Even though I’m no longer a part of that tradition, I’ve found I can’t drop the “not-one-of-those” disclaimer when people ask me where I go to church or what I believe, as, believe it or not, a great majority of Christian tradition has a flawed, unpopular tradition of legalism and condemnation.
In the comments of my last post, t4toby made a statement that intrigued me. He said, “I am not a Christian, per se…” (and then made a great point about the tension being a human, not just a Christian, condition). While I’m unsure what toby meant by his “per se,” I think that I could easily say the same thing.
Because, frankly, I’m a little embarrassed to be a Christian.
I’m not embarrassed of Jesus. He’s the single most amazing individual who has ever walked this planet and his blueprint for how people should live is unmatched. Seriously. If you can read chapters 5-7 in Matthew as a guide for life, rather than a new law we have to somehow live up to, the wisdom and freedom found in those words is amazing.
I’m not embarrassed of how following Jesus looks to the world. Paul said this well: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last…” (Rom. 1:16-17) Sure, the idea of a crucified savior is “foolish” (1 Cor. 1:25), but I trust it to be true.
I’m not embarrassed to tell people about Jesus. Again, I sincerely believe that if people lived as Jesus taught, the world as we know it would completely change. (Shoot, if just Christians lived as Jesus taught, imagine what could happen!) Why wouldn’t I want to share that message with people?
But, I am embarrassed by the mental images conjured up by some individuals when they hear the word “Christian,” whether these images are based on experience or simply perception.
It’s a shame that what was once a beautiful insult, has become an unhelpful, misleading description for a diverse group of beliefs and people.
So, how should I describe my allegiance to Jesus? Should I, along with my like-minded fellows, attempt to “reclaim” the word? Should we adopt a new word?