Mislabeling Christians

“Aren’t You A Christian?” “Don’t you go to church?” “Why didn’t you go to church today if you’re supposed to be a Christian?”

These are some of the phrases that I have had to endure during my times of public failure. If you’re like me, you’re not ashamed to tell people around you that you are a saved bible-believing Christian, however, it can often put an unwanted burden on you due to many people’s warped idea of what Christianity is all about. There have been times when people have asked me if I was a church-goer. “Yes”, I’d answer unashamed. The face of the individuals asking me will usually light up in a blaze of awe and unworthiness, as if they had just found a long lost prehistoric Unicorn, or as if I were the Pope who had just stepped through their door ready to answer their deepest prayers.

I knew that at that moment I was screwed. I was put on a pedestal I shouldn’t have been on in the first place.

“What should I do or say at this moment?” I often asked myself. Well, truth be told there was a lot I could have done, but as I continued my dialogue with these individuals, I will slowly begin to speak to them about the gospel.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the most selfless and beautiful thing that anyone can utter out of their mouths when speaking to another person who may be unsaved or has a lack of understanding about God and His word.

As I would begin to speak to these individuals I made it clear to them that as a Christian I am not a “saint” in the traditional sense of the word. I don’t perform miracles for people, I don’t attend confession, I do not partake in the Holy Mass, I don’t always carry my bible around with me twenty four hours a day, I don’t always say or do the right things at the right time, and I am most assuredly not “Holy”.

We often place a burden on ourselves because of the labels society places on us. Labels tend to include certain requirements with them, and when one fails to meet the requirements for said label, they are often met with contempt, rejection, judgement, and a lot of other bad things.

Till this day I still struggle with my selfish nature, my temper, my depression, anxiety, my thoughts of negativity, basically all things that one would consider “un-Christian”. Not only would this discourage me and unfairly place a heavy standard that I knew I couldn’t ever reach on my own, but it also made me feel unworthy of even professing my faith, both in public and even in private.

Not long ago I was scouring the Internet when I ran into a quote by the infamous Charles Spurgeon that stated the following:

“Brother, if any man think ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be.”

Immediately I thought of myself, what I had done in my past, why Christ died for me, forgave me for the sins I had committed in my past, and granted me another shot at an eternity in union with Him.

The problem, I realized to myself at that time, is that the label of “Christian” carries requirements way different than what people are used to seeing or hearing about in society. Now whenever I say that I am a Christian, in reality what I truly mean is:

“Well, I am born of evil (really). I am not perfect and I make mistakes and do bad things (yes, sometimes I can’t help but do really bad things). I am selfish, crass, vitriolic, short-tempered, greedy, you name it, I’m probably worse than that. But then I realized that all of those things that I thought I liked in myself aren’t really good, and, in fact, are sending me down a path that disconnects me from my spiritual father and into eternal punishment. Yes, I now realize that while I am bad, the son of God died for my sins and forgave them so that I may be reunited once again with God and have an opportunity to live the way He created me to be (yes, to be good), and while I may not have it all 100% at the moment, one day I will. So please, do be patient with me for the time being.”

The things is that all of that was just said is a huge mouthful that may scare even the most socially open of people away, so for the time being sticking to the description of “Christian” will do just fine. In fact, I love the word more than ever now that I have a full grasp of its true definition as opposed to the one the world is so accustomed to using.

Reading through the Bible, we can see countless examples of people who, although loved God and His commandments, would ultimately succumb to their flesh and desires. We see the typical Bible “heroes” like King David, Moses, Jonah, Peter, and even Paul struggling with and even committing sin such as lying, stealing, murdering, slandering, disobeying, lusting, arrogance, the list goes on.

Why is it then that God allows us room for failure? I’ve often asked myself this question from time to time, but as we can read in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (English Standard Version) the Apostle Paul discusses his own struggles with his flesh, quoting:

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Things were going haywire in the church at Corinth and Paul was on damage control duty to subdue the congregation there from their disobedience and terrible witness. Ironically enough, as great a man of God that Paul was, he was accused of being a false prophet and a liar by many in the church. Paul valiantly and truthfully defended his position from his accusers, but boldly proclaimed his imperfections as an obedient but imperfect man. Paul continued to write in his letter not so much to boast about himself, but rather about the grace that God has so lovingly bestowed upon him and anyone who faces trials in this life.

Due to the fact that we are weak and we cannot deal with all of life’s problems on our own merit, it is in these situations that we begin to look for alternatives to get us through the tough days. As Christians we have humbly realized that our only reliable resource for hope and redemption through this life is found in the grace of God that can only come through our faith in His son Jesus Christ. Christianity then takes on a different approach, becoming instead a religion based on dependence rather than admiration based on unwavering character or self-attained perfection. God allows our imperfections and struggles to become the detractor from ourselves and, instead, places the attraction on Himself. I only wished that more people (Christian or not) would understand this concept, but due to life in a sinful world and God’s sovereignty, I know that this won’t always be the case.

In the real world, Christians don’t always live in victory. Yes, we might unintentionally offend, slack off forget about important responsibilities, let a certain word we shouldn’t have used slip under our breath, and get frustrated when things don’t go our way. Unfortunately, sometimes those moments slip out in public when people who are looking up to us (or might be looking for an excuse to rebuke us) are present. Some will understand, and others will be quick to use the typical “cheap-shot” excuses I quoted during the opening of this piece. However, during these times I always tend to pray, repent before God for my sin and remind myself that in those difficult moments where I am caught in failure that there is One who is greater than I. That One will never leave me, nor forsake me, nor fail me.

His name is Jesus Christ, and I am surely not Him.

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