The Problem with Christianity
Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. 1 Peter 2:12
I very much appreciate the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and I believe in the idea of alcoholics (and addicts) helping others who’ve struggled similarly. I’ve always wrestled with going to recovery meetings though. You know the problem with recovery meetings? They’re full of alcoholics and addicts. This is an inherently dysfunctional group of people (me included), many with mental health issues that spill over into the meeting. The precepts of AA are fantastic, but the individuals that make up each meeting are still terribly flawed. Getting them all together in one room doesn’t automatically make the individual dysfunction go away. This is also true of Christianity and the church.
Lately, for some reason, I’ve encountered three main objections to my faith. There’s the ever-present question of how God could be all-loving and all-powerful and still allow terrible things to happen. Then, there’s the science/faith conflict. Today though, I address the conflict that for many, is the most personal and convincing argument – Christians just aren’t very nice people, and I don’t want to be one of them. For many, the greatest problem with Christianity – is Christians.
When Christians come to faith, we’re not made perfect. Rather, when we come to faith, we’re meant to begin a lifelong process of transformation. Some of us are new at growth though, and some of us simply never grow. So, as Christians, we often retain the exact same flaws as everyone else, though we’re prone to arrogance and condescension because we believe we’re keepers of the great objective truth. Often, our flaws are accentuated as we become even more prideful. We don’t use drugs. We don’t curse. We don’t struggle with any big, bad sins, and so, we can look down and condemn those who do. Still, we have our own struggles – pride, selfishness, greed, lust – and so the world sees us as colossal hypocrites.
In today’s passage, Peter commanded his audience to live honorable lives, doing good, so that when others thought of them, they thought of all the noble deeds they’d done. What do others think of us as Christians? Do they look at our lives and immediately think of all the good things we do, loving those around us? Or, do they think us judgmental hypocrites? As followers of Christ, we must first follow him with our own behavior – loving God and loving those around us. We must live in such a way so that when nonbelievers look at our lives, they’re not turned off to the God we claim to follow.