If you have any Christian friends on social media, you’ve probably already come across THIS ARTICLE.
Christian subcultures are an entertaining phenomenon. Multiple brands of Christianity claim the same Lord and read the same Bible, and yet they promote a set of values sometimes as different as apples and orangutans.
When you try to cut out Christians with a religious cookie cutter, you not only tarnish diversity, but you trample on grace. It’s one thing for Christian subcultures to cultivate unique values. But it becomes destructive when those values are chiseled on Sinaitic tablets for all to obey.
Of course, someone like me immediately wonders: “Has that author written his blog post on a Sinaitic tablet, insisting that his view of Cookie Cutter Christians be a view that ALL of us obey?”
But let’s keep reading…
It’s even worse when Christians expect instant holiness from recent converts—holiness, that is, in areas where we think we’ve nailed it…
It’s a shame that some believers have scoffed at some of Shia Labeouf’s recent comments about converting to Christianity, pointing fingers at the fact that he still uses bad language weeks after becoming a Christian…Bad language may take years to weed out.
At this point, someone like me is thinking, “Does Shia Labeouf’s flesh have such control that he can’t keep his fingers from typing profanity-laced messages AND hitting ‘send?'” And, if so, is his soul still in such need of “weeding” that he can’t at least apologize and promise to try harder when someone calls him out?
But, I kept going…
Grace means that we are all works in progress, and God shaves off our rough edges in His timing.
Just look at the thugs God works with in the Bible.
I know we’re programmed to see the 12 apostles as saints with halos and contemplative faces. But actually, they were criminals. These guys were more like prisoners than pastors, and few of them would be let inside our churches today.
Finally, it was here that I realized I needed to write a blog post featuring the apostles, exactly as this author portrays them.
How did the disciples of Jesus act AFTER they met Him, and how would Jesus Himself handle these “thugs?”
Today, I’m imagining the apostles traveled forward in time and fell in love with Preston Sprinkle’s article about Messy Christianity…and then traveled back to their own era in the Middle East to apply what they’d learned.
Here’s how I think that would look:
Peter: God Dammit!!!
John: Yikes, Pete! Don’t forget, the lips of the righteous know what is acceptable. What’s going on with that loose tongue?
Peter: I’m just really worked up about what Matthew is doing. Did you know he still sneaks to his old booth and collects some taxes now and then?
John: Well, yeah. (*scratches his head*) I’d heard that. But… as you know, we can’t expect someone’s life to be changed overnight. Being a friend of Jesus is messy!
Peter: Yeah–I agree with that, I guess. I mean, I’m sure I agree with it, when it applies to YOU, showing me some grace while I get my shit together. But stealing from poor people seems like kind of a big deal!
John: Oops, here he comes now.
Peter: Oh, shit!
Matthew: Hey, guys. Did you see the ladies who were talking with Jesus this morning? They’re prostitutes!
John: So? What’s so strange about that? Jesus has changed the hearts of many prostitutes in the past.
Matthew: Yeah, but that’s just it! He told them to change. It’s like Jesus doesn’t know that these gals are works-in-progress. They’re going to be a little messy!
John: Hm, I see your point. I wonder if Jesus realizes that a sub-culture of Christians might turn his message of change into legalism. I’m sure He doesn’t want people to think “change” is something to be dogmatic about!
Peter: Yeah! Screw Fundamentalism!
*Suddenly, Jesus appears out of nowhere*
Jesus: Have you been keeping my commands, gentlemen? You know that’s how to show your love for me, right?
Peter: (*out-bursting and pointing at Matthew*) He’s collecting taxes again!!!
Matthew: Oh look who’s talking, Peter Potty Mouth!
John: (*holding up his hand*) Wait, I can handle this, Jesus. Let’s all remember that you can’t sanitize grace. You can’t stuff it into a blue blazer and make it wear khakis.
Peter: What the Hell are “khakis?”
Jesus: (*squeezing the bridge of his nose*) Aaaaaaaah, my friends. How long shall I put up with you?…
Matthew: You sound annoyed, Jesus? Can we just remind you that sometimes grace is messy and offensive?
Jesus: Fun fact, Matt. I’ve never been recorded using the word “grace” myself…
(*the Apostles look shocked*)
Jesus: Listen up, guys. Put down the blog post, and listen to what I’M saying…
Of course, I don’t have the time or space to copy everything that Jesus said to his disciples. Nor can I reprint everything the disciples passed down, for the churches they planted.
But I DO think it’s interesting that–whatever Jesus said and modeled for John and Peter and all the others–it led them to write things like:
Peter: As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
John: No one who keeps on sinning has either seen [God] or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as God is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.
That’s thought-provoking, isn’t it?
Now, granted, there are disputes among Christians about what type of conduct is “sinful” and what type is “holy.” Smoking and gambling and alcohol and promiscuous dress may be considered “gray areas.” But shouldn’t we be having those conversations about if/when they’re acceptable for Christians?
Wouldn’t it be great if we had the freedom (and the grace) to discuss doctrine, without being told to shut up and let people be messy, without question?
I hope I’m not the only one tired of running head-long into someone’s Grace Shield, which is just an excuse not to take responsibility for our actions.
If what I’m doing is actually, demonstrably wrong, then I can show that I’m a Christian by owning it and letting God change it. (And that goes for Shia LeBeouf, too.) :)