Clumsy Christians

My experience of Christians is that many of them – including me – are really quite clumsy. Not literally stumbling or falling over ourselves, but often doing the social equivalent. We put our feet in our mouths, we make others feel uncomfortable, we have a knack of saying the right thing at the wrong time, and vice versa.

It may be the exuberant charismatic Christian who just assumes that everybody else is on the same page as them. It might be the type who drops Christian jargon and ideas into every conversation. It could be the awkward, shy, ‘uncomfortable to be around’ Christian. Or even the one who seems embarrassed to be, or at least to be known to be, a Christian.

I suspect that whether you’re a Christian, not a Christian, or not sure what you believe, you can at least identify with my experience. That is, we Christians can be quite clumsy. In fact, as I read back over this, I’ve used the word Christian eight times already – am I just proving my point?!

Of course, there are all kinds of reasons why some people gel together and others don’t. Like attracts like. We feel comfortable with our ‘tribe’. We get nervous around people we don’t understand. We fear the unknown. We want to be accepted, and fit in, and have people understand us – and sometimes we just try too hard. These things can be the same across all sorts of groupings – political, sporting, work, ethnic, hobbies, you name it. Sometimes it’s just really awkward to bridge the gap.

But, to be honest, these factors don’t get to the very heart of my clumsiness. I think there is something more profound that often makes things awkward for me in relating to others – and that is, what I believe. You see, I sincerely believe in many things that others will find quite unusual, maybe even absurd. Let me offer a list to start with:

I believe in God.
I believe he made everything.
I believe that he made everyone – including me and you – to be able to relate with him.

Apparently, most Aussies still believe something like this. But then my Christian beliefs start to get a little more uncomfortable, more pointed:

I believe we all push God to the periphery of our life, if not shut him out altogether.
I believe we get what we ask for when we choose to reject him, and it’s serious – separation from God in this life and beyond.
I believe that without God, we are without hope.

These beliefs are foundational, but they’re only the prelude to the most important message I want people to know and embrace:

God has not left us without hope.
He sent Jesus into this world so that we can know him.
Jesus was crucified to show us the depths of God’s love for us, to  personally pay the cost of our rejection of God, and to overcome all barriers separating us from God.
God physically raised Jesus to life, opening the door for us to have a genuine relationship with him, and real hope for life now and in eternity.

I know that when I speak with some of my friends about these beliefs they will glaze over. They won’t understand. They’ll put me in the weirdo box.  “He seems an otherwise normal bloke. How can he possibly believe this stuff?” Santa Claus, flat earth, tooth fairies, Harry Potter, religion, Jesus, resurrection!

Some probably think I’ve been brainwashed into believing a fiction, that I am willing to base my life on a myth or fantasy or fabrication. Some explain it to me as, “You’re into religion, but I’m not.”  Some of my friends might even feel a bit sorry for me. I don’t know!

Let me say this. I hope that none of my friends dismiss the Christian message simply because of my clumsiness. I pray they’ll put up with some of my mistakes, my awkwardness, even my selfishness, and hypocrisy… and look beyond me to Jesus.

As I read more and more of Jesus in the Bible, so I get to know the one who came to bring reconciliation, to break down walls and hostility. He is the one who made religious people uncomfortable, and yet welcomed the outcasts and despised. Jesus connects people to God. He breaks through our tribes and divisions. He builds genuine community. I’ve seen and experienced this in profound ways, that cross all kinds of barriers and boundaries. In fact, this community and depth of relationship has been one of the real joys of my Christian experience. My desire is to enjoy this more and more – not by keeping things ‘in house’, but by sharing the reality with others.

I’ll keep making mistakes. I don’t want to, or plan to… I just will!

Please, don’t be put off by my Christian clumsiness.

7 thoughts on “Clumsy Christians”

  1. What a great post; and I do get the point about Christian clumsiness – particularly if the gauge is by secular standards (1Cor 2:14). But… when I think of “clumsy” folks I certainly do not think of Pastor David McDonald. I say this because I am hard pressed to think of a more willing, articulate and faithful proclaimer of Jesus’ Gospel. God bless you Maca.

  2. Dave
    I have not commented on your blog (or indeed any other) before so let me first of all say thank you. I have not had the benefit of your teaching for a number of years now and this blog is a great blessing. I think this one is spot on. I have often thought about people who are “unevenly yoked” and how difficult that must be. A christian has such a different perception of life and death. Many times too I look at us and cringe more than a little at how the world must see us. But I am always encouraged that God often chooses to work through weak instruments. I know if I was not weird it would make it even harder to avoid seeking praises of men.
    Cheers and again, thanks mate.
    Ross

  3. Words are necessary, but I believe we show God in our lives more than our words. Unless we can live the Christian life, our words will be hollow. It is often better to answer questions, than to volunteer our opinions. None of this means we should not speak up at times, we should. The real test is to be able to discern when to speak and when not to speak up. Not easy, but if we read and understand the Bible message and are willing to be guided by the Holy Spirit, not our own inclinations, we may just succeed.

  4. I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t describe you personally as being clumsy my friend! Accepting people for who they are is sometimes a challenge. From what I have read and heard over a number of years there are a lot of Christians worrying what the rest of the world thinks about them and how their beliefs are viewed. In countries where religious persecution occurs I don’t doubt that this is an issue. But, as someone who doesn’t share your faith it rarely worries me. I have friends who are Christians, friends who are decidedly anti-religion, some who are unsure and some who never give it a second thought. For me, tolerance is the key. If they are good people then that’s good enough for me usually.

    But your post has made me think a fair bit with regards to what I believe. And to be quite truthful I’m not sure. I was brought up in a Christian tradition, went to a church school and as a child I believed without question. But as a teenager I was unable to be convinced that there was a God and that Jesus was his son. I guess I still sit in that category. I’m not an atheist at all as I feel that toy deny the existence of a supreme being is as difficult for me as believing in one. I’ve got an open mind but I’m not sure how I could ever make that leap of faith to believe. That doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t like to, it means that I can’t.

    I think that those who have a strong belief, whatever their religion, are lucky in many ways. To have a strong faith obviously provides somewhere to hang your hat, a belief system and some kind of certainty or at least guidance for the big questions.

    I’m very grateful for the friendship we have and I don’t think you’re a religious weirdo. They are out there but you’re not one. I admire your faith and the way you communicate it and live it.

    I think this response is a bit clumsy but hopefully you get my gist!
    Rob

  5. Dear David,
    Again, thank you. As one who was “unequally yoked” for 10 years, the clumsy Christians that caused the most pain were those who told my beloved that “God has sent this cancer to kill you because you refuse to believe in Him” or would tell me “God has sent this suffering to you because you sinned against Him by choosing to marry a heathen”. Would that the only clumsy words I heard from those sitting next to me in church were like the examples above. That said, the most positively provoking Christians who have encouraged me in my walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death are those that ask me “What have you learnt about God and God’s promises to you from the death of your husband?” or “If you are leaving our Church because you are lonely sitting amongst the smug marrieds, what kind of church do you think will comfort you?”. In short, there may be less need for the clumsy Christian but the frank or blunt ones have been terrific. The challenge for each of us is to try to reduce the number of times we are clumsy (where that hurts, not just embarrasses) and to increase the times we ask thought provoking questions. Thank you for your thought provoking blog. Again. Jennifer

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