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.