We Christians are the light of the world and the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13-14). As such we are to show Jesus to those around us, to live out our lives as testimonies to the amazing grace He bestows, and to help others hear His Word and receive this saving faith of the Holy Spirit.
Funny thing about us, Christians, though. We kinda suck at it. We pretty much muck everything up (just like everyone else). Though clothed in the righteousness of Christ, while we walk this earth we are yet still sinners – plagued by our Old Adam who beckons us to come and play.
Bottom line, we fail.
Sin. Repent. Confess. Be Forgiven. Repeat.
But this cycle may have grave consequences for our neighbor – both the Christian and non-Christian alike.
To the person curious about Christ, wondering what this dude is all about, and why His dying on the cross and raising from the dead is such a big deal, our failings as Christians can do a number on them. Instead of seeing Christ’s pure love poured out on that tree, they witness our gossip, our hypocrisy, our cohabitation, our lying, our deceitfulness. (and the list goes on) They may see these things and decide they want nothing to do with us.
Worse yet, perhaps, our fellow Christians see their neighbors’ seemingly sinning without a care, while knowing that we are taught otherwise. Instead of seeing us Christians as the flawed creatures we are, they may turn away from Christ entirely, leaving the church, abandoning their faith.
But this post isn’t your standard run-of-the-mill lecture to Christians. We know we need to do better (and we know we will continue to fail — though we still try).
Nope. In fact, it’s not necessarily for Christians specifically at all. This post is for anyone — Christian or non — who is looking for Christ reflected in Christians, only to be disappointed and let down when those Christians — sinners — fail.
Why Do Christians Fail?
As I said above we are sinners. Saved, yes. Sinners, still. (Remember 1 John 1:8).
For some reason – one I struggle to understand on a regular basis – our God has this crazy love for us that saves us in our sin. And despite our inability to stop sinning once we’ve been given this saving faith, He repeatedly forgives.
(And, no, this is not a license to simply sin willy-nilly and do whatever you want – the Lord is not mocked, and He does require our faith to be true, and true faith in Him means we see our sin for what it is – horrible and nasty and something to avoid if we can, to repent of when we fail)
We fail, because we’re still residents of a fallen world, and as such we haven’t completely escaped our old Adam who would rather do what he wants.
What Should You Do When Christians Let You Down?
First, remember Christians are not Christ. Our behavior often fails to reflect His perfect love, grace and mercy – though we strive and pray and hope it would.
Next, forgive trespasses. Just as God forgives yours, forgive those who hurt you, who fail you, who disappoint you.
Then, if you can, lovingly call them to repentance. Godly love does not ignore transgressions or sins, but lovingly points our neighbors to see their error and encourage them to seek forgiveness. I know, I know, I think I heard you sigh a bit just then. This isn’t an easy step. This isn’t pleasant. It’s difficult to do without sounding holier-than-thou or unloving. But simply because something is difficult doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. And I realize there will be times when confronting them can’t be done – or perhaps they brush you off or fight back. In that instance, turn to prayer. Pray for the Holy Spirit to show them the Truth and to lead them back to Christ.
Finally, open your eyes and realize that His Truth doesn’t rely on us Christians. (Thanks be to God for that!) His death and resurrection isn’t somehow moot simply because the Christians around you mucked up and failed to be perfect. Our inability to keep the commandments (something none of us can do) doesn’t make the entirety of scripture somehow false.
Our failings don’t equate to Christ failing.
Bottom line, rethink where you’re looking for reassurance that Christ’s Word is true and real. Stop searching for Him solely in the people around you. People will continually fail you in that aspect. Christ never will.
Where Do You Find Christ Then?
Pretty simple really — His Word.
Scripture. The Bible. This is where you will always find Him. That is where He promises to reveal Himself. Not in your best friend, your cousin, or that cute boy sitting a few seats from you in the pew.
This isn’t to say that Christians don’t sometimes, occasionally, get it right. We are, after all, called to witness. Though this is only done partly through our actions and our lifestyles. Primarily we should be witnessing through His Word. (Note: in no way do I intend to downplay the importance of fellowship or Christian community.)
The world will tell you that Christianity is wrong, because of all the screwed up Christians who make up the faith. But this faith isn’t about us flawed humans. This faith is about Jesus. Fully God. Fully Man. Born, died, and raised for you and your sin.
So wake up. Open your eyes. Shake that head of yours and focus. Focus not on the fact that Christians around you don’t seem to be living by the faith they confess. Focus on Jesus and His Word.
He will never let you down, no matter how many times Christians do.
One final note on what to do when Christians let you down – especially Christian friends. Know when to cut ties and back away. We are commanded to love all, not have a relationship with all. Choosing to step away does not make you unloving or uncaring. Sometimes distance is needed to protect your own faith. We are not commanded to condone of each other’s sins (quite the opposite actually) – forgive yes, condone no. And when in doubt, pray and seek the council of a trusted Pastor.