There’s something I heard from a friend recently that bothered me. There are people who are actually discouraged from being around other Christians, because the Christians SEEM like they’re perfect.
In her words regarding several Christian families she met, she said, “You all have the perfect families, the perfect spouses, the perfect marriages, the perfect children, the perfect homes, and even the perfect dogs!” It pains me that we as Christians can give off that type of vibe, because we’re absolutely broken and shattered people, in need of a Savior.
The impression we give off as “Christians” definitely isn’t representative of all Christian circles. But I’m sure most of us can understand how this can happen, and you may have heard of this impression of Christians before. I know I have. But whether it’s true or not, this perception is an issue if we’re not willing to go deeper with a person, so that they can truly understand the power of Christ over the depravity of our lives.
When I was younger, one of the reasons I personally didn’t want to go to church was because I felt like so much of it was fake. It felt like some people were trying to hide behind expensive suits, nice dresses, big Bibles, and sparkling smiles to disguise their sin and brokenness. The reason I feel that way, is because I felt like I was doing that myself with my own family!
In my childhood when I did go to church with my family, it was often like a scene from a comedy sitcom. Immense screaming, yelling, anger, impatience, cursing, wailing, gnashing of teeth, and flowing of tears just to get out of the house and to church “on time” (which meant 30 minutes late). But once we got there, we flipped the switch, walked into the door, and put on our best smiles– the world magically transformed to butterflies and rainbows, like nothing happened.
Granted that I was young, but to be honest, I really didn’t understand what the point of going to church was, and what the point was of all of these people gathering to look nice on a Sunday, when Monday-Saturday I KNEW exactly how many of these families acted outside of church, including my own.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ll repeat- all churches and circles of Christians are not like this- far from it. I don’t want to insult anyone here, as I know the majority of my Christian friends boldly wear their weaknesses on their sleeve in order to proclaim God’s strength in their life. And I would hope that most Christians are not intentionally trying to put up a front to pretend that we’re something we’re not.
This may be an issue that is more prevalent in specific churches or even regions, but if people I personally interact with today STILL have this perception of Christians and it’s pushing them away from even wanting to visit a church in the first place, then it’s a topic worth talking about. We must be careful that those seeking Christ don’t walk through the doors of our churches and leave discouraged because they don’t fit the bill.
So how do we counteract this? A few thoughts come to mind:
If we are truly Christian, then everything we say and do should be in humility and love, and ultimately point others to Jesus. We can’t fake it, because people will read right through us. Jesus has to be the center of our lives if we’re going to represent Him. That means we know we fall short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23), and we need Jesus just as much as we need the air we breathe. If Christ truly has that position in our lives, then the way in which we interact and build relationships with people will be transformed. Genuine love for the Lord will drive genuine love for our neighbors.
We need to be intentional and foster relationships with people. Sometimes it’s too hard to go beyond surface-level small talk in a corporate church environment. There’s simply not enough time, and it’s usually not the right setting for anything more than socializing. That’s why I believe things like 1:1 discussions and small groups (i.e. accountability groups, discipleship groups, life groups, Bible study groups, house churches, etc.) are so important (Heb 10:25). These smaller groups and intentional friendships can be safe places that allow us to go deeper and truly share our praises and our trials, how God’s working in our lives day-to-day, or even how we feel God is completely missing or silent or somewhere in between. We need to be willing to go deeper with someone so that we can share how challenging our faith walk may be, but more importantly share the hope we have in the Gospel’s restorative and redemptive power within us.
We have to be real. Genuine, authentic, honest. Whatever you want to call it, we need to be okay with not looking perfect to others. I will share with you guys, that this was one of my biggest struggles as a youth. Ever since high school, I got caught up with my image, and what others thought of me became an idol. I would go to great lengths to portray what I wanted people to believe or think about me. Even if we think about adult settings, whether at work, school, play, or even church, I believe many of us still struggle with the same desire to always look like we’re put together and doing well in front of others, when that couldn’t be further from the truth.
I know that it’s hard to let our guard down and let people in to see the dirt in our lives, past or present. At the same time, we need to be open to sharing our struggles, in faith that God will use our shortcomings to draw others to Jesus, for His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).
Does that mean we then constantly flaunt our weaknesses and sin, walking around with a negative “woe is me” attitude? No, because then we’re allowing our problems to define us, thus drawing the focus to the problem, rather than to Christ, the solution. It’s a fine balance, but when we ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom and discernment of what and when to share, He will lead us into life-changing discussions and relationships with others.
My prayer today is that we are all able to build deep, godly relationships, and not be afraid to let people see our scars. May we be a Church of love, sincerity, transparency, acceptance, openness, confession, and healing. May those who are seeking not be intimidated or discouraged by what they think of our image, but rather be encouraged by the word of our testimony. And lastly, may He empower each of us to walk in complete humility and dependence on Christ, as the world needs to see that we as Christians, are far from perfect.