“The fundamental fact of Christian faith is this: Christ is alive!” Leonard Sweet writes in Nudge, his book about sharing one’s Christian faith. In every other religion, I came to realize, prophets and scripture-worthy characters currently lie six feet below ground, never to be seen, heard, or touched again. Their words and teachings resound only in sacred texts. But in Christianity, our greatest figure–the only prophet in history who claimed to be God, not simply have messages from Him–reclaimed His own life after it had been savagely stolen. And, because our faith hinges on that event, our prophet, our Messiah, our savior is not just rotting stiffly in a box beneath the earth (or a cavernous stone tomb for that matter). Instead, more than 2,000 years after His assassination, He is still alive, hanging out with us on a daily basis. In fact, as Sweet points out in his book, “We can share time and space with Jesus today in ways his disciples knew nothing about and would have envied.” The true beauty of the world, once only seen through the eyes of God, now sweeps the globe through human eyes that have been brightened by the Spirit. His words echo in the whispers of east Asian house churches and the shouts of gospel singers, in the beat of African worship drums and the silence of prayerful meditation.
Yet, do His words truly resound in the daily deeds of the church? The church, of course, consisting not only the clergy but also the lay folk who attend services. After speaking with people about faith over the course of my life, a common thread seems to permeate most responses: “I know plenty of people who go to church and follow anything but Jesus the other six days of the week. Why would I ever want to go to church when it’s filled with hypocrites?” Some of these people simply witnessed hypocrisy in action; others actually took the brunt of the church’s misdeeds.
And they make a good point.
I would argue, though, that according to the definition being Christian means to be “Christ-like”. But what does that mean exactly? What is Christ like? I posed these questions to my husband, who is more Christ-like than anyone I know. “The bottom line is Christ was all about love and equality,” he said. “To be Christ-like is to see the beauty in everyone. And love them for it.”
Truly, then, it has never been Jesus who hurt anyone. In fact, it causes pain and discomfort when people act unlike Jesus. Those who call themselves Christians but do not follow Christ are indeed hypocritical and false; but that is because they’re not following Christ. In Luke 6:44, Jesus says, “Every tree is known by the fruit it bears; you do not pick figs from thorn bushes or gather grapes from bramble bushes.” Similarly, you cannot glean Christianity from a person who does not love Christ and pour out complete, unconditional love. So, regardless of how people label themselves, if they don’t live according to Christ, they are not Christian. Thus, if their separation from Christ is repulsive, hurtful, or just downright annoying, we would only be following their lead if we, too, turned away from Christ. Shouldn’t their careless deeds repel us from the way they behave and drive us straight into the arms of Jesus, the one who is love? And then maybe, through the eyes of equality and a heart for love, you can show those “Christians” what Christ-like really looks like.