I am glad the world observes us. It has a right to do so. If a man says, “I am God’s,” he sets himself up for public observation. Ye are lights in the world, and what are lights intended for but to be looked at? A city set on a hill cannot be hid.”
– Charles Spurgeon
I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately. I’m friends with many of you on Facebook, and I follow Ricky Gervais and Richard Dawkins on Twitter. (What is it with Ricks?) Many of you seem to talk and think about religion more than I do. I find that bizarre in one sense: Ricky Gervais is fond of using Santa Claus as a stand-in for God, and I doubt he spends much time thinking about Santa. But on the other hand, you live in a world that has a lot of hostility towards your point of view, and so I can see why it’s so often on your mind.
What I’ve been thinking about is how much of a failure I’ve been to you. Christians all around the world – but especially in America – are gaining a reputation for being shrill, bigoted, close-minded, and ignorant people. And I have no doubt that in some ways I’ve encouraged that view in your minds. I am supposed to be shining a light in your life, but instead I am throwing mud in your face. That is such a shameful reflection on my Savior.
(Yes, I know, you don’t believe in Him. That’s not the important part. The important part is I do, and I want my life to point to Him. When my actions are shrill, bigoted, close-minded, and ignorant, I am holding a sign towards something else entirely and implying that’s Jesus.)
I often come across as arrogant, as though what I believe should automatically be what you believe. I often forget just how foolish and idiotic seems from the outside to believe any of this. Perhaps sometimes I am judgmental or shaming. I need to remember that your beliefs come from just as deep a conviction as mine, and it’s quite likely that yours have been more severely tested than my own. Sometimes I am tempted to think that you live your life apart from any ethic or morality, but I only need to briefly read some of your posts to see just how much better you are at conforming your actions to your beliefs than I am to mine.
Before you think I am pandering to you, let me say that I am not about to compromise what I believe. Our worldviews are at odds, and that will lead to conflict. I will not back down in my belief that you are a person with a curable illness and that I know a Great Physician. And I don’t expect you to back down in your belief that this is an utterly laughable notion. But the purpose of writing this is to say that if we are enemies, then my call is to serve you. If you have a need, let me help you meet it. The only condition is that you understand I am motivated to do so because I want to love God more than anything else, and I want to love you as much as I love myself. I couldn’t care less if you think I’m cool, but I can’t abide it if you think I’m not loving. Anything less is a failure.
There is one thing you can do for me: if I step out of line, don’t hold back. Let me know. If you see me doing something and think, “That’s not what a Christian’s supposed to do!” Tell me. There are two outcomes: I can show you that your understanding of Christianity was at least partially flawed, or you’ll have helped me improve. In an old sermon by the great 19th century British preacher Charles Spurgeon, he relayed an anecdote from a fellow clergyman, about an atheist who attended his church.
(A)fter having annoyed a church a long time, he was about to leave, and therefore, as a parting jest with the minister, he said, “I have no doubt you will be very glad to know that I am going a hundred miles away?” “No,” said the pastor, “I shall be sorry to lose you.” “How? I never did you any good.” “I don’t know that, for I am sure that never one of my flock put half a foot through the hedge but what you began to yelp at him, and so you have been a famous sheep-dog for me.
I know I’m a hypocrite at times. You’ll be doing a great favor by pointing out when you notice.
Thank you for reading. I hope you can help me walk better.
P.S. I think I’m done with this letter-writing format. But it has served me well a couple times. All right.