The following is an excerpt from my weekly Heretic’s Guide to the Bible study. To read more, and to take part in the conversation, CLICK HERE, or on the Heretic’s Guide banners above or below the text.
I spend a lot of time talking to people about what it means to be a Christian. Of course, there are the conventional notions of what it means, like asking Jesus into your heart, being baptized and proclaiming him as your personal Lord and Savior in front of a congregation of Christian peers. But the thing that lots of people observe, and rightly so, is that after people undergo these rituals, often times they seem to become real jerks. Maybe they were jerks to begin with, and maybe not. But bathing in the light of Christ certainly didn’t de-jerk-ify them.
Often times this seems to come from what I call a Christendom mentality. Basically, we Christians are now on the side of light, and we can rejoice in being among God’s chosen. Meanwhile, those poor lost souls on the other side of the line should be grateful that they have us to help direct them to the path of righteousness and salvation.
Now, if you’re already skeptical about the whole Christianity thing to begin with, how in the hell will someone with this sort of attitude helped convince you that this is something worth committing your life to?
Sure, they may give to charity, work one night a week at the food bank and even dedicate the weekend every once in a while to a local mission trip. They go to church, and man, they let you know it. There seems to be no ounce of humility in their actions or attitudes. In fact if anything, it seems that being a Christian has made them even more arrogant.
This is exactly what Jesus is warning about in the Gospel of Luke. We can go through all the proper motions, say all the flowery prayers and even convince those around us that we are the holiest of the holy. But God wants much more from us than for us to do a few good things. Yes, the actions matter. But the heart of the person behind those actions matters even more.
We have a habit of doing good pretty badly. We find a way to make it about us, to get praise her attention for our good deeds. Or we just do it for a sense of personal satisfaction and superiority. But if Paul is praying on behalf of those who abandon him at his most vulnerable, moment (and mind you, he is not praying for them to change, but rather for their forgiveness) why is it that we seem so bent on what others need to change about themselves, all being so very blind to what is still left undone within ourselves?