Ten Ways Christians Fail to be Christian

[UPDATE: A new and much improved version of this piece is Seven ways Christians  blow it.]

I feel that we Christians too often fail in these ten ways:

1. Too much money. “Wealthy Christian” should be an oxymoron. In Luke 12:33, Jesus says, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor.” At Matthew 19:21, he says, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor.” In Matthew 6:24, he says: “You cannot serve God and Money.” Christians are generally pretty huge on cleaving to the word of God. I just don’t see how those particular words could be clearer.

2. Too confident God thinks we’re all that and a leather-bound gift Bible. We should spend a great deal more time reflecting upon the ways in which we acutely displease God (not to mention other people), and a great deal less confident that there’s no reason for us to even consider such a thing.

3. Too quick to believe that we know what God really means by what he says in the Bible. The Bible is an extremely complex, multi-leveled work. We’re sometimes too quick to assume that we grasp its every meaning. Take this passage from Luke 8: 9-10: “His disciples asked him [Jesus] what this parable [of the sower] meant. He said, ‘The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, ‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.’” Huh? And that’s Jesus “explaining” what is generally regarded as one of his most readily understood parables. Are we really all that confident that we always know exactly what Jesus meant by everything he said? Wouldn’t we do well to sometimes admit that the words attributed to God manifested on earth are just a tad … well, Greek to us?

4. Too action-oriented. We Christians could stand to spend less time acting in the name of God, and more time reflecting on the (ever subtle) majesty of God. We need more passivity, and less activity. More meditation, less machination. More reflection, less correction. More contemplation, less administration. More prayers, less airs. More mysticism, less … um … cretinism.

5. Too invasive of others generally. It is my personal, humble opinion that anyone seeking to mix church and state has failed to understand the nature and proper role of either. Being founded upon the principal that all men are created equal and deserving of equal protection under the law is what makes the American system of democracy such a gift to mankind. Attempting to mix the inherently exclusionary imperatives of a particular religion into the resolutely inclusive system of the American constitutional form of government is to work against everything that America stands for. Religion is a personal, subjective affair for the individual; politics and public policy is an impersonal, objective affair for everyone.

6. Too invasive of others personally. We Christians are too often too eager to get up into the faces of others about their personal religious beliefs. If you believe in the reality of hell, then wanting to save non-Christians from going there is an understandable sentiment. But the bottom line is it’s absolutely impossible to talk someone who isn’t a Christian into becoming one; in fact, more than anything else it’s likely to push the non-Christian further from God. We Christians would do very well indeed to spend our time “just” living as Christians, and to let God worry about the non-Christians.

7. Too quick to abandon logic. When talking to others about our faith, we Christians too often resort to a language and line of reasoning that leaves good ol’ fashion logic sitting on the ground behind us, waving a sad good-bye. “It’s true because the Bible says it’s true” is, for instance, an assertion that can’t help but leave the non-Christian unimpressed, since it’s so manifestly illogical. “It’s true because the Bible says it’s true” is no more proof of truth than is, “Apples are the best fruit, because I like them the most.” We Christians need to understand that the religious experience, no matter how bracingly real it might seem to us, is necessarily a subjective phenomenon, and so limit ourselves to talking about it as such.

8. Too fixated on homosexuality. Can we stop already with the gay and lesbian fixation? I know many of us understand our stance on the matter to be unassailably biblical. I know a great many of us are deeply concerned about the “homosexual agenda.” I know. We all know. Maybe Christians could just give that issue a rest for a while. It’s not like gays and lesbians are going anywhere. They’ll all be there when we get back. Maybe — for just a week, a day, a month — we could concern ourselves with something else, and let them be.

9. Too insular. When I became a Christian, one of the things that most amazed me about Christians is the degree to which they tend to hang out only with other Christians. We should stop doing that. How are we supposed to show Christ’s love to non-Christians when we barely know any non-Christians? Time to widen that social base, I say. (Plus, Christian or not, we still want to throw good, fun parties, don’t we? Well, let’s face it: The heathen class has just about all the good music. We might as well invite a few of them to our next party. Maybe they’ll bring their CD’s!)

10. Too uneducated about Christianity. Generally speaking (which of course is the most offensive way to speak about any group), Christians tend to embarrass themselves by knowing so little about either the Bible or the history of Christianity. Believing that the Bible is the word of God, for instance, is one thing; knowing nothing about the long process by which men decided which texts would and wouldn’t make it into the Bible is another. It’s not that all Christians should be full-on theologians or historians. But if you’re a Christian who doesn’t know the Great Schism from The Great Santini, or the Diet of Worms from … well, the diet of worms, then you’ve got some homework to do.

 

This is the title essay of:

 

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • http://steveinmarines.blogspot.com steve

    I disagree with point 6. Not its conclusion, but its logic. I believe a conclusion is less important than the method to reach it, so this comment is well worth your time.

    Hell is the worst thing. Modifiers can't do justice to the fact. The bottom line is that everyone must be saved by any means necessary. If you should avoid being pushy, it's because not being pushy is the optimal way to save people. If you should relax and not worry about hell all the time, it's because that's the optimal way to save yourself and set the example.

    • terence

      Hell is the worst thing only to those who believe it to be so. As C.S. Lewis once shrewdly observed, there are probably people so addicted to the perversions of this life that being in the presence of God would undoubtedly comparable to Hell imagined by the faithful to be denied that same audience.

      My experience, though admittedly anecdotal, reaffirms that faith is best evangelized by example and not by exhortation. You want to save my soul, then prove that it's worth saving by investing in my livelihood by becoming part of my life. Share my burden, lighten my load, help me carry my weight. Demonstrate to me by your own actions and life that what you say is true. Don't cheapen my humanity by treating me like a rube at a carny show offering me the snake oil cure of the month.

  • http://etayawriter.wordpress.com Kimberly

    John,

    I like your list, but I do have a problem with #1. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that Christians have to be poor. It does tell us to tithe and be responsible with our money. And yes, I know that it says that it is as hard for a rich person to get into Heaven as for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. But, why would he have blessed Job with abundance if wealth was in itself something bad? It is our attitude towards money that God is concerned with. If we are just stockpiling our money and not doing any good with it, that is not a Biblical stance. We are given money as a responsibility to show others the good that Christians can do, not to idolize it and turn our backs on others.

    I do agree with #4 though. Within the Bible it clearly states that works alone are not sufficient. But so many Christians are spending all their time on performing works, while their Bibles gather dust. I see them selectively following God's laws, and openly stating that all the things they do will make up for it. I am sorry, but they are commandments not suggestions.

    Otherwise, a nice article as usual. I look forward to reading more.

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      Not to be confrontational, but I'm not quite sure how one reconciles "Sell your possessions and give to the poor” with, "Nowhere in the Bible does it say that Christians have to be poor."

      • jean

        ‘Give to the poor’ doesn’t seem to mean ‘Join the poor in their poverty.’ ‘To the poor’ implies that the giver is not one of them, as I read it. I could be wrong though – I have lots of practice!

        I don’t believe that having a second car or a cottage at the lake is a sign of less-than-Christian living, though. When Jesus speaks of the judgment, he gives us a deep insight into how we are to live. In Matthew 25 (sheep and goats), the righteous are those who have ministered to others. Their standard of living is not mentioned, leading me to believe that it is not whether we have money that is the issue but how generously we share it with those in need.

        For me, if we truly strive to love others as ourselves, not only will we give generously, we will delight in so doing. And as we receive in accordance with what we give, the more we give to the poor and charities that assist them, the more we will have to give. It becomes a cycle of ever-expanding loving generosity that mirrors God’s own. mho

        • http://fairtilizer.com/users/Voicedude Voicedude

          I thought as much initially too, Jean. But I think the context I think John is referring to is if you are SO wealthy as to have FAR MORE than you need to live very comfortably, then you’re obviously just not GIVING enough. How many vacation homes does one need while millions go homeless…?

          I suppose what he’s asking is ‘are all wealthy Christians REALLY tithing’ (giving the full 10%)? Plus, as I understand it, tithing is separate from actually giving to the poor, et al.

          And it’s definitely not just for a tax write-off.

          Sure, guys like Bill Gates can donate 100 million dollars to charity without affecting his lifestyle, but what of the widow who gave her last mite…? (Luke 21:1-4)

          I think He’d like us to remember that:

          ‘…the righteous give without sparing.’ (Proverbs 21:26b)

          Would I like to move up a few tax brackets? Yes, I would. But how many zeros in that figure becomes ‘enough’?

          • Rich

            I believe Jesus only told "a certain young ruler" to sell everything he had.

            IIRC, In Acts when many in the early church was doing similar, a couple claimed to sell everything but really didn't. Peter rebuked them stating they they did not have to but claiming to have do so turned out to be a mortal sin.

            The certain young ruler was proud of his own righteousness and comfortable in his wealth. Jesus challenged him in where his treasure and faith truly rested. A Christian should be willing to sell everything if called to. But it may be more difficult to live with responsible stewardship of wealth than to live in simple* poverty.

            *"simple poverty" meaning basic needs are met, as opposed to "abject poverty" where basic needs are lacking.

          • http://luwandi.wordpress.com Beth Luwandi

            Just to jump in here– I see I missed all the fun since I was away for a couple days, but—Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 – if this is the couple to whom you refer, were not stricken dead because they claimed to sell everything but didn't, it was that they LIED. They sold a piece of property to give the proceeds to the community of believers and kept part of the proceeds– this was not a sin in itself. Check Acts 5:3 and 4. It was that they had the evil idea to pretend they were giving all of it. A very different thing indeed. The property was at their disposal before they sold it, the assets at their disposal after they liquidated the property but they each, separately, came into the fellowship and lied about giving all of it– a sin, it seems to me 1. deception and 2. self-righteous piety. We could learn a few things from this… but that's just my thinking on it…

          • rdsoderstrom

            BRAVO!

            You expressed it perfectly….might I add, it was their hypocrisy that brought about their deaths….powerful stuff!

          • Kilyle

            The other day, I came to an interesting conclusion as to the rich young ruler.

            He comes to Jesus and says "How can I be saved?" Jesus tells him to keep the commandments. He says "Done that, now what?" Like, "Do I meet the standard yet? Do I get in? Have I paid the right price for this ticket yet?"

            So what does Jesus tell him? "All right, you've followed all the commandments. So GO AND DO A LITTLE BIT MORE."

            I'm not certain of my conclusion, but this seems to be the gist of it. You're trying to build a stairway to Heaven on your own good works? Okay, so… fifteen stairs completed, infinity to go. I guess you don't see the contrast yet, so every time you ask me about this, I'm going to say "add another step." And maybe you'll finally come to the conclusion that it's futile.

            So… even though the specifics of that incident were about riches, I don't think riches was the primary problem here. It was just part of the illustration that each of us fails to measure up to that perfect standard.

            Thank God we don't have to, because He did it for us.

          • http://www.bestaffiliatefamily.com/blog Peter

            Was Jesus' intent with the rich young ruler an infinite regression of "little bits more" or a laser beam to the man's nerve center — or rather idol of the heart, mammon? The rich young ruler's response seems more like discouragement than determination to take the step Jesus required. And that step was more like a quantum leap than a stair step.

            But I agree that despair is the proper response; that is what drives us to a salvation outside the scope of our possibilities. And a consequence of that salvation must be obedience. Freedom from the law means slavery to righteousness. Faith shows itself. If ever the rich man became a disciple of Jesus, he would have done as Jesus said.

      • matt

        Not to be confrontational but I'm not quite sure that "sell your possessions and give to the poor" means, sell so many of your possessions that you are no longer wealthy. It speaks to being charitable. Charity, after all, is the responsibility of the people. Note that does not mean forced charity via government transfer payments. It goes along with (not instead of) tithing. I agree, however, that a great many Christians (and I use that only to refer to those who actually believe the tenets of Christian faith, not "Christian" because they went to a Catholic church one time) tend to walk out of the back door when it comes to charity (and tithing), which is shame.

        I definitely agree with #5. We arent helping ourselves by trying to become Saudi Arabia. While I tend to agree with 4 and 6, I don't think it jives with the Bible. To use your language, I'm not sure how one reconciles, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" with "too action oriented" and "too invasive of others". I think it comes down to time and place. Work? Wrong time, wrong place. Reading BusinessWeek at the bookstore when a random stranger asks if you can help him pick out a Bible (actually happened Friday)? Probably a reasonable opportunity.

        Where do you fall on armed conflict? Do you take "love your enemies" to mean, "don't kill them?" Just curious.

      • Charmaine Carter

        When Christ said sell all you have and follow me the goal was not to make a person poor. Being poor in and of itself holds no virtue. Being able to walk away from all one has is virtuous and was the lesson here. If we can walk away from all we own then money doesn't have a hold on us. The sin is when we can't walk away from it. Having wealth is not a sin. Not being able to walk away from it is. If our money has such a hold on us then we are slaves to it. It should be a slave to us. Christ said it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into Heaven. Difficult but not impossible therefore being rich is not a sin.

        • Lee

          Actually, it is impossible for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. Just thought I would point that out.

          Most Christians are cherry pickers who interpret the Bible in ways that suit their particular lifestyle. Point #1 could not be stated any clearer in the Bible. Americans are slaves to money. Walk away from everything you own today and commit to a life of public service……..yeah right. Or you can keep trying to thread that camel through the needle.

          • Charmaine Carter

            Well now Jesus said with God ALL things are possible. SO… a rich man can enter into Heaven and a camel CAN pass through the eye of a needle. He didn't say the camel had to be whole. I do agree that Christians cherry pick. I am not Christian BTW. I would say I am more agnostics than anything but definitely not leaning more one way than another. I am all for holding Christians to their professed beliefs.

            Catherine Ponder wrote the Millionaires of the Bible series and sheds a whole new light on this matter. You should read it. Very illuminating.

            Jesus said this to a man who was a slave to money. But money in and of itself is not evil. It's our attitude towards it. Many people feel they are nothing without money. Jesus wanted us to learn to feel worthy regardless of our earthly possessions. You know the type. They guy who has all the toys but is so insecure . These types prove their worth to their neighbor with the big house , the trophy wife etc. or the woman with the closet full of shoes , nails done, coach bags designer clothes etc to be seen as worthy when they should be concerned with where they stand with God. This is the lesson here.

            That's the gist of most of Christ's message. Worry about where you stand with God , not man. If you are confident of where you stand with God and do not concern yourself with what your neighbor thinks of you, then having money will not keep you out of Heaven. Because if you concern yourself with what God thinks of you you will be charitable and kind etc .Concerning yourself with what God thinks of you covers all your bases.

            SO to summarize the evil of money is when we use it to improve our neighbor's opinion of us when we should be concerned with God's opinion of us. It takes the focus off God.

          • LC

            Well, I think this response shows that #10 is so true! There needs to be some context put in here. During Jesus' time cities were surrounded with walls. To keep intruders out, they had a small passage way called 'eye of the needle'. It was so small that a camel had to kneel down on its knees and put its head down to get through it…. essentially humble itself.

            Rich men lack humility to get into heaven…. they depend on their riches not on God.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            By "this response" you meant *your* comment, right?

          • LC

            Are you seriously not even going to consider that this could be true?

            Also, the reason I said ‘this response’ because it is tiring for people to use the ‘well it doesn’t make sense, but God can do it!’ response. Yes, God can do anything! But that should not be the default answer for lack of Biblical studying to understand what the Bible is saying.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            I agree completely. And any kind of studying is done following certain scholarly standards. Even creation "scientists" admit that that's a baseless myth. So to answer your question, of course, I've already given it due consideration.

          • LC

            I am not sure what point you are trying to make, but…

            Well, I think this response shows that #10 is so true! There needs to be some context put in here. During Jesus' time cities were surrounded with walls. To keep intruders out, they had a small passage way called 'eye of the needle'. It was so small that a camel had to kneel down on its knees and put its head down to get through it…. essentially humble itself.

            Rich men lack humility to get into heaven…. they depend on their riches not on God.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            Ok, we can stop perpetuating that myth now.

    • terence

      I'm always amazed that when the issue of money rears it's delightful head in discussions of the faithful the overwhelming and burdensome weight of Christ's commandments, admonitions and exhortations against wealth are quickly diluted to 'advice' or metaphor or simply watchful words to help us avoid excess. Yet this same community of faith can fasten on the most tangential references to homosexuality and build a case for eternal damnation.

      What is the basis for a conclusion such as "'Give to the poor' doesn't mean 'Join the poor in the poverty'"? Jesus admonitions on the dangers of money are not buried in one or two passing references, it was a consistent and fundamental plank of his earthly ministry. No ifs, ands or buts about it.

  • beth

    Excellent article , Thanks .

    I wish I had #5 in front of me the other night. You said it exactly the way I wished I had been able to.

  • Jill

    John,

    I like your list. The end.

    :)

  • Matt

    3, 9 and 10 are the ones I really struggle with. Maybe I'll elaborate later :) .

  • Christine

    Johnny Boy: one of the best posts you have done in my opinion. Am forwarding this too ALL of my Christian friends and if I was near you I would kiss you MWAH

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      Thank you, Christine.

  • http://leaderstress.wordpress.com nexi

    Ticks the boxes. Christianism v Christianity?

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      ???

  • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com ric booth

    #1 Rocks.

  • Tommy Jay

    1) Don't carry it too far. I know a family who's wife went off the deep end. Not much money, but still tithed like 20%. The husband came home to find that his wife gave their car to a cashier at the grocery (or some such). They ended up being the charity case.

    5) Deserves to be repeated multiple times. Just list #5 ten times for the whole list and that will take care of a whole lot of problems.

    7) True dat!!

    10) See 7

    • Kilyle

      Yeah, I'd go with that! (I mean the first comment there.)

      One of the first rules of helping people in an emergency is "don't add yourself to the victims that need to be rescued." If there's a fire, help people out, sure, but don't get stuck inside the house so the firemen need to risk their lives to help you, too.

      If you've given away so much that you end up relying on others to support you, you've just moved the burden onto other people. And we're told to not be a burden to others, but to find ways to shoulder the burdens of others instead.

      This issue becomes a little more personal when I consider some relatives who are on the welfare system… yet seem unable to deny themselves any luxury they care to have. They're just passing the cost of their luxuries onto people they don't even know.

  • Nora

    Re: #1 — we can't all give away or sell our possessions and just "be poor". When Christ was speaking with the young man who asked Him how he could attain the kingdom of God, Christ was saying if he couldn't give away all his possessions and follow Christ, he'd never make it. It's not that poverty is a requirement for salvation, it's that not being able to let go of possessions, not being able to put God before the gods of your wealth, possessions, ambition, etc., was the thing that would stand in your way.

    Wealth is an amazingly positive thing — wealth creates opportunity, innovation. Wealth creates jobs, homes, means to a living, and for millions of people. It's all about perspective and priorities, not net worth in and of itself.

    I think #6 is where the most damage gets done. There is only one way for folks to be "saved". They cannot be cajoled, bribed, manipulated or coerced into it. They have to choose salvation freely. That's the only way it works. All we can do is witness by living as Christ taught us to live.

  • onemansbeliefs

    If you’re right about #3, could you be wrong about #1?

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      As I said, "I just don’t see how those particular words could be clearer." A lot of what Jesus says is tough to figure out. I think the quotes from #1 are particularly remarkable because they're so explicitly, perfectly clear. They simply shut down any wiggle room.

      • http://luwandi.wordpress.com Beth Luwandi

        Respectfully and perhaps a bit tongue in cheek, might this be you doing a little of #3 yourself?

        I really like the post and do find it verrrrry interesting how hard we work to refute #1. "Me thinks [we] doth protest too much." We American Christians love our money and our wealth. If we were actually spending our time following Him, we'd be doing more good with it instead of spending time defending our right to have it.

  • Thomas

    John, why do you interpret Jesus' words only to mean that you can't be wealthy. If you took them literally, wouldn't he be saying that you can't own property at all?

    Perhaps he is just hitting the wealthy young man where it really hurts him. He thinks he has kept all of God's laws, but Jesus shows him that wealth is his idol. Or perhaps the message is that Jesus is calling all of us to live sacrificial lifestyles, to not necessarily give up all our possessions but to give up at least some of them and live below our financial status in order to help the needy.

    • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

      Okay. I mean … well, frankly, in the comments threads connected to the post I link to at the end of #1, I've had this conversation, about a zillion times. So I'd rather not rehash it. But, yes, I certainly understand the validity of what you (and Kimberely above) are saying.

  • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com ric booth

    I am right there with John on #1. The danger of wealth is our inclination to fall in love with it (to depend on it.). It is like the "power corrupts. absolute power corrupts absolutely." Wealth is a genuine form of power in our world. Wealth will corrupt each and everyone of us (save Job, who's dead). This is an overly simplified argument but, hopefully, one that might get the thoughts going.

    As John points out, he's written on this before and provided the links. I've written on this as well. Shane Claiborne is another name to google for some more info on this.

    • Nora

      Yes, but that's the danger with anything we can set up as a false idol, not just wealth: physical beauty, athletic prowess, intellect, etc. Even religion itself can turn into a false idol of sorts.

      Sure, we could all indulge ourselves a little less and give a little more, but the notion we should all "be poor" is ridiculous.

      Plus, I live in the epicenter of encouraged, aided and abetted homelessness, and believe me, it's costing a lot of people a lot of money to sustain the image of a city that welcomes the poor because they're sooooo compassionate, and all that empty-headed liberal hooey. If we ALL give our stuff away, if we all need to be sustained by someone else's big showy do-gooderism, who pays for it?

      I'm picking up the tab for enough deliberately "poor" and "homeless" people right now, thank you very much, and that means I have to pay for an apartment in a building with 24/7 security so I don't have to wade through a sea of human feces and urine every morning, much less get knifed in my sleep.

      I'd rather manage my wealth and donate to successful, meaningful aid programs than just give it all away. I'd rather manage it and sustain it so I can continue to donate meaningfully, and being guilted into thinking I'm not a good Christian because I don't give it all away and go hang with the loons and nutters and criminals and crazies in GG park and live off the taxpayers' dime is really pretty galling.

      • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com ric booth

        Actually, I don't think anyone said give away everything and "live off the taxpayers' dime."

        • Nora

          No, but that's the upshot of the thinking behind "we should all give away our possessions".

          Or the upshot of the lack of thinking behind it.

          That's the problem — it's a cute, feel-good-about-me-in-the-now sentiment based on an extremely literalist interpretation of Scripture that has zero practical, meaningful value even from a Christian perspective.

          • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com ric booth

            Again, I don't think anyone has suggested an extremely literal interpretation of that one statement by Jesus.

          • http://luwandi.wordpress.com Beth Luwandi

            You are really patient, Ric.

          • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com ric booth

            Thank you, Beth.

          • http://luwandi.wordpress.com Beth Luwandi

            no problem

  • Tommy Jay

    Re: #1….

    It depends on what you do with that wealth also. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett (both atheists) have both spent many billions of their own money on health and education initiatives. Bill Gates is funding a start-up company that he hopes will generate [theoretically] near limitless carbon-free energy using our existing nuclear waste. The cherry on top is that it consumes the hazardous waste greatly diminishing our nuclear detritus. Cool if it works out!

    Short, interesting video: http://www.ted.com/talks/bill_gates.html

  • http://soiledwings.com Sherry Meneley

    Great list, I was thinking "YES, 3, 4 & 5 !!" And then I got to 6, 7, 9, 10… and I realized "thank goodness there are good people like John in the mix".

    Possibly #11 might be: some Christians would do good to stop making Christianity look like a box we're supposed to be smashing people into; a prison with impossible old-school Leviticus rules and guilt riddling. Maybe Christianity should rather be compared to (and demonstrated as) a good supportive pair of hiking shoes – that gives us freedom of movement and allows us to individually travel our own journeys.

    Boxes are wack. Can't we just live by "Love God / Love Others as Ourselves" and realize the rest would actually fall into place?

    Thanks John !

  • http://awalkwiththee.wordpress.com awalkwiththee

    Wealth is only beneficial when in the right hands. I don't trust any human with wealth. Its creates bitter and ugly people. I agree with John. Would I give up all my possessions to inherit the kingdom of God? Yes – but I don't have much. If a robber broke into my home he would be very upset. In fact, they might even leave me a present :)

  • Remy

    Hey John, Interesting blog i cant help but wonder whether this is 10 steps to a healthy you? Kinda like those self-help guides or just a rant of a man grappling with a faith that is hard to fully understand…

    Its interesting though the way Christianity has battled through tough opposing views with their religion… Unpacking your 10 views i found a common thread of subjectivism vs objectivism, both Greco-Roman concepts originally birthed by Plato and now the definition of our world today (Post-Modernity). Your right in saying there is some kind of exclusive language Christians tend to use when describing their faith especially when its done with, out of context one liners from the Bible, and not to mention the fact that when logic isnt used to describe ones beliefs it seems counter cultural, because we are all (Westerners that is) influenced by Descartes, Neitzche, Foucalt, Hume etc… The Enlightenment is our paradigm from which we understand life and the Bible is neatly placed in that box (whether people want to admit it or not)… So i think, another thing Christians dont tend to understand is cultures (other cultures) and religions (other religions) there is a certain ignorant streak that rules Christianity, that is the overlooking of other spritual entities… If understanding our faith through logic is important (because its how westerners think even though we are the minority in this world) than understanding our faith in light of other religions/cultures is also paramount to understanding our "faith"… Especially when there is a big push for new age spirituality…

    I guess i should find Biblical backing so lets look at John's gospel, it was written for Greeco-Romans not Hebrews his language is the biggest indicator to that (Word = Logos) and the fact that its a bit of a hippy gospel in comparrison to the other synoptics, and lets look at Paul the perfect example of an anthropological-theologian (1 Corinthians 9:19-23 plus his life!!) So to add to your 10 ways to a healthy you or the rant of a man grappling with his faith, we are limited by our subjective views of an objective truth because we limit the way we think and the way we look at this world… find out about another religion you'll be surprised with the similarities and the differences… Fear vs Love man… Bob Marley said it best "One love, One heart, Let's get together and be alright…" Peace

    • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com ric booth

      Yeah, John.

      • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

        Curse you, Ric Booth!!

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    I don't know anything about Bob Marley.

    Oh, wait: yes, I do:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/2008/04/01/21-things-about-b

  • Remy

    Oh yeah with the money thing i hope to make some in my lifetime (even though im a student now… But i wonder if you are using those passages contextually or just as hard cold facts… People tend to freak out when money comes into conversation (its like politics and religion)… There is definatley a scary aspect to thinking one must live in poverty to please God…. But surely the fact that one lives and one creates and one makes money and one believes in Christ is a great testament to how much of an inclusive God we do have and our relationship with him should not be hindered because we assume we have to do things to please him?

    • Rosalind

      But isn't the Bible supposed to be a guide on how to please God? Isn't the whole idea that there ARE things that one needs to do and not do in order to please God? The idea that capitalism is good and making money is productive and virtuous (which I believe) comes from modern thinking. I have no problem with adapting millennia-old religious teachings to the modern world, but I don't buy the "this is what the Bible meant all along" argument.

  • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com ric booth

    I don't know whether to say, "Yeah, John" or "Yeah, Jesus."

  • Remy

    Yeah i read your blog on Bob Marley very cool… Im currently doing an essay on Jamiaica and Rastafarianism so that should be interesting…

  • Remy

    Maybe just say Yeah, or Nah yeah, Nah yeah? Seems to be a more human response…

  • http://www.bestaffiliatefamily.com/blog Peter

    Hi John!

    Thank you for an insightful, albeit at times provocative post. You stimulate my thoughts too.

    1) “Sell your possessions and give …” — Certainly this is is yet another way Jesus shows the radical demands of discipleship, but I think, for example, that Luke 12:33 needs to be taken in light of the materialist theme in Luke-Acts, the purpose of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and related passages such as attitudes toward wealth and materialism in Proverbs or Paul’s expectations that Christians should mind their own affairs, labor, pay debts, give from income, etc.

    By way of comparison, it is better to cut off hand or eye that causes to sin rather than enter hell, etc. If salvation were obtainable that way, we would all need to go a whole lot further … suggesting our desperate situation and need of external deliverance, deliverance by God. I am suggesting “sell your possessions, etc.” should be taken as similarly radical and suggestive … while also hoping to avoid equivocation!

    Comment would also be worthwhile, I think, regarding the way the evangelical left and liberation theology folks take such passages as support for socialistic redistribution of wealth. But I have insufficient energy to explain further than to propose that is not what Jesus had in mind.

    3) Parables & understanding — The breadth of evangelistic approach in the NT is something our systematic thinking and seminars often seem to have trouble encompassing. In part my view is that many of us have strayed in some measure from the gospel the Reformation (largely) remembered.

    However, bear in mind two things: (1) There is a fundamental difference in understanding between those who answer the “Who is Jesus” question rightly or wrongly (Jesus approached the two camps in fundamentally different ways), and (2) in the Gospels, some of the disciple’s misunderstanding was cleared up after the previously inconceivable crucifixion of Jesus. This side of the cross, we don’t have the same problem understanding the cross. Of course, as the disciples could “not get it” because their hearts were hard (Mark 6 & 8) … well, you get the sobering application to us.

    5) “Religion is a personal, subjective affair for the individual; politics and public policy is an impersonal, objective affair for everyone.” — I think one can show objective elements to religion and subjective elements to civic affairs, but perhaps for starters you are suggesting that Christian conversion cannot be accomplished by human force (the government’s or otherwise) any more than resurrection of the dead can be accomplished by threat of civic punishment. I also would agree that legal standards ought to be enforced based on evidence of action rather than mere assumed intent. But perhaps you meant more.

    I would also propose that various biblical passages imply the obligation of the civil magistrate to acknowledge God and uphold his law, but also that only only some–or few–do so. Yet even given the ideal of acknowledging God as lawgiver and upholding his law, ideal (arguably biblical) state jurisdiction falls outside jurisdictions given to church and family. To make the state the final arbiter of theology or conscience would be a fearful thing. So of course the American political and legal expression has its bad and good points.

    11)? Just a suggestion for an eleventh point. I think idolatry is a much bigger systemic problem than we in the naturalistic and secularist west may realize. The paucity of silver and gold statues–lightning bolts in hand–does not imply the absence of idolatry (alas). Even atheism is a religion. Absolute religious neutrality is a myth. (I think especially of the excellent Idols for Destruction by Herbert Schlossberg.) The greatest commandment implies that the greatest sin is loving what God is not.

    And finally … Thank you for your exhortations, reminders, and encouragements at various points. May the Son of David have mercy on me too.

  • http://christiancounsel.wordpress.com Joh W

    The verse mentioned in reference to #1 is more about looking at the young mans heart then his wealth. Your heart has to be with God, above and beyond anything else, whether it is wealth, or any of the other possibles. At the end of the day God knows your heart – and you need to make sure that your heart and life is not a slave of something worldly, eg wealth.

    Having said that, there is certainly place for money makers in christianity. We should attempt to be able to help society, not be a burden on it. It just becomes a case of not being a slave to it!

    (and no, being a Christian does not in any way shape or form entitle you to be rich… – if you tithe $20 to God, that is $20 that you then have to live without. Its a sacrifice, not an earthly investment to be reclaimed at a later date)

    • Chevalita Carmargo

      Isn't having an excess of money a burden on society? When a few are rich and many are poor there is an imbalance in society. If one imagines a perfect christian community are there rich and poor?

  • ichtusministries

    It is a very interesting list. Thanks for sharing that.

  • maria-lynn

    noticed you said "man" and "men" a lot. NO WOMEN?

    Mary? Sarah? Ruth?

    And I'm even a non-christian. lol.

    Have a happy day!

  • Dragynn

    Brilliant article in every way, concise, well-worded and sensible. If there were more Christians like you, I WOULD accept an invitation to their parties (and turn them on to some really great music!)

    Thank you!

  • iowawaltz

    I am amused by the tempest in a teapot over #1. The angst seems to me to rather prove your point. If you are attached to wealth and threatened by the suggestion of divesting yourself of it, then you are controlled by your wealth in a way that seems rather unbiblical to me.

  • http://martyandry.blogspot.com Marty

    I just discovered John Shore today. You're my new favorite person I don't know.

  • Johngocambs

    I agree completely John. It's happening a lot. People tend to change when they get involved and are given some responsibility – power corrupts. We have to keep focused on God (not on self) to overcome this!

  • Colin

    i'm a new reader and found ur post very interesting John. Thanks for bringing some interesting points into the discussion. im a secular and non-christian theologian who's constantly disappointed by the misuse and misunderstanding of Judeo-Christian literature. It is good to see (i guess "surprisingly popular" from what ur facebook wall relates) Christian author have some perspective on such a range of issues. It is doublely refreshing for me since i'm out of the country and currently fascinated (read: utterly depressed) by the "religious right" movement in our politics back home; Reading their blogs and forum discussions has brought only deep despair! So thanks again. will continue reading if my internet holds up in the land of Cush…

  • Tim

    Re: #1—Not that I'm rolling in dough…but what qualifies as "too much money". Seems sort of subjective to me. It seems that no matter how much money anyone has, they always seem to need more of it.

    Jesus said that foxes have holes and birds have nests, but He (the Son of man) has no place to lay His head. If we must live according to every word of Jesus, don't worry about how much money you have. Worry if you rent or (God forbid) own. Homelessness can also be construed as another mandate of the Lord.

    We fail at being "Christians" because we fail being Christ. Human nature remains the same. We look for ways to "be as good as Jesus/God" when it appears plain to me that Jesus came for the expressed purpose to save us from ourselves.

    I screw up ALWAYS. But always I say…forgive me Lord and help me to always TURN TO YOU! If I'm always turned toward Jesus. I am always following Him. Doesn't mean I am always doing what HE does. HE who begins the good work, WILL BE faithful to complete it. We're just impatient SOB's. Familiarity breeds contempt. We hate in others, precisely what sins we see in ourselves. We fail to acknowledge the undeserved riches He gives us. We ARE special to God. Why? Beats the hell out of me!

  • bob migliori

    I would submit to you that the rich young ruler story has more to do with arrogance and self importance than it does with money. The story starts with the young man sucking up to Jesus. He calls Jesus "Good master" He is talking through his well u know. He neither knows Jesus nor is he a disciple of his to be calling him master. Jesus immediately puts him in his place Why callest me good? There is none good but God? Wasnt Jesus good? Of course he was. The rich young man was sucking up. He then asks Jesus What good thing do I have to do to inherit eternal life? Jesus points him to the law. Keep the commandments The rich young man should be on his knees at this point realizing he is woefully short of the righteous demands of the Law. Does he? No he arrogants asks which ones? Jesus mentions a few the final one is love your neighbor as yourself. The arrogant young man states he has kept all of these since his youth what do i lack? He is in no need of a Saviour. He is arrogant and self righteous. Jesus says fine you want to be perfect? go and sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. Note Jesus does not say that by doing this he is getting to heaven He says he will have treasure in heaven. It says he goes away sad because he was really rich. His disciples are amazed it says Who then can be saved? Why did they answer that way? Job and Abraham were both blessed by the Lord Extremely weathy men. Wealth was seen by the Jews as an expression of Gods blessings in a persons life. Jesus had once again turned it upside down. Thw sinners go into the kingdom of heaven before you. Yes even before rich young men. Why because sinners are saved by the grace of God who appeared before all men and whose words we discuss here today. amen? yes

  • Nan

    John,

    Saw this article on Huffington Post and want to say thank you. As an evangelical Christian I find myself more and more frustrated with the public face of conservative Christianity. We need to get back to the most basic values of Christianity: knowing Jesus and showing compassion to those in need. I fail to understand how bashing people with different values, or screaming to get some agenda through are really going to change the world the way it needs to be changed.

    Thanks for writing what so many of us are thinking. I am a fan

  • terence

    Hello John:

    I read your post and came to your site by way of Huffington Post.

    If I may be so bold, I would like to add an ELEVENTH way Christians tend to fail (though it could be a corollary of 3 or 3 a corollary of 11:

    11) As Christians we have a weakness for believing that Jesus is talking to someone else.

    Jesus said "Give EVERYTHING you have to the poor", "If someone strikes you, turn the other cheek", "unless your righteousness is greater than that of the scribes and pharisees you will not enter the kingdom of heaven", etc. etc. etc.

    We tend to believe that Jesus said these things to what? Bully the non-faithful into belief I guess. But I believe that is simply not the case. We seem to have an organic inability to understand that we are loved because of our flaws, not in spite of them. We have such a desire to be right and just so we quickly dilute anything Jesus says to accommodate of our own life and lifestyles. If something's got to change… either what we're doing with our lives, or if Jesus really meant what he said, the smart money is ALWAYS on changing our understanding of what Jesus said.

    But here is the point. We are imperfect, it is only God's grace that makes us acceptable. Jesus tells us what to do, and we don't do it. And yet, rather than simply struggle with the reality that we are both cursed and blessed at the same time, we try and kid ourselves that Jesus not only approves of what we do, but endorses it. I believe all these terrifying calls to a higher more sacrificial life are directly pointed at me by Jesus, but my response is overwhelming thankfulness. I realize that in spite of the multitudinous ways in which I fall short and in many ways am incapable of championing even the smallest of Jesus' instructions I am still welcome at the feast. In fact, failure to appreciate how depraved I am would result in me appearing before God feeling myself less in need of His grace and as a consequence less filled on the redemption and forgiveness he has to offer. If I only show up half-depraved, I'm only got room for a half a tank of redemption.

    Perhaps most heinous, is that our willingness to deflect and dilute Christ's words makes us all too worthy of the label of hypocrite that those outside the family of faith accurately and appropriately toss at us. Even the barely literate can see that Jesus says, "Love your enemies and pray for those who hate you". When was the last time any of you heard or gave prayers in your church, or said bedtime prayers with you children and included intercessions for the people of Iran or the soldiers of Iraq? And I don't mean the kind of prayers that go, "Lord, please CHANGE them, make them see the evil of their ways, make them more like us", but more humble supplications asking that ALL people enjoy equal portions of God's grace, or that perhaps they and us might both be united in fellowship and love. That we might better understand them, that we might care for them, that we might minister to them sacrificially".

    So while we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus wants all the homosexuals out there to clean up their act, and how eager he is for the Sabbath day to be kept holy (God forbid we sell liquor on Sundays), and speak with lathered enthusiasm how the Ten Commandments need to be in public display in our places of government, on the other hand seem we seem equally certain that Jesus doesn't really want us to be poor, that Jesus really doesn't ask us to turn the other cheek, to forgive those that have wrong us, to pray for those that hate us, etc. etc. etc.

    As Christians we need to man up to our many failings, to be more humble in our spiritual and social lives and confess that it is not by our own merit we accomplish anything, but through God's forgiveness and grace. I don't want to hear how Jesus is really not saying "be poor", what I want you to say is, "I know Jesus IS asking me to give up everything I have, and it pains me that my faith is so weak and my addiction to the pleasures of this life is so great that I cannot meet that challenge".

    For us to say such things does not mean we are less human or less precious in God's sight, but it would testify to the world that we truly understand the cost of discipleship at that at the very least really do believe what Jesus said is true.

    And then, when we DO get our act together and start living lives worthy of disciples of Christ, let's just see if we have enough energy left over to start telling other people what to do.

    Sorry, I started rambling far too long ago. I hope you get my point.

  • DonP

    God. If He is what is said that He is, the I AM if you will; Then this whole Christian thing is really messed up. God, the great know it all knew what was going to happen before He said "Let there be" anything. He knew that His prized creation Lucifer would turn against Him, He knew the suffering that would ensue. But He did it anyway. He did it anyway! ………………….. He did it anyway.

    Then he had the balls to let Christianity believe it was man's fault because of man's own sin that the world turned to shit.

    In my world. The only world I can feel and touch, the world that I breath in; If a man does a thing knowing in advance that his action will cause harm to another, then he is to blame. He is not to blame to whom the harm has come. Apple eaten or not.

    Thoughts?????????

    • Tim

      Someone up the thread made the observation about the blessing also being the curse. What God intended to honor us (free will) we turned by our own volition and used it to dishonor ourselves. It doesn't matter if God the great know-it-all saw it coming.

      What parent needs a crystal ball to know that many sleepless nights, disappointments, and heartaches lie ahead once they've decided to have children? But as a parent..they do it anyway. They hopefully believe that all of the problems children pose from the time they're born until the time the parent dies, cannot erase the immeasurable joy of loving another human being so unconditionally for as long as they live. For those parents that cannot love their progeny unconditionally (even if they don't always "like" them) have, IMO, turned another blessing from God, into a curse on themselves.

      God is a Father. We are His children. No matter what. Apple eaten or not.

      • DonP

        @Tim—-So let me get this straight; I a man fathers a child wherein he knows that by doing so a fatal, painful, debilitating disease will develop in that child and that’s OK?

        • Tim

          No. That would certainly NOT be OK. On that, we would agree.

          But allow me to ask this. If the disease has an effective treatment, yet the father or the affected child refuses treatment on religious or philosophical grounds…is that OK?

          • DonP

            Finally! An honest Christian. I know my statement is provocative. But the implied questioning of God’s authority in my statement is designed to do just that. We should not be afraid to ask such questions. If God, is as Christians believe in Him, then their freedom is already assured. So ask away. The answer to the implied question in my statement is: God’s responsibility for His creation is His and His alone. That is, after all, why Christianity came up with the Christ. It is God’s payment for the act of creation. In the teachings of Christianity; Jesus died for all our sins, no one owes the payment for sin.

            The creation of the Christ was mans effort and perhaps our Creator’s effort as well, to throw off the shackles of the law. Legalism as it were is a very tough slave master and had become the law of the land, administered by evil. There are great parallels to today’s Church. It can be seen in the example of John Shores list above. Christians in this country in this era are attempting to force, by law, their beliefs on their fellow man. The founding of this country was a gift from our Creator to exemplify the freedom He has bestowed on us all. Not to enslave us with religious doctrine.

            But, your latter question ( unless you didn’t phrase it correctly ) looks down a different road than the one we have come down and does not relate to my original statement. So, I will not respond to it..

            On a side note: Are you John Shore? I have not received a response with that name on it though I wrote him directly.

          • Tim

            Actually my latter question was aimed at your original post regarding how God (knowing what a mess mankind would be) went ahead and did it anyway. I suggest that God provided Himself as the treatment, or better put, a remedy for the disease of sin. God (the Son) is the remedy that many refuse on religious, philosophical, ideological or intellectual grounds.

            Our worldly faculties deign the notion too simple, superstitious, or the stuff of fairy tales. It IS simple. The sixty-some odd literary and verbatim accounts testifying of a supernatural deity speaking a cosmos into being that quickly breaks and spins entropically out of control into the clutches of a counterfeit savior (antichrist/spirit of antichrist) leading multitudes astray away from spiritual truth. What is spiritual truth? It is spiritual…not carnal. It cannot be discerned with the science of men any more than a clay pot can turn a ceramic vase.

            The mystery of revelation comes as the Spirit times it. Pisses me off and makes it reeeeeal hard to have faith in a world that is proven by what we can touch, see, smell, taste and hear.

            Don, my personal experiences won't mean jack-shit to anyone but me and my Lord. I just have to trust that everyone will eventually see evidence of a merciful, patient, and infinitely loving maker like I did. The best thing I can do is try and walk as closely in the footsteps of Jesus as I can. If I'm true, if I'm honest and faithful—not just to God, but to my neighbor…that neighbor may catch themselves believing too. Not trying to imply that you don't or do. I don't know you. But because God made you, you have infinite value and worth.

            Nice to meet you, Don. And no, I'm not John Shore. I do like his work, however.

          • DonP

            I misread your "latter" question. Sorry. Seems you reached the same conclusion as me though.

            I appreciate your witness. I no longer profess to be only a Christian. Imperfect as I am, I do try to quietly live my life as a witness and reflection of His existence. (created in His image and all ya know) Who He is, what He is, why He is, I don't know…. I used to…. "The older I get, the less I find I know". God to me is no longer limited by one incomplete picture (read religion here) story. For me, if He is not here or there or everywhere, then as Salomon said: "all is vanity." In other words; life has no meaning. Perhaps we will meet at the proverbial "Gates". Thanks! You've done more than you know.

    • Matthew Tweedell

      Ok, I wrote the following after reading the initial post, Don, and not having read yours, Tim. So I want to make it clear that this has no relation to Tim’s argument, despite the initial similarity. But on that topic–”a man fathers a child wherein he knows that by doing so a fatal, painful, debilitating disease will develop in that child and that’s OK?”—you know *life* is fatal, and there’s a very good chance that—God willing he should love long enough—some day that kids gonna get cancer or cardiovascular disease or whatever else. Also, I wish to point out that Tim’s argument (“It doesn’t matter if God the great know-it-all saw it coming.”) assumes that God to be subject to cause and effect, rather than cause and effect being subject to God, wherewith God chose the effects, caused the causes, stands as the source of the whole shebang. If He’s omnipotent, He’s able to step in and prevent evils anytime he wants. And then there are those “acts of God” that cause so much destruction in the world. Does human free will somehow constitute the efficient cause of every tectonic plate movement? But having read your whole conversation, I might be getting in over my head here with my two cents (drawn out into long, thin copper wires), but here’ goes:

      Would you have no man sire children then? ‘Cause we know darn well that when we create people, we create more sin and suffering. We will have children who will have children and so on to God-only-knows-how-many generations–one simple act resulting in perhaps millions of deaths (for all who live must die), billions of tears, a million tragedies, a million heartbreaks, a billion lies, untold suffering in clutches of countless dreadful diseases or at the hands of so many evil men (and women too of course). But… Life is worth it! You know oft quoted “‘Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”? Well, I say it’s better to have lived and suffered death than never to have lived at all (aside: now, if anyone disagrees, why hasn’t he committed sui–oh! that’s right: “…what dreams may come, when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, must give us pause.” What?!), or to live without ever really living if you know what I mean. Now, I don’t think that he is really living who hasn’t really loved (with whatever sort of true love–I don’t mean only romance). But what is love? Here’s a clue: you can feel true love for a person, but not for a chair–for a pet, but not for a car (no… that infatuation is lust, not true love)–for a soul, not a void or a lifeless body moved by immutable law rather than animated through possession by a life-giving spirit. The physical, you see, can’t be evil; it can hurt you, but that’s not evil–it’s just doing that as an inevitable consequence of something else (Reminds me of when people say that guns don’t kill people; people kill people using guns. Actually, I think both statements are correct and that the point is best expressed as “guns don’t commit murder”). The spiritual is where good and evil find their substance. It’s irrational being mad at a chair that breaks under your weight, but completely reasonable to be upset at a person whom you trusted to hold you letting you fall, when it was somehow avoidable on their part, which for the chair it obviously couldn’t have been. If someone wrongs you like this—when we hurt one another (and I speak of more than the physical hurt of cause and effect and Newton’s (or are they God’s?) laws, but of spiritual harm)—evil increases in the world. But if (wo)men love you, then they won’t ever do that to you! And you would easily be able to love them back (unless *you* happen to chose evil, or get “possessed” of an evil spirit or whatever). With love, you banish fear–the fear of evil. Love is the antonym and antidote to fear (with hate as a certain expression of fear–an aggressive response to that which is feared (but you can fear and hate things that which you couldn’t love–like chairs–but that’s another issue altogether)). Yes, we love because we could do such evil things to one another, and yet we choose not to! How remarkable! and the summation, even more so: If there were no evil, there would be no love! Yet for evil to be possible in the world means that, given a big enough world and long enough history, every evil imaginable will sometime(s) occur. This often serves as a great reminder to love: The deeper fallen is our world, the more love we’ve yet to perfect, and what a joyous and beautiful process that is—the work of Christ—a work in progress. So be a creator, for creation–well, you see that is good. (And what a coincidence (or is it?) that we tend to do those acts of creation with someone we love!) Neither life nor love have meaning without a view towards certain acts as evils; maybe we can just suck it up and be a little more stoic about it—just don’t forget to love, for that is to live!

  • http://narrow-path.livejournal.com/ BethAnna

    Wow. Wonderful list – His ways are higher than ours, that's for sure. Seems like we've forgotten how to count the cost to . . .ourselves.

    Thanks for having the courage to post this.

  • http://www.bicyclemeditations.org Claire Petersky

    I love the illustration for this posting – the target and the arrow. The origin of the Hebrew word for "sin" is from archery, and it means to miss the mark. I also found out just on Friday that the origin of the Hebrew word for intention also derives from archery – it's related to the word used to mean "aim", like aiming an arrow.

    What are our intentions? Where do we miss the mark? Where we don't quite make it where we wanted to – that is where we sin. The picture you chose illustrates this perfectly. Thanks.

  • http://www.tarotbyolympias.com Cynthia

    I admire your honor and courage to post this list. I will be reading your past posts and look forward to your future posts.

    Thank you

  • Tommy Jay

    See John? Isn't this more offensive and deluded than anything I say? It only makes your original essay seem that much more pertinent!

  • http://www.saviour.com Arvin Tjahjadi

    There is no pass or fail test to being a christian. the author, having wrote this article is already judging christians based on what he can find.

    Please dont judge christians on what they did or did not do because christians are humans too, not angels!

    Humans make mistakes, humans are sinners too and christians admit that they are sinners. the difference between christians and non christians is simply that christians recognise and follow jesus christ.

  • clintjohnson

    excellent post :)

  • http://ricbooth.wordpress.com ric booth

    John, you have just been "Yeah, John-ed" by Tommy Jay. I'm am, as they say, LOL!

  • http://none Random

    I think you missed the REAL top 10 ways christians fail @ being Christian.

    1. They drive the roads as if they own them, and don't yield to faster traffic or use turnsignals, Road Rage incidents, don't allow traffic to merge into their lane..etc..etc.. Name just about any minor traffic offense, and ask yourself, Would JESUS allow someone to Merge into their lane in front of them? Would Jesus flip someone the bird because someone merged in front of them? Would Jesus do 60 in the left lane of a freeway and force everyone to pass on the right? Would Jesus drive on the shoulder just so he could get up to the light and make his right hand turn 45 seconds sooner? Would Jesus run that red light on the left hand turn lane so he could get to Lunch with the Apostles 2 minutes faster?

    2. In the supermarket/store. Would Jesus cut in front of people in Queues to checkout. Push people out of the way to get the item they want. Take a parking space someone is clearly waiting for? Drop an item on the floor and have it break then just walk away? Would Jesus return an item that he broke but then claim it was faulty when he bought it so he could get a free replacement? Would Jesus park in a handicap spot because he was just running into the store for ONE item, or park there because he was waiting for one of the apostles to come out?

    3. Would Jesus Walk around talking on his cell phone/ear peice ignoring the rest of the world, cuz he's Jesus and his conversation is way more important than being Polite?

    4. Would Jesus only do the work he's assigned and work and nothing else? Have you ever said "it's not my job"? Or would he go out of his way to help customers/co-workers?

    5. Would Jesus ignore/walk by people begging for money/food just so he could go into starbucks and get his $5 cup of coffee?

    6. Would Jesus buy that new car or that new/bigger house when millions of people can't even pay bus fare/find a shelter to sleep in?

    7. Would Jesus tell teachers that they are worth less this year that last year and force them to take 10-15% pay cuts?

    8. Would Jesus decide Oil was more important than individual rights or people's lives and sanction a war/police action in the name of "demoracy" or our interest in cheap, abundant oil?

    9. Would Jesus decide personal freedom was less important that possibly offending individuals, and think goverment deciding what can/can't be said/shown on Radio/TV was perfectly acceptable?

    10. Would Jesus think that being a christian stops @ the 10 commandments, going to church on sundays/religious holidays, and giving $20 to the church every so often?

    Hrmm, the vast majority of christians don't seem to follow Jesus except when it's convenient or suits their purposes.

  • http://elenasjustmythoughts.wordpress.com elenaramirez

    Dear Sir,

    I read your ten ways….Sorry, I could not relate to too much that you said. God is so good, to me, I am so grateful for my Salvation. I remember who I was, and who I am now….How he took away, so much of my hard heart. How he took away my legalistic thoughts as well. So I try to be careful, what I say in his name. I try to use love…..

    I kept seeing the word you wrote about religion. Christ told us it would always be about the love, not the rules and regulations. What Christ and I share it is not religion. Maybe I am out of it. According to your standards. If you met me, or if you judge me. But I hope people see love. I hope Christ sees love in me. Now I am not saying what you are saying is wrong. It just seems harsh in your tone. Right away, you condemn wealth…..Christ told us the love of money is evil. Having it is not evil….if you do good things with it…..

    For when God blesses me, and abundantly, I see it as a gift, and a gift, I want to share with others as well. This all sounds like a characterization of religion. But we are told to cast our bread upon the waters….our money, time, talent, etc. God will bless it.

  • http://fairtilizer.com/users/Voicedude Voicedude

    elenaramirez -

    Dare I say….if the shoe fits….

    Your three posts in one day, all flaming on John, seem like overkill – especially when you asked to be removed from everything in your second post, but felt compelled to rail on him yet again. Not exactly washing one's hands of something, is it? He's obviously hit a nerve in you.

    As far as his article goes, no one like to have their faults pointed out to them – it seems to grate on our human or 'prideful' nature. But Paul repeated Jesus' admonitions again and again – and we are never above God's will nor His judgement. Paul reminds us not to judge the world – that's God' job alone – but rather that we hold each other and ourselves accountable. And that's aside from the judgmental statements like 'whatever….. you sir, you are being judgmental'. Redundant.

    Yes, you are right about 'if [we are] wrong, God will show [us]. But only if [we] are willing to listen.

    Sometimes He does it by 'hitting a nerve' in us, y'know?

    OK – I'm braced and ready for your fourth soon-to-be-removed post now…..

    God bless your passion, tho.

  • Mark

    I find it somewhat amusing that Christianity claims to have some kind of special monopoly on morality. Any time you bring up the atrocities of the bible- of which there are countless, terrible examples- the response is, “that’s the Old Testament.”

    Right.

    Well, if that’s the case, then what was the social catalyst that made us realize that, for example, working on the Sabbath shouldn’t be punishable by death, or that boiling a goat is just plain ugly and weird?

    Did the bible give us ANY clues that one day, nearly a thousand years after the Dark Ages, we would all of a sudden realize that the scriptures were being “metaphorical” any time they wax poetic about God’s wrath, or genocide, child abuse or sexual persecution or slavery?

    No.

    It was NOT the bible that guided our morality to realize these things were wrong. It was SECULARISM. Rational thought. Science. Man-made constructs, all. Not magical gifts from the heavens. We only have ourselves to thank for lighting the spark of the Enlightenment.

    We owe our current state of civilization- medicine, sanitary conditions, transportation, the internet, and the knowledge of basic human rights- to SECULARISM. Plain and simple. God didn’t help us figure ANY of those things out. So stop trying to tell me that He is somehow a guiding force of morality.

    A belief in God may make one feel cozy and safe at night, but please, please, please stop telling the rest of us that morality comes from a bronze age book, that the only way we can be good is when we think we’ll be punished. That argument holds no water. Period.

    • Tim

      I won't try to say the Bible is the only source of morality. But I will argue that a considerable number contributions to civilization, medicine, sanitation, transportation, internet, understanding of basic human rights… or what have you…came by way of people or ideas that were inspired or influenced by faith in God, knowledge of sacred texts, or belief in a loving and merciful Creator.

      While your opinion that a bronze age book has no moral claim to any advances in our history as a planetary culture, I would be so bold as to say your claim holds no greater amount of water.

  • http://elenasjustmythoughts.wordpress.com elenaramirez

    I am not going to argue or respond further. I have no gripe, to truth. Yes he did hit a nerve by removing my thoughts….But what bothered me, and you do not address this is that my actual first comment….. Was nicely, by his convenience, altered, edited, and did not let me complete my thought. He deleted it. You did not see it because he removed it. I have no nerve to hit here, by the way. By his freedom of speech. But you go ahead and defend him if you wish. God told me, he would bless those who bless me, and curse those who curse me. I have learned to bless even those who do not bless me, because Christ taught me that. So your comment, really has no affect on me. I wish all well here, but would hope that he would not ever do that to anyone. Thats just not nice. And thats all I have to say…

    Thank you, and God bless you.

  • John F

    The 10th point about generalizing groups seems to be exactly what you are doing with yur prior 9.

  • http://elenasjustmythoughts.wordpress.com elenaramirez

    Whatever….. you sir, you are being judgmental. And thats why, Christians get such a bad rap. We will all stand before God for our sins. You are by the fruit, you are displaying are one of those people, the Bible warns us about. They are called Pharisees. I don’t mean to be rude, but to actually remove someone’s comment, and edit it to only reflect a part of it, takes away from any ones free speech. And that is what you did to my comment. Christ warned us about people like that. So, out of respect, I just ask that you remove all of my comments. Because I will speak truth, and for you to give only part of what i say, is not at all respectful. If I am wrong, God will show me. But if your wrong, I don’t think anyone could show you. Because you seem to know it all…..

  • http://www.dnusbaum.com Doug Nusbaum

    I am an agnostic Jew. It is my experience that the greatest problem about “christians” is not any of the 10 mentioned, but that, according to the bible almost all of them are either hypocrites, or given the fact that they speak in the name of Jesus, yet actively act contrary to his teachings, are likely agents of Satan. Well except for the fact that I do not believe in Satan.

    Read Mathew 6.5

    When one understand that self proclaimed Christians are not really, then the top 10 sort of follow automatically.

    • Jason

      Sorry, but this isn't a new idea at all. Claiming that one is a Christian is NOT synonymous with saying that one is morally unassailable. Though there are certainly people who consider themselves righteous and act otherwise, this is a sin of pride.

      This constant "falling short," I think, is the reason John wrote the article; to remind us of where we are lacking. For me, it was helpful to see that many people are struggling with the same problems that I am. Trying to reconcile these issues with my own actions is a way to remove hypocrisy from my own life. Having a discussion about these things shouldn't be seen as an exercise in futility.

    • daniel

      not true, there are good christians out there, me on the other hand, i fall short at an amazing rate, but i know there are good christians because the ones i know , in my circle you might say love and admonish and do for the most part follow jesus' example, at least in my reality

  • Kate

    This was the most REFRESHING article I have read in a very long time! I found it on my Google news and am sorry to say I never heard about you before. No problem, since I have spent my entire day reading and catching up. Could anything me more honest than "Christians and their money and music?" I grew up Amish; yes, horse and buggy until I was 26. I can't loathe bad Christianity enough, because the real thing is so awesome!

  • Irv Mermelstein

    I wonder if you are really prepared to have a dialogue with a non-Christian (a Jew, in my case) about the failings of Christianity towards us? Are you willing to look at Christian scripture and see what is there?

  • iemand

    nice article;)

    I myself are atheist, and mostly against religion(I can find myself pretty much in the views of satanism as well), but this shows that ,contrary to some other christians, you really thought about your beliefs, and respect the beliefs of others

    I especially agree with 5 and 6, I'm fine with everyone having their own beliefs how weird they may be, as long as they don't bother me

  • http://www.121youth.wordpress.com Ricky

    LOL! this is a great post and a great topic really liked some of your points. Your point about homosexuality is completely true and I dont think it's is so much the concern that they have for that sin but the way they address it that makes matters all the worst. A lot of christians are just standing there bashing them as if that will make them want to come to know Jesus. I think craig gross and xxxChurch do a great job in showing them love while always being firm on what the bible teaches about it. I have recently started a blog if you would like to check it out: http://www.121youth.wordpress.com

    • Matthew Eagleton

      Hi Ricky,

      The LGBTI Christian friends I know are being bashed over the heads with bibles all the time by other Christians and they already know Jesus??? This is the problem with christians like yourself – you are doing exactly what John is saying don’t do in point no.8. Just because you thnik you believe the bible is clear on this “sin” as you have written, does not mean you are correct – in fact I think you are way off!

      Cheers

  • Nathan W.

    3 can go both ways

    Especially for liberal Christians, people can assume what God means by the things he doesn’t say in the Bible. Which is much more dangerous IMO.

  • Alex

    You are very brave to allow comments here, and you have quite a collection, couldn’t read them all I must admit, though your first point about money seems to be the most discussed.

    My first impression reading your list, by the time I was at number 6, is that you live in a fantastic parallel universe, where Christians are the plentiful, mostly wealthy, active, zealous, & confident, and you are asking them to tone it down for some reason! I guess this list must be very particular to where you live, you lucky guy LOL!

    Points 7 (abandon logic), 8 (homophobic), and 10 (ignorant) are things I’ve come across in my life, especially 7, basically an inability to convey the bibles message effectively. 8 and 10 are more things I hear about or see on TV or notice in the world at large, not so much in my circle.

    Now, to get to point 1, what most of the posts seem to be fixated on, I want to add that as far as I know, the camel through the eye of the needle verse is commonly mistranslated. The word “camel” simply refers to a thick rope in the original language (no prizes for knowing what that is).

    Here in Greece, where I live, many people are aware of this fact, but I didn’t see it the preceding posts, maybe I missed it. I did read about the interpretation of the eye of the needle being the city gates but cannot pronounce a verdict on this interpretation as I havent researched it. Certainly we can say that, when translating, one must be aware of the cultural context words are uttered in to render their correct meaning in another language.

    So…… that verse is saying that its hard for a rich person to get into heaven. As hard as it is to string a rope through the eye of a needle (probably not a factory made stainless steel needle a millimeter thick that you are imagining right now). In other words its pretty hard. There is no implication that it is impossible or anything of that sort. And that makes sense. Since money easily currupts many. But I interpret that a steadfast knowlegable & faithfull believer, as we aspire to be and some of us already are, would be much less likely to fall to that fate.

    I know its hard to take my word for it over a lot of bible translators etc, but it is what it is, its your choice what you want to believe. It has been endoresed by westerners too, for example Desiderius Erasmus (1566) and (catholic Saint) Thomas More (1535).

  • Ladyofleisuredc

    10/10!
    I’ve stopped reading other people’s comment because they tend to borderline “derailing for dummies” and frankly they don’t concern me. Lucky me! Poor you!

    Yes! Especially 10- You know what? Number 10 is really the truest and saddest part of most Christians I know.

  • charles

    Bases loaded home run.

  • http://www.moonchild11.wordpress.com moonchild11

    I liked the last point especially! I know I fail to be Christian now and then. I hope I can do a better job :)

  • http://www.blurr1974.com Grant

    As someone who was raised an atheist, only to come to know Jesus in my mid 20s, the 6th item on this list is quite close to home. It’s only due to my in-laws that I ever bothered to even “check out” Christianity. Sadly, they are the exception to the rule. I’m thankful they never pushed anything on me, but allowed me to lead my own journey.

    I don’t think I’ve really got a point beyond saying that, from personal experience, I can say that living like Jesus is a far more effective evangelical tool than any amount of words could have ever done for me.

    • Richard lubbers

      Grant, you said it all!

  • Richard lubbers

    Good points, John. I think Grant’s comment above is the best illustration of your point number 6; that what you do and how you live your life speaks volumes more than all the books on evangelism.

    I want to comment on number 10 to say that I am usually apalled at the typical 21st century American Christian evangelical belief about the bible. Have you ever been in a church when the pastor tells you to “raise your bible in the air and repeat after me, ‘every word in this book is true . . . (on and on ad nauseum)’ “? Some times I wonder if God isn’t going to judge us for raising our adoration of the bible to the level of idolatry. The bible is an amazing book, and we are fortunate to have it. You are right in saying that most Christians today have little knowledge about it. In fact, in my experience, those who know the least about it’s origins and the process of how it came to be are the the people who seem to be the best at using it like Thor’s hammer on the heads of “unbelievers”.

    I like your point about taking more time for personal reflection, and reading the bible is one of the practices that produces positive change through personal reflection. We do well to get a better understanding of the time, place, culture and events into which God was acting and speaking in each writing that has been preserved for us in the bible. The meanings are deeper, richer and more amazingly profound for us than the proclamation that “Every word is true” can express. It is written that King David meditated on the law of God day and night (well, there was at least one night where he wasn’t meditating on God’s law, but that’s another story). It is far better to internalize what we read and give the Spirit time to lead us into the truth than it is to simply read, claim and regurgitate it for others.

    But any way, I ramble. As usual, well spoken John!

  • http://theauthorsword.blogspot.com/ Irene

    I am a believer in Christ for the last 16 years. Since the last 2 years we as family stopped going to Church because we were not happy with the preaching, hypocrisy in the church, money mindedness and worst of all marketing kind of evangelism. I come from a non-Christian background and I came to the Lord due to my inward search for truth and life. I believe that the Lord drew me to Him during the course of my life. Right from the moment I accepted the Lord, the only inward push I had within me was to please My Master Jesus and live a life worthy of His name. Though this a challenging goal, I do persevere it to the best of my conscience and life has only taught more about self-reflection and self-correction time and again.

    When I share to other believers now that I don’t go to Church I am looked with judgment. I don’t allow that to bother me because I know I am doing the right thing. I don’t want to fellowship with people who were masks of hypocrisy and self-righteousness. Believers generally tell me that I can’t find a perfect Church. I am not looking for perfection but at least one where there is no trace of hypocrisy but genuineness. Is this too much of an asking? I believe not. If believers can’t reflect Christ then who will? If we cant reflect Christ then why are we in the first place preaching the gospel? Isn’t this a shame? I guess we can’t give excuses on the pretext of perfection that we can’t be fully like Christ. It is true that we can’t come up to His fullness in character…but can’t we at the least be transparent and honest with a maturity to accept our shortcomings that lingers within many of us in the form of pride, hypocrisy, prejudice, judgmental attitudes, gossips, back biting, manipulations, jealousy and selfishness…Can’t we have a humble and a contrite spirit like the Lord expects? And walk with Him in uprightness, gentleness of the heart and humility?

    I believe this is the life in Christ and nothing more. I don’t need to attend Church for the sake of social acceptance of believers and join the others in hypocrisy stating that I need to witness, evangelize, tithe and be more action-oriented for Christ when in reality the inward doesn’t match the outward in most of us…

    • Elizabeth

      Hi Irene. I’ve got my own checkered past with the church. (You can watch the simplified version here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lknlZeVLgag. It’s a NALT video.) I explain how hard it was to be an ‘uppity’ girl in a Midwestern church, and the shame that made my friends want to use a code word instead of the very word ‘church’.

      I still only attend services sporadically. As I hear the call, if you will. There are churches that will accept you right now. As you are. That fellowship is valuable; you may not know how much until you’re hanging on by your fingernails. UCC, Methodists, and Episcopalians are on the right path. I’m sure a half-dozen others are as well. Blessings on your journey.

      • http://theauthorsword.blogspot.com/ Irene

        Hi Lizzy,

        Thanks for your response. I would surely make an effort to join a fellowship or Bible study where there is room for open discussions about the pitfalls in Christianity we confess to follow. I am curious to know if there are people out there who profess Christian faith yet feel uncomfortable with the way things go about or happen in the Church and are they ready to admit and confront it while being active on evangelism and other Christian works. Do we have the guts to bring into discussion about our shortcomings as believers and take action to make it right…?

        • Elizabeth

          Aw, my best friend calls me Lizzy. Her little girls picked it up because they know it’s her pet name. It’s a great way to get my attention.

          Anyway. Enough random trivia about me. Many Christians struggle with the disconnect between the shortcomings of the institutional Church, their own shortcomings, and the call to be a part of a faith community. Where you draw the line is deeply personal. John and Cat, for example, left their first church home when confronted with its official stance on LGBT: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/2013/04/17/kicked-out-of-my-church-how-i-learned-the-christian-view-of-gay-people/. You can also tough it out and change your church home from within. Methodists didn’t officially condone full LGBT acceptance at their last conference. The debate was invaluable, though. Supporters lost the battle but won the war, basically. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/2013/05/10/a-methodist-to-their-madness/. There’s just no hard-and-fast rule.

          If you can’t find a church with an acceptable crazy-to-sane ratio, start your own little study group: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/2013/06/06/christians-of-a-feather/. I skew academic; this is the understatement of the year. So I find community and nourishment at educational events at major cultural institutions, like cathedrals and museums. Walk up to the cluster of folks asking questions afterwards. Introduce yourself. Ask them out for coffee. Voilà, the seeds of a personal network and maybe a movement.

          Or keep your own counsel and show your faith through your actions. Volunteer. Show it in how you treat the least among us every day. You’re more than welcome to raise virtual hell with the armchair quarterbacks here and over at Unfundamentalist Christians. They’re pretty gutsy.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          Yeah, if only we know someone who professes the Christian faith, yet feels uncomfortable with the way things happen in the church, and publicly confronts and engages those problems.

          Gosh. Well, no one comes to my mind, that’s for sure.

          (oh, but snerketh!!)

  • Brandon Roberts

    i believe in christ. but i think it’s we flip through the bible than say ha see that god supports my opinion on (insert issue here). but god has his own opinions and doesn’t give a shit about what we think about. because he’s an all powerful deity he loves us but he never changes. p.s we’re not bound by the old testament any more.


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