Are Bad Christians Jesus’s Fault?
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We are bombarded daily with examples of bad Christians—people who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ but are corrupt in character. I have known quite a few of them personally. (I have to say that, on the other hand, I have also known quite a few Christians who were and are true Christ-imitators even though none of them were or are perfect.)
The question I want to answer here is this: Is a person justified in rejecting Jesus Christ as God and Savior, Lord and Master, because many of his alleged followers are corrupt, abusive, indecent and unworthy of being called imitators of Jesus Christ?
Let me take this question further to an extreme hypothetical situation: What if everyone who claimed to be a Christ-follower fell far, far short of imitating Christ; what if everyone who claimed to be a Christ-follower was corrupt, indecent, and unworthy of being called imitators of Jesus Christ?
Jesus himself predicted a time and situation in which many people who called him “Lord! Lord!” And claimed to be his followers would be cast out as unworthy of his favor. Throughout church history there have been false Christians.
In my opinion, the extreme hypothetical situation mentioned above would not change the status of Jesus Christ as God and Savior, Lord and Master, worthy of worship and worthy of being imitated. Jesus’s status does not depend on the characters of his professing followers.
True faith in Jesus Christ does make a difference in a person’s life; it changes him or her, not into perfection but into humility before Jesus as the only person perfect and into desire to be like him.
But Jesus himself knew how fragile this faith could be. He asked if he (the Son of Man) would find faith on the earth when he returned. He knew it was possible that he would not because he knew people, including his followers.
Jesus knew our fragility of character; he knew that we all need his forgiving love and care. He knew we could not achieve perfection, even with him abiding in us through the Holy Spirit. He knew it was possible that every one of his “followers” would fall away like Judas did.
Yet, in the darkness of that fragility and its threat, even if no one on earth imitated Jesus Christ faithfully, Jesus would remain God and Savior, Lord and Master.
Someone once quipped that it takes a person smaller than a hypocrite to hide behind one, to hide behind all hypocrites from Jesus. People who reject Jesus Christ as God and Savior, Lord and Master, or even God, just because people who claim to be his followers, who claim to be “Christians,” fail to be faithful imitators of Jesus Christ, become corrupt and godless in their ways of living, simply misunderstand. They fall into the error of “projection,” projecting onto Jesus Christ, onto God, the flaws and failures, the corruptions and evils of people who claim to be faithful Christians.
”If Christianity is true, it will show its truth in people’s changed lives” is an ideal but a bad ideal. Jesus Christ is God and Savior, Lord and Master, whether anyone chooses to allow him to rule in their lives or not. He does not force himself on anyone.
Allow me to use an illustration. I find it increasingly difficult to find people I recognize as “good Americans.” America has become largely corrupt, especially its leaders, its movers and shakers. They have become lackeys to big corporations whose only interest is profits. America is largely in love with guns and violence. Americans have by-and-large misinterpreted “freedom” in an extremely individualistic way. Popular American culture is perverted and decadent. Yet, on Independence Day, July 4th, I celebrate America. What am I celebrating? Not America’s numerous unjustified military misadventures or America’s imperialistic dominance of other countries or the corruption of so many American leaders. I celebrate the ideals of America embodied in, expressed in, our Declaration of Independence and Constitution. To me, “America” is not geography or great monuments or even its political and business leaders; it is a set of ideals, principles, that are true, right and good EVEN IF they are almost universally corrupted by leading Americans and rarely, if ever, completely, totally, faithfully lived out by anyone.
I worry that I am alone in this belief in reality independent of empirical experience. I refuse to confuse God or Jesus with the hypocrites or anyone. I refuse to confuse America with its current condition in politics, government and popular culture.
I understand that this view of mine is not popular, even with most who understand it. But here I stand; I can not do otherwise.