"I like Jesus, it's his followers I can't stand"
That used to be a magnet on my refrigerator. I was 21 and had only read the bible enough to try to tear down anyone who threatened to give me "the good news". It's a popular sentiment, as I found out after I wrote my last blog post. I try to read all the comments, I really do, but as the conversations on this one steadily grew, I lost track. I noticed though, there was a reoccurring theme, I will sum it up like this, "If your God is good, why do Christians keep hating and killing everyone?"
We have to get one thing straight first, God is not Christians and Christians are not God. Christians become Christians when they believe Jesus Christ is the son of God, their belief gives them that name. That's all "Christian" really means. But being Christian, that can mean any number of things. So, however many Christians there are, there are that many different ways of "being Christian".
Are they all "good" people? No. But if they believe, truly and by the definition of faith, they will try to be. Often they will fail, daily even. Sometimes to catastrophic extents. That doesn't mean God generally sucks, it just means sometimes people do. It means, people are flawed. Some miss Jesus' mark more than others (Henry VIII and his daughter, Bloody Mary, are prime examples) and some seem to exude the love Jesus spoke of during his ministry (Think, Mother Theresa and Pope Francis).
As Christians, we know people are inherently sinful. The word "sin" means "mistake" or "missing the mark". People are inherently a constant source of mistakes. They make them all the time, from unhealthy dietary choices to carelessness that ends up creating any number of problems for themselves and everyone around them. Mistakes are everywhere, if we let them define us, they will. But, the bible tells us to repent after we make a mistake. "Repent" is the English word, the original Hebrew word meant "to change your path" or some even say it was "correct your thoughts". If you make a mistake, change your path. Go the other way, correct your thoughts on sin.
The unfortunate thing about being full of mistakes is that we sometimes get attached to our mistakes and free will can foul us up at every step. God can lead us, but only if we let him. Many Christians forget to listen. People claiming to be Christians started many wars in the name of God, but like anyone doing anything under someone else's name, it really wasn't for Him at all. I have yet to find the part where Jesus said "Go forth and kill any who don't agree".
A friend asked me why it's a big deal that God sent his Son to die for us if he was just going to come back to life and then go to Heaven? Because God, through His son was experiencing something uniquely human, willful suffering. He didn't have to, He could have left us to kill each other or die from bacteria and extreme weather. But, He didn't. Jesus could have stopped his ministry and headed home, but he had to ride this out, he had to experience what "fallen" felt like. He needed to sacrifice his pure light to the extreme darkness that we are subject to on Earth. God experienced the things that are not of Him through Christ and forged a bond with the fallen people he had created. A shared experience is a powerful bond. God, through Jesus, did a trust fall onto earth and we know Him better for it. Of course, this is all theologically debatable on account of linguistic and doctrinal nuisances, as is everything.
God doesn't suck because he lets people suffer -- God is love that welcomes those people home when there will be no more suffering. God doesn't suck -- he comforts you when everything here sucks. He sends sensations and emotions (joy, peace, comfort, revival), he sends symbols and signs that are miracles (weeping Mary statues), and he guides those who will listen. There are books upon books upon billions of books out there explaining to you how to sit and just listen. Meditate, is what the bible says, hear that "still small voice". With all this guidance, why do Christians do such awful things? Because they are sinners, they are makers of mistakes, and one of their biggest ones is forgetting to listen. I know, I know, weren't the WWJD bracelets supposed to solve this problem? I thought so too.
Why do Christians do such awful things? Because we're just Christians. We're just flawed, fallen, and broken people who make a lot of mistakes, and some of us are doing far better than our brother or sister is but mostly we're just people who try. We try to meditate on the message of love God gave us, but we stumble or allow ourselves to get devastatingly mislead. Some Christians have been trying for longer than others and some fell on the way and some got back up. A Christian is not a Christ.
If our God is so good, why do Christians do such awful things? Because sometimes we're bad at being Christians. Sometimes the same things that get the best of other people, get the best of Christians and it's hard to watch. Jesus told us to follow in his example and spread that "good news" I spent so many years avoiding. He told us to be his ambassadors on earth and that is a lofty responsibility that we all, at one point or another and some more than others, fall short of fulfilling. Don't let a lost Christian on a bad day scare you away from a perfectly good God.