The recently trending hashtag is another sign of a widespread cultural dissatisfaction toward Christianity and the Church. Christianity gets a bad rap in today’s society—much of it justified. Just this week, actress and comedian Sarah Silverman added more kindling to the fire by sharing a shocking sermon snippet on her Twitter in which a preacher brashly declared from the pulpit that he hopes, “God breaks her teeth out and she dies.” Whenever the word “Christian” appears across social media platforms, more and more it seems that it is closely followed by other pointed words: hateful; intolerant; bigoted; fake; greedy; corrupt; childish; and so on.
Of all the contemptuous words, perhaps the one that has historically been most zealously lobbed against the Christian church is hypocrites. “Christians claim to be holier, more moral, and more loving,” they say, “But in reality, they’re no better than the rest of us.” This is the baseline of the #ChristianPrivilege hashtag. If Christians are no different than anyone else, then why should they get any special privileges? The world looks at the church and draws the scathing conclusion: Christians are really messed up.
And do you know what? They’re absolutely right. Christians are really messed up.
In fact, that’s the point.
There is an odd notion today that the truth or falsehood of a God hinges upon the actions and character of his followers. “How can there be a God,” asks the skeptic, “When all his professed followers are so totally messed up?” This approach, however, is akin to looking through the wrong end of the telescope.
To assume that the existence of hypocritical and mean-spirited Christians somehow invalidates the Christian faith is to completely miss the entire point of Christianity. If Christians were not so thoroughly messed up, then the Christian religion would have no need for the Cross and crucifixion. The Christian faith is built on the foundational belief that every person on Earth is so utterly messed up that a holy and perfect God had to send His own beloved Son down from heaven to take on our sin and die in our place.
What sets Christians apart from the rest of the world is not the absence of illness; it is the acceptance of a remedy. The remedy. Christians attend church, not to present themselves as perfect, but to declare that they are far from perfect and in desperate need of God’s grace and help. This wonderful and beautiful acknowledgment is what allows Christians to joyfully sing, “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!”
We do not judge a God against the testimony of his followers; we measure the followers against the testimony of their God. If Christians act spiteful, self-centered, or unloving—as many unfortunately do—then we must look first at what God commands in the Bible, and then measure the actions of his followers against that standard.
This does not at all imply that the Church should make light of or be apathetic toward these abuses; but it does mean that these shortcomings are a reflection of the sinful nature of man, not the holy character of God. Christians should be leading the cultural charge to stamp out injustice and call out the sinful distortion within our midst, but we should also recognize that no amount of human sin—no matter how abhorrent and tragic—will ever infringe upon the perfect, holy nature of God.
The unbelieving world is absolutely correct. Christians are not perfect—and that is okay. Our imperfection is a prerequisite for God to demonstrate His amazing and boundless grace. The powerful testimony of the Church is not that perfect Christians love God, but that a perfect God loves messed up Christians. The difference between these two perspectives makes all the difference in the world. In short—Christianity has nothing to do with perfect Christians and everything to do with a perfect Christ.