This past Saturday I decided to venture downtown to watch the Georgia vs. Clemson game. You can imagine my surprise when I realized that college football can draw a crowd nearly as heavy as St. Patrick’s Day. We finally made our way into a packed bar before the end of the first quarter.
Then the guys next to us strike up a conversation. Please, no…just let us watch the game in peace.
After trying to politely carry on a conversation while I pick over my pizza and wings, one of the guys finally asked my favorite question. The one that can end someone’s interest in a heartbeat if I answer it the right way.
“So, what do you do?” Now’s my chance…we have two more hours of this if I don’t answer this right.
“I work at a church.” Silence. Finally.
And then the unexpected happened. This guy had questions. Struggles. And a desire to know more about an establishment that had certainly let him down and offended him. And over the yelling and cheering in this crowded bar, Jeff and our table began what is now one of my favorite Spiritual discussions to ever take place while watching college football (my hope is that it won’t be the last).
All of that being said, I have sat with a heavy burden on my heart since then. My mind racing with the ways that we, as the Church, have failed our friends. People that were close to encountering Jesus, who wanted to know more about the Gospel, only to be let down by a Christian in their lives. So, I guess I wanted to write an apology. It’s going to leave out a lot, may overstep boundaries, and has the potential to bore you. But if you’re on the fence, I want you to read it anyway.
To My Friends Who Are On the Fence About Jesus:
I hope this finds you well. I know you don’t want to hear it. “Here goes another Christian with an agenda”, you’re grumbling. But wait, hear me out.
We’ve done some really crappy things. And not just in the sense of history. Just in day to day life. Because we’re not perfect. And we’ve poorly represented Jesus. I’ve seen it and I’ve taken part.
For when we’ve expressed anger and bitterness before love.
For when we’ve been late, or even worse, not shown up.
For that time you came to church and no one greeted you or made you feel like you shouldn’t be there.
For when we’ve made you feel like you don’t belong.
For when we’ve been unapproachable.
For when we’ve made you feel like you had to walk through something hard alone.
For when with the same tone we’ve led worship or prayed words of healing, we tore someone else down and ripped them apart.
For when we’ve been the last to forgive.
For when we’ve cut in line to take for ourselves, leaving others in the dust.
For when we’ve spoken “Christianese” without truly being genuine about the words we’re speaking.
For our sometimes questionable appearance in the media.
For when we’ve proudly rocked our Jesus bumper stickers as we cut you off in traffic.
For when we’ve claimed to care, and yet stood by doing nothing.
For when we’ve presumed to know your side of the story without actually listening.
For when we’ve intentionally danced around your questions because we’re too uncomfortable to address them.
For when we’ve led you to believe “being good” gets you into Heaven.
For when we’ve said “I’ll pray for you” and forgot.
For when we’ve said “I’ll pray for you” and used it as a chance to air your dirty laundry.
For when we’ve skewed Truth to match our perception of who we want Jesus to be.
For when we’ve done something to cause you to use the word “hypocrite” or worse.
For when we should have been a calming and comforting presence, and instead we just brought chaos.
For these and the many times you’ve had to say “Wow, so that’s what a Christian is like?” with disgust dripping from your tongue.
We can be bad messengers. The Gospel is better than this. Don’t let the actions of that “one Christian you know” drag the perfect image of Jesus through the mud. I’m sorry, Jeff. And I’m sorry to those that we’ve pushed away with our actions. We should be living and breathing the Gospel and sometimes we just fail. Please show us the Grace that we have failed to show you.
I wish I could tell you I won’t be guilty of the things on this list of apologies, but the reality is, I’m a work in progress. My new friend won’t ever get to read this, and that kind of makes me sad. But I can try to continue to shape other’s vision of what a follower of Jesus should look like.