I am uncomfortable with professing Christians who have inflated views of themselves. Hiding behind fake smiles and the appearance of success, they sling arrows of judgement at those they consider sinful or strange, disgusting or vile. Through their actions they declare that being shown grace by God is no reason to show grace to others. They are wrong. The others, the ones who aren’t self-righteous, the ones who are cast aside for some perceived flaw, are precisely the ones that Jesus came to minister to, to seek and to save.
Oddballs and doubters, the scorned and marginalized, those who have given up on church because they feel that the church has given up on them. This is who I am more comfortable with–at least most of the time.
People like the man who thought his dead cat had come back to life. Seriously. He was adamant about it and wanted me to be there when he dug up the grave. We talked. We looked at scripture together. We laughed. We never dug up the grave. Other people saw this man as strange. Being an object of ridicule in a small town makes strange people behave even more strangely. I came to see that he tried harder to do the right thing than any person that I have ever encountered. His honesty was refreshing, his inability to hide his feelings was unique. I was comfortable with him.
People like the man who showed up for a Sunday morning church service wearing overalls and a sleeveless t-shirt with a week’s worth of stubble on his face and stink on his body. He asked if he could sing a song; I said yes. The song was then tortured and killed. He returned for the evening service and asked to sing again; again I said yes. He brought the same song back to life and killed it again; the old folks might say that he “double-killed” it. I could feel the eye-rolls and sense the head-shakes happening from some of the people behind me, people who should have reacted better. Me? I enjoyed it. Not because it sounded good (it didn’t), but because God is good and enjoys the praise of his people even when it is painful to our human ears. I was comfortable with him.
People like the hundreds who responded to a column I wrote that was published in the Knoxville News-Sentinel in 2007 (you can read it by clicking here). The column was an apology to both non-Christians and Christians who have been hurt by those in the Church. I heard from atheists and agnostics, homosexuals and seekers, those who were close to abandoning the faith and those who had given up on it altogether. Their honesty brought tears to my eyes and more conversations than I could have imagined. I was comfortable with them.
I’m comfortable with those who are honest. I’m at ease with those who realize that they don’t have all the right answers and who may not even be close to asking the right questions. The seekers and the wanderers, the maligned and the condemned.
That’s who I’m comfortable with–at least most of the time.