A few weeks ago, a preacher friend of mine lamented on Facebook that the Colts game wasn't airing in his local television market and that he was stuck watching some lesser team. A tragic moment, for sure.
Amidst a discussion on how to find the game for viewing, one of his friends wrote back and said, "Just get someone's access code for (whatever provider) and stream it online. That's what I do." To which I of course responded, "Good call. Tell the preacher to steal cable." With a little laugh, of course. But what happened next shocked me. The person wrote back:
"I'm a preacher, too. I think when it comes to football, Jesus understands. lol"
Laughing out loud? About such a thing?
Now, look. I'm no saint (and thank God, because the Saints are decidedly mediocre this year), but it bothers me that we as Christians in general aren't holding ourselves to a higher standard. I try, Lord knows I try. And I fail, Lord knows I fail. But it's not something I would hold up and say, "This is what I do!" when I know people are looking at me for an example of who God is....as limited a mirror as I may be.
For so long, we went too far in the other direction and lived our lives with our Bibles stuffed so far up our hind ends that people couldn't relate to us, and they certainly couldn't relate to our God. We condemned things like music, dancing, clapping, card games, bars, beer, and a host of other indulgences that play a vital role in our communities. People looked at us, as uptight as we were, as clean-cut, as rigid, as "proper" as could be, and decided they had no use for our God. He took too much fun out of things.
But I think the danger now is that we've gone too far in the other direction. We want to prove that Jesus is the kind of easy-going, crazy, loving guy you could have a beer with. So we talk about Jesus, but that's not how we're living. Not that there's anything wrong with dancing, clapping, card games, or beer. That's not the point. The point is, well, to take the example I used - this admitted preacher is also admittedly stealing a subscription television service...to save a few bucks? Because there are many legal ways to stream a game online for a nominal fee, maybe even for free (I have dial-up. I know nothing about streaming.). This is but one example. We could talk about modesty (or lack thereof) in dress, about style of dancing, about having one too many at the bar, about throwing around curse words. We could talk about something more simple like the way Christians treat their wait staff at a restaurant...even on a Sunday afternoon...even after coming straight out of church.
And you have to wonder what this kind of behavior says about Jesus. People may try to argue that it makes Jesus accessible, that it makes Him this thing that you've got in your life as a Christian that doesn't have to separate you from the world. People may say it makes you, and therefore, your God more relatable to be mired in the same traps as the rest of the world. Maybe.
But if we're flaunting our failings like this, passing them off like they're no big deal, deliberately doing things against our better conscience and our greater grace and then saying God's probably on board with it, I think we're painting a picture of an indifferent God. A Jesus who doesn't much care what you're doing down here so long as you proclaim to love Him.
It's hard to take the seeker from the image of an indifferent God to a God who is so radically different that they can never be the same again. It's hard to convince someone who believes that God doesn't care what you're doing here that this very same God cares deeply - deeply - about them.
You argue that Jesus hung out with sinners, that if He were here today, you'd find Him in a bar. You'd find Him on the dance floor. You'd find Him in these places that 20 years ago, the church would not have dared to go and today, we can't seem to draw ourselves out of. I agree. The thing about Jesus, though, was that when He entered these places, He didn't give Himself over to them. He brought them into Him. He didn't lose who He was for the sake of proving who He could be.
I'm a Colts fan, and around these parts, they'd say I "bleed blue." Look around my congregation on any given Sunday morning (during season, of course), and you might start to think that Jesus is a Colts fan. You might think that Christ bleeds blue.
Jesus doesn't bleed blue. He simply bleeds for you.
That is the message our communities need to hear. Yes, even over a cold beer when necessary. But if we're going to get this message across, if we're going to demonstrate love and grace and mercy and sacrifice, we need to stop trying to make Jesus look more like us and commit ourselves to looking more like Him.