A Practicing Christian

“Doctors practice medicine, lawyers practice law. Christians should certainly practice Christianity.”  Sky McCracken 

When I found this quote, I planned on taking this entry in an entirely different direction.  I had written several paragraphs laying into the way Christians act, how arrogant we are and how we drive the unchurched away with that attitude.  Which was cool, until I went back and read it.  At that point, I realized I was doing the very thing I was lambasting others for.   I didn’t have a title at that point and the one that’s up there now slapped me upside the head.  I was looking at the word practice in the sense of practicing medicine, but the attitude apparent in what I’d just written said I needed to look at it a little differently.  In essence, I need more practice at being a Christian because I suck at it. 

I have always marveled at my current pastor’s ability to clearly show the love of Christ in any situation.  I’ve seen her maintain her cool while listening to someone pervert the very Gospel that she’s dedicated her life to, while I wanted to slap the person spewing the garbage in question.  To say that I don’t have a pastoral disposition would be the understatement of the century.  I identify more with Peter in the garden when the soldiers arrested Jesus.  You remember what he did, don’t you?  Cut some dudes ear off, that’s what.  And, what did Jesus do?  Picked up the guy’s ear and put it back on.  That, in itself, is pretty amazing.  I mean, he just picked it up, stuck it back on and it healed!  But, to me, the truly amazing part is that he did that for someone who’d come to arrest him and ultimately take him to his execution.  Jesus was under no illusions as to his fate.  He knew what happened to people who made too much trouble for the Romans: crucifixion.  He’d seen enough to know what a gruesome death it was.  Yet, in the face of this, he not only stops Peter from inflicting anymore harm, heals the man who’s leading him to his doom.  I couldn’t do that, I’d be looking for another ear to lop off.  Heck, I can’t even hold my temper when I think someone slights me.  If being a Christian is following in the footsteps of my rabbi Jesus, I’m not doing so well.  But, Peter finally got it, so maybe there’s hope for me.  And, the coolest part is even if I don’t, God loves me anyway. 

What would practicing Christianity look like?  Maybe something like what a fellow named Hugh Hollowell is doing.  Hugh lives just up the road from me, in Raleigh, and runs a ministry called Love Wins.  It’s a homeless ministry, but he doesn’t approach it like a lot of folks might.  Hugh does whatever he can to help the homeless in downtown Raleigh.  That’s it, nothing else.  That’s the key, the nothing else part.  He doesn’t give out tracts, make them sit through a sermon to get a meal or a pair of pants, or even witness to them.  Overtly, that is.  There’s plenty of witnessing going on, just not verbally.  As St Francis of Assisi said “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words“.  Not to say he won’t take an opportunity when it rears its head.  The following exchange is from the Love Wins blog: 

“You are a nice man. Why you so nice? I mean, you help us out, you talk to us… I ain’t nothing, man. My own Momma don’t want to talk to me, you don’t even know me and you help me. Why you doing this?” 

I hesitate a minute here. I know folks who would see this as an opportunity to swoop in, tract in hand, tell them about how Jesus will solve all their problems, fix everything. I try to imagine what Jesus would say. 

“I care about you guys when it makes no sense to because Jesus loved me when it made no sense for him to,” 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to set anyone up on a pedestal, I’m just saying Hugh’s doing a hell of a lot better job than I am.  And, it’s embarrassing and inspiring all at once.  I hope both feelings last.