I work for a good-sized parachurch ministry, and I went to Christian college. One tendency of Christians that I've noticed over the years is that of Christians wanting to disassociate themselves from other Christians. Why?
The name Bob Jones University dredges up not a few negative stereotypes, and I remember some of the professors there assured me that they were the exception to some kind of rule, that they were different than the other staff members.
Bob Jones is a massive organization, and I don't know that anyone's feelings are getting hurt by these little conversations. But moving a little closer to home, I was surprised a year ago by a statement made by a woman in my hometown. She had been serving in the same ministry for many years and made a statement about one of her personal living standards that established an us (or her) versus them (the organization) idea. Maybe she misspoke. But it wasn't just a vibe I got though I forget the specific language; she was definitely putting herself in a different category from her own ministry. And yet I thought, "lady, you ARE the organization..." "Ma'am, there is no question that we all exercise our Christian liberty at home; why does that change the fact that you labored and cried and prayed for this organization for these many years. You ARE the organization."
You know, I do it too. I'm an American, I have a right to an opinion, I am independent. Any friend reading this knows that I very well could have been griping about a staff guideline or another Christian more conservative than myself who makes me feel guilty or another Christian who is less conservative that I am judging. I am the one pompously and needlessly declaring my independence from other Christians.
During those times when we talk about ourselves, some clarifications are well intentioned. Some are even necessary. Nobody believes that their boss or their organization or their church is perfect. We work in places where we hope to make positive change; and to impose any fake optimism or gloss when we could be brainstorming solutions is another kind of sin. But while we often communicate to those closest to us our good goals and our secret stereotyping and mental self-portraits I sometimes wonder: does anyone have the humility to lose themselves in a group; to say without apology and without any qualifiers; "I'm with those guys..."
Why do we do it, why do we do it? I'm still not quite sure. Is it because we are ashamed of Christ? The Bible equates treatment of Christ's disciples to treatment of Christ himself. I've had this blog post in my drafts for a year, but now I'm going to post this because I found these verses today in Matthew 10.
"The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's award, and the one who receives a righteous person will receive a righteous person's reward."
I think it is implicit in the "receiving" that when we have someone in our house, eating our food, taking our help, and showing us things about Christ, we should also be most decidedly identifying ourselves with those people.
Why do I need to look for the edgy Christians before I start striving for the reward in Matthew 10? Shoot, the fundamentalists have tons of righteous people so I'd better scoop those opportunities up. There is no distinction, the same Lord is Lord of all...
The path of the just is a shining light. Why don't we enjoy that light? Let this psalm be our heartbeat:
As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.