Flipping through the radio pre-sets today, I happened across Rush Limbaugh. Now I'll tell you up front that I don't enjoy listening to Limbaugh. Mostly it's because of his gargantuan ego, or at least the egotisical attitude he presents on his program. It also has something to do with the constant political bickering of which I've become so incredibly sick, that is part and parcel of his remarks. Even when I agree with him, I don't like doing it. Ever have that problem?
Anyway, I hit Rush's show just as he was taking a call -- a man complaining about something Limbaugh had said at the outset of the program. The caller's purpose was to chew out Limbaugh for bringing up an event from 35 years previous. But what caught my attention was the mode of attack. He told Rush something to the effect of, "You call yourself a Christian, but you're not acting like one." Then he asked point blank: "Are you a Christian?"
After a long pause, Limbaugh mumbled around and turned the question back on the caller. "What about you? Are you a Christian?"
Now I was a little surprised that Limbaugh simply ducked the question. I expected him to give some sort of lip service to his faith, but he avoided taking the name, "Christian." But I waited to hear what the indignant caller was going to say.
"Well, I was raised Catholic, and I try to follow the teachings of Jesus. I don't agree with all..."
"Well we all try to follow the teachings of Jesus, or Allah, or whoever," Limbaugh interrupted. From there the conversation degenerated into the same old political tripe, so I switched the station.
As I thought back over that brief snippet of the program, I realized that I had heard two people claiming to be moral and upright who couldn't bring themselves to call themselves "Christian". Each wanted to express his own claim on religion and spirituality, but neither had the intestinal fortitude to bear His name. They had no problem with Jesus as a general moral principle, but didn't want all the perceived negatives of Jesus' teachings tied to them.
I understand why it can be intimidating to bear the name of Christ. He was perfect. We are not. Many people can't move beyond that. If we represent the Perfect One, shouldn't we also be perfect? It would be nice, wouldn't it? But it's not happening. The sanctification process won't be complete this side of heaven. So there is a logical perception problem for many people. Christians are labelled as hypocrites because we can't live up to what we desire.
But beyond that issue, the name "Christian" seems to have taken on so much baggage that being a nominal Christian isn't as appealing as it used to be. Being a Christian now means being intolerant, hateful, homophobic, stuck-in-the-past, ignorant, AND hypocritical. At least that's the way many see us. It's become bad enough that some can try to follow what Jesus taught -- at least the parts they can agree with -- but never want to be associated with being a Christian.
Do we even want to change that perception? Having fewer Christians-in-name-only dragging Christ's name through the mud by their actions might ease some of the false charges made against those who bear His name. But how are we representing our Lord?
The Gospel is certainly an offense. Jesus' teachings aren't meant to make us feel good or important. He doesn't promise us the respect of the world. Being a Christian doesn't make one's problems go away. It's so much more self-gratifying to take what we want from the Bible or from the Church and toss the rest away. Why not use the name of Christ at our convenience and don't worry about Him the rest of the time? Pray only when you have a problem. Pull out the Bible and dust it off if you want to impress someone with your spirituality. Express your respect for Jesus, but claim that the Church has so corrupted His teachings that we are better off interpreting His words for ourselves. And above all, refuse to call ourselves Christians if we are asked directly.
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith." - 1 Corinthians 1:16-17.
If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. - Luke 9:26.
So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God... - 2 Timothy 1:8.
However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. - 1 Peter 4:16.
"Lord, don't ever let me be half-hearted about bearing Your precious Name."