In the course of my regular workday I have several conversations with people who self-identify as a Christian. These conversations may be with someone working through our addiction program who portrays a positive upbeat attitude, “You know, my father passed away three months ago, just before I entered the program, but he’s in a better place now and although he really wanted me to get sober a year ago, he was really happy that I showed up now.” They may also be with a contractor, “My trailer broke, costing me $13,000 to fix, another customer’s check bounced, a sub-contractor’s actual price came back at four times his quote, but worrying is a sin, and so I am a glass half-full type of guy and, well, you know, when God closes a door He opens a window…”
The list is extensive as these were simply two examples from today.
It is clear to me that I am failing as a Christian. That is, if I don’t follow their example. But, I don’t want to. You see, I am an emotional Christian. I lament in the same ways that Jeremiah would have lamented or Moses, or Job, or, dare I even say – Jesus. I look at the Psalms as an example of how to pour out my broken heart to Him, how to express my anger to Him, how to be emotional before Him. I don’t have to read very far in order to find these examples – they are contained in every book of the Bible. Actually, I don’t know about that but, wow, there are a lot of examples.
So, why is it that I feel at times that I am failing as a Christian? Could it be the chastising I get when I complain about the weather we are having? When I am in a bad mood and I don’t change how I am expressing myself fast enough? When I don’t tow the party line – when I ask too many questions? When I ask questions at the wrong time? How I hold myself? Okay, I digress – I obviously am still smarting over the first church experience in this city where I was determined to be unworthy of fellowship because of how I held myself. But, seriously folks, what does it matter what the hell I do or how I say it or perhaps even more importantly how I feel it?
Like I am the absolute representative of Jesus Christ and by my very actions millions of people will be damned because I didn’t act correctly or say the right thing at the right time. Let’s even bring it home more – Like I have the ability to determine the eternal fate of anyone in my vicinity – even in my family. Nope.
Can I be an influence? Yes. Every single one of us are to one degree or another. Can I be a bad influence? Yes, unfortunately. During those times that I should have said no to a sweet treat in an effort to get back to healthy eating, I may be a bad influence on those close to me who see me give in and tell themselves, “What the hell, why bother. He’s not successful so I’ll just have some myself.”
However, it is still their decision to take the sweet treat. It is not as if I stood there jamming it down their throats. But I am just as easily influenced by them and they are certainly not jamming anything down my throat. That’s just life.
So why oh why is the church filled with Christians bent on a mission to make sure that failing Christians like me get the speech right? They are so convinced that to express one’s emotions around anything – especially if it is ‘negative’ emotions – is such a sin that they take on these sin crusades to rid their four walls of anyone who dances along that line. I speak from experience here.
I get the parts of the Bible where it talks about our speech and our tongues (inability to tame them as an example) and our attitudes but you can’t just say that the lamenting examples in the Bible are exceptions to the rule. Perhaps – if anything – it is the other way around. We are, after all, emotional creatures, created by God to feel – heaven forbid, and to experience Him in eternal fellowship. We are not supposed to be a broken record of squishy goodness with painted smiles on our faces while we espouse the gratitudes of being a good Christian.
What did Elijah do when he was feeling stressed? And King David? Perhaps the closest example we have to a pasty, smiley good all the time Christian might be Paul but take another read and you can see it there. You can see the times that he would have lamented – that he would have languished and poured out his heart and perhaps even shared a bit of that with whomever might have been around at the time. We don’t have clear examples so we hypothesis that he never did. I believe that would be a wrong assumption and most definitely not helpful.