Do you remember that song by Eminem called “The Real Slim Shady?”
What’s that, you say? I’m shamelessly outing myself as a Christian who listens to A) Anything other than worship music and B) Eminem of all things. I don’t know what’s worse. Even the seculars often wince when he opens his mouth. Hey, I like Eminem. And I’m not afraid to say it! I also loved Milli Vanilli. So sue me!
My bad taste in music aside, I was thinking about the lyrics to that song today when I was trying to tell a friend, who is a new Christian, what a “real Christian looks like.”
Because let’s be frank here. One of the hardest things about becoming a follower of Christ is not the Jesus part, it’s the brothers and sisters that are suddenly part of our new family. So many of them look all clean and smiley on the outside but will steal your lunch money, kick you in the shins and stab you in the back as soon as you turn around.
Now, I’m not saying everybody! Stand down! Take a deep breath. What I’m saying is that if we’re all part of this family of God, why do we all look so different? You think the 50 shades of Grey were nasty? How about us? Why are there so many different shades of Christian?
Will the real God follower please stand up! Please stand up!
I remember the first time I faced this issue. It was shortly after I accept Jesus into my life and I was ON FIRE, I tell ya. Like, people fanned themselves when I stood next to them kind of on fire. And I met a sister in Christ who by all appearances looked the part. She went to church every Sunday, was the first to suggest prayer time and quoted scripture as a punch line to her stories.
But she wouldn’t volunteer at a homeless shelter with the rest of us because “those people are dirty.” And told us stories of her sister who married a man with tattoos which according to her are “the mark of Satan” and could we all pray that her sister’s marriage would fall apart so that she could be rid of the Satan in her life.
I was a newbie and even I knew there was something not right about this woman. She wasn’t looking like God to me! I had to learn that one of the hardest things about this walk is holding hands with the people around you but not looking to them to show you the way. Jesus is the only way. The people next to you will be tripping over themselves, taking wrong turns and all around screwing up as they take this journey. I know I certainly can’t be counted on to set an example. Pu-lease. I’m that 100th sheep that Jesus keeps having to run after!
And while I know that the obvious answer to why we look so different is that we are all at different stages of the journey, I still believe there shouldn’t be such a drastic difference between us. Let’s say that the color of Christian is green. There are many shades of green; apple green, mint, olive, teal. But it’s clear that they are all shades of green. Those little differences aren’t bad. We are a diverse bunch. Our beliefs and religions may vary but at the core, we should all basically be the same.
People should still be able to tell that we are green. There should be a striking similarity between us that involves more than saying we go to church. We should demonstrate kindness, humility, generosity in such a vivid way that we stand out. That old saying is true: “going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.”
Many people use that as an excuse not to go to church but the real meaning behind that quote is that going to church does not mean that you live like Christ.
And I don’t think you should be able to call yourself a Christian or a Christ follower unless you live like Christ. I know, I know. That statement seems so inflammatory. How dare I suggest that to call yourself a follower of God you live in his ways and be accountable for your actions (or lack of action). You may be moving at a slow pace, slow as molasses in January but as long as you’re moving in that direction, that’s all that counts.
The waters of Christianity have been tainted and the colors have turned to a muddy brown. The muckiness makes it hard to tell who is who and it's nobody's fault but our own. There are too many people out there saying that they follow Jesus and proudly pin on the label but never live it. And if you’re one of those people, well…I challenge you.
I think it’s time that you made a choice. Either you’re with us greenies or not. If you are, then start living like it, son! Don’t just talk the talk! Show through the actions of your life that you follow God, let there be no mistake or confusion.
And if you’re not willing to do that? Well, then you must ask yourself whether you truly are a follower of Christ. If you’re not, then do us a favor and stop calling yourself one!