I think the first thing that a sincere Christianity has to do is to humbly declare: “We messed up.”
Pretending that we have it all down is a big mistake. In case nobody is keeping score this is what people see and hear about when the conversation turns to Christianity: decades of abuse coming to light in Roman Catholicism, televangelists extorting money from believers by playing on their fears, any and every scandal that was big enough to make headlines in the last twenty or so years, Christianity isn’t so much known for the love that we sing about, but the causes we champion; supporting Republican ideology, support gun rights, supporting biblical marriage, as well as supporting pro-life campaigns.
The loudest Christian voices out there are not representative of the majority, but we do a terrible job getting the word out that we disagree with them. So that’s the image of Christianity: an angry middle-aged white man with a bible in one hand and pointing at us with the other. We don’t show the reality that Christians are from every walk of life.
We have a hard time acting as the ‘check and balance’ to famous televangelists and popular authors. So it is not surprising when a popular teachings gets out of hand. Like our ancient ancestors who said: “I follow Apollos” or “I follow Paul” we have our favorite teachers that we follow. Not all agree on a particular interpretation, but each may hold to his or her own understanding that they pass down to their followers. Which is why we have such contradictory teachings when all things are considered. But we are also leery of declaring “this is right” for we have studied the mistakes of our past – how people would take away the livelihood, the right to attend church, or the lives of those in disagreement with them.
Some Christians think that they have to cut ties with the sinners in their midst. Some kick their children out of their homes in the name of ‘tough love’. To get them to repent of their ways. They drop friendships with the unrepentant. They turn their backs on Christians who have fallen from grace. This is not the kind of love that Jesus wants us to be known for. Some Christians donate useless items like high heel shoes to charities – this junk is called Swedo(w) – Stuff We Don’t Want. This is not the kind of love that Jesus wants us to be known for.
This all contributes to our image problem and public relations issues – what people see and think about Christianity as it presents itself. We already know what people think for they do not hesitate to tell us when asked: Christians are judgmental, bigots, self-righteous, controlling, and any number of synonyms for these words. You know that song: “They will know that we are Christians by our love…”? That’s not how they know that we are Christians. They don’t think of us as gracious, accepting, warm, kind, or helpful and most certainly not loving.
So that’s why we have to be sincere and humble and admit that we messed up. It won’t be easy not to fall upon our old ways, they are deeply ingrained. Odds are we will continue to mess up so long as we follow anything and everything that isn’t Jesus Christ. But if we try following just Jesus, we will be far more like the Christians that He wants us to be and show the real true love that He wants us to be known for. Only then will all the things that have gone wrong be set right.