A well-respected Christian organization is reorganizing after the sex scandal of its founder and namesake. Meanwhile, a Christian college has come under fire for its alleged racism, sexism and intellectual dishonesty. Earlier, a Christian band was rocked when its lead singer announced he was turning away from his Christian faith.
While my heart breaks with these events, it reinforces my belief that “Christian” is an adjective that should only be applied to humans. “It” is not Christian. An organization cannot be Christian, only its members who act more or less like Jesus. Colleges are not Christian, but the beliefs of its faculty and staff are more or less like what Jesus taught. Music is not Christian, only the performers whose lives and lyrics more or less reflect Christ’s values. So, in my thinking, there are no Christian associations, businesses, conferences, or even plumbing companies.
I came to my view that “it” is not Christian as I worked as an executive at a denominational headquarters, as an adjunct professor at a prominent religious college and as communications pastor at two large churches. There were many people who radiated the love of Christ and his teachings, but there were also those who exhibited pride, selfish ambition, gossip, racism and immorality including adultery and sexual assault. This initially caused me to be cynical, until I read Christ’s parable of the weeds growing among the wheat (Matthew 13:24-30). Christ’s harvest field will inevitably have weeds among the wheat, which allow those outside—and inside—the Body of Christ to question just how “Christian” these groups are.
So, I have found peace in believing that “it” is not Christian. There are only imperfect people inside these groups living out their faith and those who are not. And so, it’s no surprise to me when I read of the latest fall from grace of a leader, the immoral actions by a member or racist, sexist, hateful statements spewed out by a member. And it doesn’t cause me to discount the kingdom work being accomplished by the group currently in the unflattering spotlight. It’s simply one or two members not living out the stated Christian values of the church, college, band, parachurch organization, etc. It is not the group that is Christian, but only its members. (I will admit there are Christians who are plumbers, but not Christian plumbing.)
I love and respect my denomination, the college where I taught and the churches where I have worked, but I will not call them Christian. Only the wonderful people living out Jesus’ teachings whom I have had the privilege to work alongside deserve the adjective “Christian.” I love and respect them most of all.
Copyright © 2021 James N. Watkins (An imperfect Christ-follower who writes and speaks)
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