I recently officiated a wedding where I found myself and others trying to navigate the head-space of how to be Christ-like, as well as stand for Christian principals. The list of possible problems seemed to emanate from every human source possible. Here is a smattering of the problems that would apparently take some navigation: 1) The groom was divorced and recovering alcoholic. 2) The singer providing special music was gay. 3) Alcohol flowed freely at the reception. 4) The groom’s party’s salty language reflected their military backgrounds.
Plenty of fault could be found if the event had a substantial blowout. Thankfully, by the grace of God, the wedding went forward without many outwardly negative issues. Perhaps, in retrospect, the potential problems were not really problems at all. Could there have been a force that wanted every opportunity for something to go wrong? In retrospect, evil became more obvious and the avenue Satan was using was actually none of the perceived problems. The actual problem was prejudice, and I owned my share of it. It is painful to admit, but my prejudice was leading me to be a tool of Satan.
Mahatma Gandhi is often attributed with the classic epigram, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Coming from an iconic 20th Century exemplar of peace and non-violence, this is a scathing indictment. Among Gandhi’s complaints toward Christians was that medical and food missions were a quid pro quo transaction that imposed forced conversion and judgmental colonial dominance in exchange for fulfilling life-sustaining needs. As we reflect on this complaint, it is easy to find the source of Gandhi’s indictment: insincere, judgmental Christians.
If we really want to be Christ-like, we have to develop the “mind of Christ” described in Philippians 2:3-4
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
I’m not seeing anything in this passage that says we should visit our judgement upon others, regardless of having a checkered past, rough friends, or a recalcitrant outlook on sin. Perhaps humbling ourselves and praising God and appreciating the opportunity to be rather than say our sermon was the Christ-like way to comport ourselves… myself.
Luke 18: 9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable in Luke 18:10-14
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
And so I am humbled by Jesus Christ, and grateful for the lesson. The wedding went well, but the singer was unable to come and perform. Humbly in his testimony to his bride, the groom gave glory to God for his turn to faith and for overcoming the sin that troubled his past. The bride was obviously grateful to God for giving her a husband so strong in his faith that his humility was among his greatest strengths. It turned out that the thoughts attractive to the prejudice of Christians turned into weapons God used against the prejudice of Christians.
The wedding went off extremely well, and the marriage was launched with God right in the center of it. A broken home was made whole. A bride and groom both gained life-partners divinely enhanced by the invitation and acceptance of God’s direction. Through the event, Christ showed Himself and elegantly demonstrated His power. Satan was defeated by the couple trusting in Jesus Christ.
Have you ever participated in an event where God showed His power to lead and teach despite His children’s predilection for being like Pharisees? Please comment below, and thanks for reading