My Biggest Struggle

 

We all have our struggles.

Some of us procrastinate.

Some of us eat too much.

Some of us drink too much.

Some of us are greedy.

I’ve become increasingly aware that my biggest struggle….is with other Christians.

Seriously.

There are few people or things in the world that get under my skin more easily or spark my anger faster than other Christians.

Jesus said “love your enemies” as a challenge to his followers, but to be honest, a lot of times I find it a whole lot easier to love those people who are supposed to be my enemies, than those who are supposed to be my brothers in sisters in Christ.

Why?

Let me count the ways….

I’m tired of the fundamental hypocrisy behind those groups of Christians who base their church’s existence and authority on that absolutely and unequivocally unchristian notion of autonomy, yet inexplicably think they have the authority to stand as judge, jury, and executioner over the orthodox bona fides of anyone who doesn’t belong to their infinitesimally small, yet infinitely arrogant kingdom.

I have no patience for fellow Christians who feel it their divine obligation to denounce anyone and everyone who critiques their theological idols, but who nonetheless feel is acceptable to condemn to hell anyone who doesn’t pass their own personal theological litmus test.

I’m tired of Christians who caricature every critique of their or someone else’s theology or practice as “an attack on the Body of Christ” as if disagreement and debate were some sort of sin.

I have no respect for the idolatry of intellectual ascent which dominates so much of the church. Your belief in a seven day creation, penal substitution atonement theory, or dinosaurs on the ark has absolutely no bearing on what God thinks of you. How you care for the least of these does. If there is anything Jesus is unequivocally clear about it’s this. Put another way, adherence to biblical inerreancy isn’t a sign of true faith. It’s blasphemy. It’s blasphemy because it refuses to acknowledge the fact that God is capable of working through finite, imperfect people who by definition will necessarily make mistakes.

I’m disappointed and disgusted by a Christian culture that’s more concerned with giving their sales pitch for the millionth time than they are with feeding the hungry, ending malaria, or getting clean water to those who need it.

I’m tired of people willing to prostitute their faith for political ends. Jesus didn’t say “go vote your values” he said “go and do likewise.” Vote all you want, for whoever you want, and argue your position vigorously, but our cries that the sky is falling if our political party isn’t elected do nothing more than reveal a faith grounded in human government while demonstrating a fundamental lack of faith that the kingdom of God will come and even now is breaking into the world around us. Of course you can do both, but there’s not a balance to be had here. The scales must always tip in favor of the kingdom.

I’m tired of listening to Christians condemn entire groups of people they’ve never met or never taken the effort to get to know. It’s easy to denounce from a distance. It’s a lot harder to follow the path of Jesus and share a meal with them. Love and compassion are not just words or rhetoric. They are a way of being in and for the world.

I’m frustrated by the impossibility of conversation. We have all become so entrenched in our dogmatic camps that dialogue and compromise have become cardinal sins. Yet, it was these two pillars that were critical supports in the early church.

I’m disappointed in a church that has become enslaved to programming, buildings, and finances. As if one more church activity, a hipper service, or a nicer building were the things that stand in the way of making more and better disciples.

I’m disillusioned by a Christian culture that centers the faith around personal happiness and self-affirmation, rather than transformation and discipleship. If Jesus came to tell us we’re great just the way we are, then what was the point of the cross? Or his ministry? Or, for that matter, his incarnation?

I’m tired of it all.

I realize that this may come off sounding arrogant and judgmental, but I needed a moment to follow in that great Biblical tradition and just vent. Seeing the insanity repeated day after day with seemingly no end in sight sucks the life out of me and, to be completely honest, makes me want to leave it all behind.

But I don’t.

Why?

Because as Peter once said to Jesus, “Where else would I go?” I have encountered the risen Christ and there is no where I can go to be more fully in his presence than within his own Body.

So I stay. Not out of some sense of righteous delusion that I can be the one to change things. Rather, I stay because I know that imperfection was, is, and always will be what it means to be a part of the Body of Christ until the day he returns to claim his bride. Until then it will remain imperfect because that Body is made up of imperfect people. And that’s ok with me because it speaks to a God who so loves us and has so much faith in us that God was willing to allow us to participate in the renewal of all things. That’s worth sticking around for if you ask me.

And I stay because I have hope, even in those people that get under my skin and spark my anger. I have hope because I know that despite our differences, most of us at least, share the same goal – to change the world around us for the kingdom of God.

I hope and pray that the day comes sooner rather than later when we realize that the things that unite us truly are greater than the things that divide. That’s not a call for conformity. It’s a call for unity. A call to acknowledge that most of those things that divide us are ultimately just silly.

But until that day of unity comes, I will continue to wrestle, debate, converse with, and challenge my brothers and sisters in the faith as I’m sure they will with me because for all of us, this is a faith and a God worth contending for.

 

Grace and peace,

Zack Hunt

 

  • http://www.inamirrordimly.com/ Ed_Cyzewski

    Good words Zack. We stay because we have encountered the risen Lord, and he is the only one who can change us or anyone else for that matter.

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  • http://twitter.com/upsidedwnworld Rebecca Trotter

    We look around and see this large mass of people thinking, teaching and behaving in ways which are in blatant conflict with the teaching of Jesus and get discouraged. Yes, there will always be imperfection, but there is also a standard for recognizing Jesus’ disciples – by their love. By their fruits you will know them. Only God can judge the heart of a man, but that doesn’t mean we can’t recognize when a group of supposed disciples are bearing bad fruit. So we see a lot of bad fruit and people busy defending it and calling themselves the church.

    But one of the things which has been very strong on my heart lately is that our discouragement with the “body” comes from the illusion of numbers. We need to remember that God’s economy works upside down. The first is last and the last is first and all of that. Jesus told us that we were salt and light. No one sits down for a plate of salt – they just use a little to season the meal. We don’t set the table on fire to read by. We light one lamp. The fact that Christians who are bearing good fruit and known by their love seem to be a small minority shouldn’t be discouraging to us. God can take that small amount and provide the increase.

    It may seem judgemental to say, but I can’t help thinking that there’s some sorting of sheep and goats going on these days. The time will come for God to reveal his son’s bride and we shouldn’t be discouraged, just ready and working diligently until that day – regardless of all the nonsense going on around us.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dlewiston Dan Lewiston

    Zach, well said! Thank you for saying things that are locked away in us all, just hard to come out for fear of people in our churches will take it to mean we are talking about them. I absolutely love your candid, heart felt, passion to be more like Christ and not like a “Christian”! Great to call you friend!

  • http://lilablackbird.tumblr.com/ Charlotte

    I am so glad I’m not the only one who feels this way. The other day I was like “I’ve been more angry and frustrated with other Christians in the past three months then I’ve ever been in my entire life.” I’ll throw my hands up in the air over the “Chicken Little syndrome” that’s plaguing many of my conservative Christian friends right now, but then I’ll spend a Saturday morning working at my church’s food pantry and leave extremely encouraged by the sight of the church actively serving and loving people. The church has the ability to break my heart and to mend it. It’s weird how that works.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sara.robillard Sara Robillard

    Amen.

  • Karen

    So much of the struggle you describe here (vs. judgmentalism among Christians) seems to find confirmation in this sage of Christian faith:

    “Fire and water do not mix, neither can you mix judgment of others with the desire to repent. If a man commits a sin before you at the very moment of his death, pass no judgment, because the judgment of God is hidden from men. It has happened that men have sinned greatly in the open but have done greater deeds in secret, so that those who would disparage them have been fooled, with smoke instead of sunlight in their eyes.”

    -St. John Climacus in “The Ladder of Divine Ascent”

    Here’s another gem from a more contemporary sage:

    “An offspring of [the sin of] pride is censure, which is unfortunately also a habit of many Christians, who tend to concern themselves more with others than themselves. This is a phenomenon of our time and of a society that pushes people into a continuous observation of others, and not of the self.

    “Modern man’s myriad occupations and activities do not want him to ever remain alone to study, to contemplate, to pray, to attain self-awareness, self critique, self-control and to be reminded of death. The so-called Mass Media are incessantly preoccupied with scandal-seeking, persistently and at length, with human passions, with sins, with others’ misdemeanors. These kinds of things provoke, impress, and, even if they do not scandalize, they nevertheless burden the soul and the mind with filth and ugliness and they actually reassure us, by making us believe that “we are better” than those advertised.

    “Thus, a person becomes accustomed to the mediocrity, the tepidity and the transience of superficial day-to-day life, never comparing himself to saints and heroes. This is how censure prevails in our time – by giving man the impression that he is justly imposing a kind of cleansing, by mud-slinging at others, albeit contaminating himself by generating malice, hatred, hostility, resentfulness, envy and frigidity. Saint Maximos the Confessor in fact states that the one who constantly scrutinizes others’ sins, or judges his brothers based on suspicion only, has not even begun to repent, nor has he begun any research into discovering his own sins.”

    ~Fr. Moses of the Holy Mount of Athos

    Just for the record, I believe these same sages might observe that it is a mistake for the Christian to make his focus and goal “to change the world around us for the kingdom of God.” Could this not, in fact, be a significant source of your frustration right now? Think about it-this goal is something you have absolute NO CONTROL over, Zack! Rather, I believe they would see the only appropriate goal of the individual Christian as struggling to yield him or herself ever more fully to Christ, to bring his or her will and heart into total submission and union with Christ’s. If I’m understanding Christ clearly in John 15, it is out of this that all else flows. Our fruitfulness for Christ’s Kingdom is not something we do for Him, but rather something He does through us when He is well and truly in control within us (John 15:4). Peace.

  • Jules

    I understand your frustration and for many years have felt the same way.At times I still do but I’ve learned to change my focus when I find myself getting so fed up with ‘Christians’.When I find myself raving in my head about ‘them’ ‘what they do/don’t do’ etc it’s just a way of keeping us divided which isn’t what I believe Jesus wants (and also if I’m brutally honest with myself, my way of saying ‘Why can’t they think like I do and value compassion over rules like I do? Because I’m sure I’m right-lol) Not judgemental of me at all hey?! (ahem) I do understand your need to vent and I think at times it helps clear a path so we can start to become more compassionate towards ‘them’ too. I was stunned recently by a wonderful gay friend of mine.when the whole Chik-Fil-A crap was going on and boy did that divide so many in a very sad way, guess what he did that day?He went down to his local Chik-fil-a and simply engaged in conversations with the people who were there…in a loving way.Genuinely asking them what they thought they were supporting…not judging them for it and sinply loving them, respecting their decisions…even though those decisions could have been extremely hurtful to him.I asked him why he did it.He responded that God loves all of them and how can we ever stop hating a ‘group’/’them’ ‘Gay people’ (choose whichever group you like..fundamentalist christians even!) if we see them as detached.He wanted them to meet a man who loves Jesus but also happens to be gay and some of the conversations he ended up having were transformational for both him and them.I guess I’m just saying that sometimes we have to be the bigger person and love anyway.My friend did that day and I have the utmost admiration for him.He went to a very volatile situation where he could be hated and instead of focusing on that-he built bridges…because he loves Jesus that much. I’m not sure why I posted all this-I just hope in some way it helps.I often think of him when I read posts like yours and please know I do understand.I guess i’m saying don’t let how other people choose to believe diminish your love for God or his people.We’re all flawed but we can still try to keep building those bridges…with love.

  • Kerry

    And all God’s people said AMEN!

  • Crystal

    AMEN!

  • Drew

    Top notch article. I think this describes how I feel exactly at times. Very refreshing to hear someone else say it also. I think people that feel this way need to be more vocal.

  • http://mashenahope.blogspot.com/ Nicole

    amen

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  • Frank

    Zack, a friend posted your thoughts on FB and indicated that he was, to some degree, in agreement with you. The following is my response to him. I have deleted his name:

    I read the article by Zack Hunt. Not sure how closely you think along the same lines. But here are some comments for your consideration. Zack, as do many, seems to spend a good deal of time reacting to the foibles, flaws and, at times, the misguided zeal of others. Is there a condemnatory spirit among some believers over relative incidentals? I would have to agree that there is. However, does that fact merit a knee jerk reaction?

    For example, to react with minimizing statements as the author does that true faith has nothing to do with a belief in a literal creation or a belief in
    biblical inerrancy is, in my opinion, a knee jerk emotional response. Indeed,
    he calls adherence to biblical inerrancy “blasphemy because it refuses to
    acknowledge the fact that God is capable of working through finite, imperfect
    people who by definition will necessarily make mistakes.” Really? Blasphemy?

    Adherents to inerrancy do not deny that God worked through fallible people. The acknowledgement is that the end product is trustworthy and miraculous in spite of the human agency and not that it, of necessity, contains errors because of them. In fact, if I was prone to reacting to another professed believer with the kind of disgust and indignation that the author “vents”, I would take umbrage to being accused of being a blasphemer by someone who mischaracterized my position.

    The author seems to be maintaining that the bottom line for determining genuine faith is whether an individual Christian is practically manifesting a
    compassionate spirit. He at least implies that a zeal for Biblical orthodoxy
    and genuine Christian orthopraxy are mutually exclusive. They are not. I have met many doctrinally staunch believers that are also giving and compassionate people.

    The author also maintains that dialogue and compromise were critical supports in the early church but now they are cardinal sins. What history books is he reading? The early church struggled and fought through heretical assaults on the faith. They did not evaluate and decide what was orthodox and genuine by what group was helping society through the latest plague or who was providing villages with clean drinking water or, as the author put it, “change the world around us for the kingdom of God.” Paul was not prone to compromise and dialogue when he said that anyone that preaches another gospel is accursed (Gal 1:9) and deserve to be mutilated (Gal 5:12). Such statements are certainly not gracious and not really conducive to dialogue and compromise.

    The author says this quibbling over what he regards as incidentals, “sucks the life” out of him. Even if he was correct that the topics he cites were
    incidentals, I say to him that he really just needs to just grow up and accept
    reality. Acknowledge that there is a condemnatory spirit among some believers. Ok, it is there. Allow it to affect my relationship with Christ or the
    brethren? Why would I do that? Allow it to push me toward a sentimental,
    doctrinally vapid reduction that will be acceptable to the broadest “thinker”
    that still wants to self-identify as a Christian? I’m not going to do that
    either.

    – Pastor

    • ZackHunt

      Frank,

      Thanks for providing a great example of exactly the sort of thing the frustrates me so much.

      • Frank

        Zack,
        I think that you already provided a prime example of it when you penned your article.
        Good wishes!

        • ZackHunt

          “I think that you already provided a prime example of it when you penned your article.”

          That makes no sense.

  • Stephen Sponsler

    Hi, I did I drawing…of many, just little non-artistic ones..where I man was looking up at the Light saying “No body cares! No one really cares!”..and then on the toher side of the image, people looking at the moon reflecting a false light..with the words..blah blah blah blah ….BlAH.”..it’s all ‘Babel” but in Faith. ‘Maybe God is working to help in strengthening Faith more and more..as it has been with me from time to time..sometimes I just ‘check out from it all’…and Focus on The Center and The Light (which was part of my calling)…Keeping my Eyes on His face in the word and like Paul wrote, ‘Focus on these things…what ever is just, what ever is lovely…”etc”…I think he might have been writing that in a time of discouragement or found that to work at such a time. Maybe Paul was discouraged..which is not necessarily the same as frustrated…when writing about them being not even on Spiritual Milk yet. Because i will say that it seems the vast majority of Christians around where I live are not even on milk yet..they don’t even read the bible…and most Christians do not read the bible sincerely…a bible verse here and there if even does not constitute ‘growing in the Knowledge of God”…maybe that is the laziness talked about. ON the other hand, there are others out there ‘doing things’…but who knows for sure why..only God KNows..it’s a one on personal faith..remembering that a lot of this might be the workings of evil…if the snake will bruise his heal…does it cripple our Walk of Faith to keep us humble?

  • JP

    I share many of your sentiments, though perhaps not with your level of intensity/frustration. Maybe I’m at least as tired of my own attitudes as I am of those I see in others. Do you have any such self recrimination? Or perhaps you’re blessedly too young to have seen your full-blown self in the mirror yet. James tells us the scriptures (he says “the perfect law” function as a mirror—-we perhaps see their meaning best when we’re looking at our own planks vs. our neighbors (or brethren s’ ) specks/splinters. I don’t know you so i’m probably off base…..but my missional, intentional, younger, very very well-intentioned friends sound more and more like the uptight fundamentalist parents they say bother them so much. As I say, that’s my milieu, not you. But maybe worth a bit of musing. How do you think you sound to the people who could really benefit from your word of correction? You surely sound “cool” to your (many!) ideological peers (and I’m grateful for them). but can you be “heard” by those who might well need a vision of where they have baggage to jettison? I hope so.