Christians, We are Failing
Christians have the charge to bring the Hope and Truth (Gospel) of Jesus. That’s it. One job and most of us are failing miserably.
I have been on both sides of the Christian life. I accepted Jesus in 2005, but before that, I spent my entire life sprinting away from anything, or anyone associated with God. Some of it had to do with my rebellious nature, and that it wasn’t an integral part of my family growing up. Most of my reasons centered around my dealings with people.
Like many, I encountered individuals who claimed to be Christian, but who were some of the most hateful people I had ever met. They were Holy in their eyes, and their brand of faith was superior. Most of these people labeled themselves Christian but lacked love and empathy for those around them. Sadly, this faction of the Church is plentiful in the world, and are a catalyst to the mass exodus from God altogether. Their representation of Christianity sours in the mouth of unbelievers like curdled milk. However, no one group of people is all bad, nor all good.
The Good Side
Not all Christians fall into this category. I did know some Christians who genuinely tried to walk the walk in their personal life. They were kind to people, willing to help, and eager to tell others how Jesus loves them. Most could not give life to their faith because they were sharing the words they had learned and not a real encounter through hardship.
The largest problem with this type of Christian is that their experiences are white picket fenced houses full of rainbows and butterflies. Their life is not chaotic or dysfunctional. They live in a bubble; sheltered in every aspect of their life. They possess little experience, or knowledge, of the struggles that people face. Families take great pains to shelter young people from experiencing anything negative.
“Sheltered” What does it mean, and why is that so bad?
When we become parents, it is natural to want to protect our kids from the nasty in the world. Sheltering our children to a point is good parenting; doing it to the extreme is not. It is entirely appropriate when they are young, to shield their eyes, ears, and hearts from how harsh the world can be. They need a stable, safe, and robust ground to stand on. It is the time to lay the foundation principles and hope. The mistake most of us Christian parents make is that we do not expand the bubble as our children grow.
Where we go wrong is that we keep that perfect bubble around them all through their teen years. We overly censor EVERYTHING they read, listen to, experience, and watch. As our children grow, we MUST expose them to the hardships of life and human suffering. Allowing young adults a window to tragic situations helps to build empathy in an environment void of those experiences. I would rather have these conversations with my son in the safety of my home where I can guide him through it, than when he strikes out in the world and has no idea how to handle people or situations he crosses. If he cannot relate to people who are hurting, they will close their ears to him, rendering him useless for the kingdom of God. It is my job to help him be ready to speak to others about Jesus.
The Door Slams Shut
Sheltered Christians have learned the Word of God, and the hope it brings, but they don’t understand the rawness of human suffering. When this watered-down brand of Christian attempts to counsel the hurting, they are unwilling to listen. A person in pain can discern when the help is hollow of understanding.The message then falls flat, and they close the doors to their heart because they can tell when someone is sympathetic, rather than empathetic. The question arises, “How can you show me hope when you have no idea what I am going through?” They have sympathy, but not empathy.
Sympathy and empathy are distinctly different. Sympathy is acknowledging another person’s emotional hardships and providing comfort and assurance. Empathy is understanding what others are feeling because you have experienced it yourself or can put yourself in their shoes.
Our One Job
If our one job as Christians is to spread the Gospel, but our over-sheltered existence does not allow us a peek at the rawness of trauma people experience, how will we ever reach them? We raise our children to have sympathy for others, but what we should be teaching them is empathy. We should not be satisfied with them just knowing scripture and leading a white picket fenced life. We must prepare them for the job we are meant to complete. It cannot be accomplished by remaining protected in a bubble.
I am grateful that God has provided the means for me to raise my son in a less drama-filled life than I did, but I refuse to shelter him to the point that he is ineffective for God. As he has grown into a man, I have extended his bubble and I trust God with all that entails. After all, He always belonged to Him anyway. Imposing my brand of rearing blocks the plans God designed for him. My job is to prepare him to be the kind of Christian, who possesses empathy so that when he speaks into the lives of other, they do not close the door because they sense he’s only spouting hot air.
Like it or not, God handed us the baton to be his representatives, we are responsible for portraying the heart of Jesus in our world. And that means not building an impenetrable bubble around ourselves and our kids.