Last week, a very rare thing happened to me: somebody complimented me.
I won’t bore you with a post about nice things somebody said to me. You deserve better than that. But what you should know is that they basically said I was an okay person. This isn’t notable, I know this. It only stood out to me because I know this person’s history, and I know how often they have written off other people. I knew their history of being hurt by other people, and their response of hating other people.
It made me wonder if they realized that I was no different. No different than them. No different than the people they hated. No different than the people they had been hurt by.
This particular friend had a rough go of it. In recent years, they had turned from their Christian home and background due to being scorned by Christians far too many times. They had been treated badly and naturally retaliated by rejecting the faith and the people in it. Honestly, a pretty understandable reaction.
Maybe I should’ve been honored by the compliment. That they thought I was a decent person. Maybe it should’ve warmed my heart that in a world full of people they are bothered by, they happened to like me.
I couldn’t feel good, though. I couldn’t, because I knew I was no different than their family or the people who had scorned them. I know myself too well to be able to accept a compliment like that I could never deserve.
You probably know somebody like this: one who has rejected the church due to some idiots how have mistreated them. It’s sad, and it’s understandable for sure, and in recent years it is so much more publicized than it ever has been before. It’s almost become the largest problem within the church, even though it centers on people staying outside of the church.
There’s a great trend in Christianity these days in response to this that I feel really gained ground with Donald Miller and Blue Like Jazz. We apologize for the mistakes of Christianity. We admit that we suck and we are sorry for our shortcomings. But apologizing for our faith isn’t making up for the issue.
It’s good that we acknowledge the fact that the church is an institution of broken people, but let’s never forget that we are also individually broken people. Let’s not be quick to see fault in the actions of other Christians but forget our own sin. Let’s never think that we are somehow better people than any of the other people around us.
I will gladly apologize for my shortcomings. For the countless times that my pride or selfishness have kept me from doing what is decent. I will apologize for my mistakes and my greed. I have to take responsibility for them.
I’m not going to apologize for the actions of Rob Bell when he makes other Christians mad, though. I won’t apologize for Mark Driscoll when he says things about the President. It is not my place to assume that I would never say something that will hurt other people or simply piss them off. Trying to apologize for actions of all the other people who call themselves Christians is nothing more than a cop-out if I can’t admit to my own fallacy.
I can’t apologize for other people. I can only take responsibility for myself. And who knows. Maybe if my friend sees that I am just as broken as the people who have hurt them, they will understand the beauty of the Gospel a little bit more.