Years ago I sat in a Sunday School class with some friends of mine. We waited until the teacher turned around and then began throwing pencils into the ceiling tiles. It was actually quite fun. Before long the class was giggling and the 15 pencils sticking out of the ceiling tiles gave us away. Yet again our elderly, I mean extremely experienced, Sunday School teacher called me to the front of the room. The more frustrated she became the more fun this 6th grade boy had. I was constantly causing trouble in one way or another. I already had hard questions in class that I felt were ignored, or maybe she thought I was being disrespectful and honestly I was! I loved to throw out stuff like this in class. “If God hardened Pharaoh’s heart than God technically made him evil. Therefor he was faithfully obeying God right? It sounds like Pharaoh should be labeled good?!” (Where is the sarcasm punctuation when you need it!) Years later I have wrestled through all this with wonderful professors and leaders and moved on, but one Sunday when I was a young teen she pulled me out of the classroom and began to lecture me. I am sure I deserved it, but somewhere in her lecture she said something similar to this, “Mike you are a disappointment to your dad.” Something clicked. I decided I didn’t like church people. That was tough because I was as “churched” as a kid could get! I went through a season where all the annoying things about church that didn’t bother me in the past became like huge mosquito bites driving me crazy! Everything seemed to annoy me. Even my intellectual discrepancies (if you can call them that as a young teen) were really driven by my dislike of the people, not true intellectual barriers. Basically put, church became dumb and boring. 🙂
As I grew I connected with an amazing youth pastor named Eddy Shigley. He was intelligent, athletic, and my annoying questions he seemed to take seriously. I really did end up falling in love with the heart and person of Christ, but I still didn’t like all the grumpy old Christians. During this same season in my life one of my best friends parents were going through a divorce. It was rough, really rough for him. I noticed something though. As his first hand experience with marriage became really tarnished, it became even easier for him to attack marriage as an institution too. The problem with his approach to me was my parents. They were amazing and fully in love. In fact they still are today. Marriage for me was beautiful. One bad marriage doesn’t mean the institution of marriage is evil. I needed to be a part of a dynamic church family and my friend needed to see first hand a healthy marriage. We found both in our youth group. Eddy had an incredible marriage and was a loving father to his kids. He also created a youth department where I could metaphorically taste how good church is supposed to be. Both my friend and I found something beautiful. It wasn’t so much that we discovered healthy church and family. It was that we learned to evaluate and study ideas and ideals, not just personal experience alone. Though I would have agreed with Nietzsche’s observation when he reflected on his encounters with Christians, “They would have to sing better songs to make me believe in their Redeemer: his disciples would have to look more redeemed!”, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t fully evaluate with an open mind the premise being offered in the scriptures. Some bad marriages don’t mean all marriage is bad, some bad doctors don’t mean all doctors are bad, and some bad churches don’t mean that the church isn’t still the bride of Christ.
Let’s look to Jesus, and if you call yourself “Christian” let’s strive to value what He valued, loved like He loved, and treat others the way He taught us to treat others!