There Is No Such Thing as a Good Christian

I was a sinner and you welcomed me, Jesus, Christopher Abreu Rosario

A few months ago, one of my closest friends was visiting from London. He and I have always been able to talk freely about my faith and his lack there of. We were catching up on our lives and I explained to him some of my current struggles, and the people involved in those struggles. His response was sincere but sharp: “They don’t sound like good Christians.”

I almost laughed in in his face.
“There is no such thing.”
This past year has been the greatest struggle and test to my faith. It was not tested so deeply growing up gay in a Hispanic family in the Bronx. It was not tested so deeply when I was tormented by my closest friends after coming out of the closet, when I learned to fear my mother and brothers, when my absent father disowned me, when I struggled with semi-homelessness and unemployment in a foreign country, when I was forced out of said country, or when I chose to walk intentionally back to Christ.

No, this past year - one that has been full of abundance and outwardly growth, saw the greatest challenge to my faith.

San Francisco, the city I have called home for the past two years. I can say with certainty that the honeymoon phase is past and I have witnessed, and continue to see, so much pain, desperation, and self serving greed. To paint the picture I live in the SOMA district (downtown if you don't know SF). Here is one of the greatest divides between wealth and complete utter destitution I have seen in America. I walk past trendy tech companies, startups, and shops everyday; with their patrons and employees trying not to step on or look at the homeless people who line the streets.

This is a problem of the world and one I know there is no immediate solution for. I could move away, to a nicer neighborhood, to a different city… but that only removes this pain from my sight. It does not remove it from the world. I can not exist without questioning, where is God in the midst of this? As Christians we are taught to love our neighbor, that this simple gesture fulfills the whole law (Romans 13:10). It’s true, it does: if you love your neighbor you will not dishonor them, you will not murder them, you will not commit adultery with or against them, you will not steal from them, you will not lie to them or against them, you will not be jealous or envious of them (from the ten commandments Exodus 20:2-17). Since loving your neighbor directly means you are loving God (Matthew 25:40), then surely… to love is to fulfill the whole law. Then why is it so hard for us to live true to that?

Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:10), Christopher Abreu Rosario

I have had conversations with my Pastor on this subject. It has been the seed to my most current struggles and has led to what torments me the most. I am unhappy with my fellow Christians, those in my life, those in the world, and most importantly those in the Bible. 

I try to pay attention only to the log in my own eye (Matthew 7:5), allowing others to live in grace, but finding it quite difficult. The most frustrating have been my fellow gay Christians. Those I would have assumed would be the most understanding of God’s grace, who would sympathize most for this world, and who would be my greatest supporters and allies. But many (not all) who bear this title have questioned and mocked my vow of chastity, have taken advantage of others including myself, and have lost the power of honest speech as their actions are in clear contradiction of their self proclaimed righteousness.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not perfect. I have sinned. I do sin. But even in my faith community, I feel like I am walking alone. But aren’t we all? Wah Wah cry me a river, even I am disgusted by my own sob story. My story. How egotistical. How typical. As Christians we worry about our own personal salvation [Definition 3], and when extending love to others we “worry” about their personal salvation in the afterlife [Definition 1]. Didn’t Jesus teach us to worry about people’s salvation in this life [Definition 2]?
Salvation [New Oxford American Dictionary]

  1. Deliverance from sin and its consequences, believed by Christians to be brought about by faith in Christ.
  2. Preservation or deliverance from harm, ruin, or loss.
  3. (One's salvation) a source or means of being saved from harm, ruin, or loss.
To serve God, to truly serve God is to love Him. To love Him is to love His people. To love His people is to go out and care for them. Yes we can pray for each other, yes we can cry with each other but if we’re not doing something about that which ails them we are nothing but self serving hypocrites. Did your prayer help that person? God uses the (wo)man who is willing to do the work. Pray alone and God will search for someone else. Pray and act and God will use you. It’s great that you have faith in prayer, prayer is wonderful and a necessity but “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:17 NIV)

Beyond ignoring the plight of our fellow humans, what I have seen as the public Christian condition is a fight of a perceived good vs. evil. You know what I’m talking about, I’m talking about red cups missing snowflakes, rejecting refugees out of fear and the countless other stories like it. This is a fight not for Christ, not for God, not for our fellow man. It is self serving, convincing ourselves that we can’t let someone take this thing away from us. Guess what? No one can take away your Christianity. No one except you.

For the last few weeks my church’s bible study group has been following the "Storyline" guide by Donald Miller. Connecting our story to the story of God. Outlining our life, the good, the bad, and the ugly, and looking to see where there was redemption. Where there was God. (Hint: God was everywhere). There is a different lesson that has come out of this for me. As a “professional” storyteller I have always been taught and employed to tell a story of good vs. evil. In real life this translates into the idea that we are all the protagonists of our own story, the hero if you will. But by this same logic then, aren’t our enemies protagonists in their own stories too? Further on this line of logic, if our enemies can be the hero of their own story - then can we not be the enemy in theirs?

We may think we are the hero, but to someone else we are the enemy. Just because we are Christian, it doesn’t make us right. In fact, there are many Christians (notable figures included) who are down right nasty.

I read the bible - God’s story. I turn to it for lessons in life and to know God personally. I’ve read it cover to cover and found myself repeatedly disgusted with the actions of our faith's prophets, leaders, and followers. So much sin. Adultery, murder, jealousy, theft, idolatry... Every single person, every single one. Sinner. And it wasn't just that they were broken or lost, no, it was the magnitude of their destructive behaviors, the lives they destroyed, the pain they inflicted. All this in the name of God?

I can see why atheists challenge the Bible. It can be perceived to be hypocritical, loose, and without moral standing.

Even these biblical heroes are villains.

So it seems I have lost faith in the world, in my fellow Christians, in the biblical foundations of my faith. My faith? If I have lost faith in humanity and if God lives in everyone I see (Matthew 25:40), then what does that say about my faith in God (1 John 4:20)?

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. (1 John 4:20), Christopher Abreu Rosario

I will not point the finger on this one, I too am just as guilty.

Is there such a thing as a good Christian?

In the last few months of 2015 I had been moved to re-read the Gospels, the story of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection. I had no idea what I was going to find but I think God needed me to take a second (or third) look. Before Jesus, all were fallen and behaved rather badly. It is as though God saw His story unfolding in the wrong direction. He gave orders, commandments, but still people faltered and misinterpreted and so He thought… Here, let me show you… and so He came down to do just that, show us. But of course, we did not listen. While Jesus was still with us in flesh, people ran amok - his own disciples included. And after He was gone? It was as if He never came at all.

Jesus knew it too, that it would be mostly in vain. That we would say we are listening but in reality we would not. Some of his last words “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34 KJV) were not about his death, but about our life.

I handled being disappointed by the world. I handled being disappointed by Christians at large, by gay Christians in particular, but by the prophets and instruments of God?

This past year has been a conglomerate stew of emotions; confused, hurt, and embarrassed. Heck, even abandoned.

But as many know, there is always that twinge in the back of your neck, that push on your shoulder, that pull...forward.

At the very beginning of the Gospels, (Matthew 1) we are immediately told the lineage that leads to Jesus. Every time I saw it, I thought to myself “oh great, another list” (there are a lot of boring lists in the Bible). But this last time I looked at the list a bit more closely. It goes from Abraham to Joseph, the paternal (adoptive) lineage of Jesus. My initial reaction was… “wait, Jesus is the descendant of Abraham and David in name only!” Then in Luke 3:23 we are told Mary’s lineage which also connects back to David (there is disagreement amongst scholars as to the validity of this being Mary’s lineage - but I will follow it). But that’s not the point, if recounting my earlier statement of the fact that all the people in the Bible were horrendous sinners, we can see that these key players… these ancestors of Jesus... male and female, on both sides of the family tree, were sinners! They were adulterers, thieves, idol worshipers, liars, murderers, filled with lust, greed, and pride… sinners. 

What is important to take away here is that out of sin there is still salvation. I’m sure God was not happy with the actions of His chosen people, but it did not stop Him from using them as the gateway for Christ. Is it possible then, that even if there is no such thing as a good* Christian, He can still make use of us to do good, even in our brokenness?

Is this, Grace?

This past year I met and became close to another [very conflicted] Christian. He taught me that we are to correct others sins, to point out where they are missing the mark, as part of our duty as Christians. This is a teaching of Paul (1 Timothy 5:20) but it goes against Jesus’ teachings about paying attention only to your own sins (Matthew 7:5) and forgiving the actions of others 70 times 7 (Matthew 18:21-22) so I mostly ignored it. But I can’t ignore this pain in the world. The hunger, the poverty, the institutional racism, the lack of compassion and empathy. People walking over people in order to get ahead, or worst for their own personal satisfaction. This is not ok. There is something about forgiving people, of loving your enemies, but to let them hurt other people (people: children of God), is to deny Christ in the lives of those being hurt.

I think our duty as Christians… fuck** that, our duty as HUMAN BEINGS is to do what is right, forgive those who hurt us yes, but to make sure that they and no one else hurts another person again. This does not mean destroying our enemies (Leviticus 19:18) but showing them a better way.

Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. (Leviticus 19:18), Christopher Abreu

2016 Resolution: Love your enemies, but do not let them win.

Sometimes when you stand up not against your enemies but for your fellow man, you are surprised by the outcome. Sometimes all it takes is to say “This is not ok.” Sometimes you have to make a great personal sacrifice, but doing what you know is right is far more progressive and powerful than stewing in your hate, anger, and defeat. Loving your enemy means loving your neighbor. Protect your neighbor and hopefully, just hopefully your enemy becomes your neighbor too. And if you’re that neighbor that is being oppressed? Stand up. Show your enemy/neighbor that God loves you too, do not be afraid.
“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. The world will make you suffer. But be brave! I have defeated the world!” (John 16:33 NIV & GNTD)
The reality is that we are not the protagonists of this story. Our enemies are not the antagonists. This is God’s story, we are all mere bit players, small parts. This isn’t about us as individuals. Jesus doesn’t love you, He did not die for you. He loves us, he died for us all. This story is about us as a whole because God is our whole. As such, we are not capable of doing this alone. Just like the ancestors of Jesus, just like all those around us, we will never be Christ. We will never be perfect. To think we can will lead us into traps of self-righteousness and judgment of others. I have fallen victim to that, this past year is evident of it. I am sorry. This is not my story, it is ours.

This world is hard. This world is dark. Even with the knowledge I have gained in the 31 years of my short uneventful life I am confused in the darkness of my soul, I wade into and out of despair for my fellow man. I do not know what awaits me on this portion of my walk but I take solace in knowing that even in the midst of this darkness, in the midst of all this pain, God is at work and I will continue to follow His name.

In remembrance of the great Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on this day that we are to honor him, can we admit we are in the wrong? Can we admit we can do better? That we need to be doing better? Once we stop lying to ourselves, perhaps we can take action. It doesn’t matter what you believe or who you pray to (if at all). We can be better neighbors. 

Please excuse me while I go follow my own advice.

“I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” (Matthew 25:40 NLT)

*Good Christian = Perfect Christian = 100% Impossible
**I am a foul mouthed New Yorker who lacks patience. I am not a Good Christian. May God love me anyway.
There Is No Such Thing as a Good Christian There Is No Such Thing as a Good Christian Reviewed by Christópher Abreu Rosario on 03:50 Rating: 5

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