A bumper-sticker slogan I have seen more than once proudly declares that “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” This slogan is the cornerstone theological statement of many in western evangelical movement, and it is the problem. Many Christians believe that their sins, no matter how great or small are of no matter because they, being Christian and all, are forgiven. However, at the same time those same Christians are cruelty unforgiving of any who sins in their eyes and is not a Christian.
Christians can divorce at will and still be “stalwart defenders” of traditional marriage. They can also be “staunchly pro-life” when screaming for vengeance and war that kills thousands of children. They can be greedy and hoard up wealth and still attack “godless” forms of economy. The duplicity is mind boggling. In a way, it can appear that what these Christians really want is a world where the non-Christians act better than them. They want the unforgiven to live by “biblical” standards while the forgiven celebrate their freedom to do as they please. Followed to its logical conclusion, Christians want a world where Jesus finds all of those he is about to send to Hell being good people, and his chosen few sinning as they please and boasting of their forgiveness.
If you are deeply entrenched in the Christian culture of America, let me assure you, this attitude looks amazingly and illogically hypocritical. Case in point: Tennessee Congressman Scott DesJarlais. Like many politicians who claim the conservative Christian label and its accompanying political support, he is a complicated man. During the election season, a scandal arose regarding the congressman and his mistress. The staunchly anti-abortion candidate, while practicing as a medical doctor, had impregnated a patient and then pressured her to have an abortion. Conservative Tennessee voters elected him on his promise to “defend traditional marriage” and “protect unborn life.” This was despite the knowledge that the same man cheated on his wife, abused his position as doctor, and pressured a woman to have an abortion so that he would be spared “embarrassment.” This is what some in the Behavioral Science field call cognitive dissonance.
After his reelection in November the scandal began to widen and it was learned that when he divorced his earlier wife he had also pressured her to have two abortions. If this were anyone but a “pro-life” Republican congressman, Christians would call him a serial killer. Yet support for him has barely diminished. When asked about all of these things he has done, while at the same time restating he is against them and will fight anyone who thinks they are ok, he answered in a typical Christian manner. “I’m human… I don’t think I ever put myself out there to be somebody that was perfect.”
It his clear from his statements that the congressman from Tennessee has decided it is not his place to be hard on himself, it is his job to be hard on others. His record will prove as much.
Thus we have an illustration of the problem. Christians have convinced themselves that they can be as absolutely wicked as they want, and by some measures worse than the rest of the world, yet remain at peace because of God’s grace. Any sin committed by the in-crowd can be rationalized away as a “simple mistake,” a “stumble,” or dodged completely by blaming it on an attack by Satan.
The world on the other hand, is ripe for judgement. Their sins are deliberate and premeditated. When the world fails to do right; it is because in their evilness they can do nothing but violently attack God and his way. Remember Bill Clinton? He did far less than DesJarlais, yet every Christian leader of note called for his resignation. They claimed that his personal failings proved he was morally incapable of leading.
Ironically the Apostle Paul in his letters, James in his letter, John in his first letter, and at many times the Lord Jesus himself all indicated that they believed the exact opposite. The clear teaching across the New Testament is that Christians are supposed to be better. Yes we are forgiven, but our response to that forgiveness is that we are better. We do not judge the world for the precise reason that we do not believe they can do better without the grace of God. Our view toward the rest of the world should be a sharing of the gospel message of God’s love for them. Our forgiveness should not be an issue of pride on our bumper stickers, but of humility in our prayers.