Unlocking the "Me" in Christianity

Today’s guest post comes from the ever-witty, insightful and Jesus-loving Moe of Beta Christian. I first came to meet Moe via Tumblr back in the day. His blog has since grown and become, I think, one of the smartest and most engaging Christian blogs around. I’m grateful to have him appearing on Modern Reject today. Enjoy.

Can you imagine a culture where you can just be yourself without being criticized or judged? A culture where you don’t have to spend so much time and energy trying to protect your reputation? Yeah, certainly not in this planet. And certainly not in the church.

People spend an insane amount of time building a reputation inside of the church. They don’t want to be on the outside part of it, so they work too hard trying to fit in. Just look around our gatherings and we can see people working very hard at it.

Spiritual Curriculum
Because of this pressure to be so spiritual, we make the mistake of concealing who we really are. We start identifying people based on what we see and we adapt our lives to fit in:

  • We wear our religious “garments”
  • Our greetings become super-spiritual
  • Our prayers are more focused on fancy and beautifully illustrated words than the actual message
  • We start to build a “holy” culture in such a way that we begin to look down at sinners.

All so we can portray something we are not. We do it (in the words of the wise hip hop artist Gang Starr) just to get a rep. (warning: video may offend the religious among us)

I Want To Be Christlike
You’ve heard it all before:

  • I want to live like Christ.
  • My testimony is my most important asset
  • I have to show the world I am holy

I believe we have good intentions, but we have misunderstood what being Christ-like is. Obviously, Christ was Holy, so we should be holy. But you know what we shouldn’t be? Fake!

I fear that what we are doing is looking more like pharisees and less like Christ. The guys who loved to be noticed by men, made long fancy prayers, loved the fancy greetings and being called rabbi. Too holy to sit with the lesser humans. Fighting every second to protect their reputation.

let me tell you something, when I read the bible, I would rather be identified with anyone else except the Pharisees. I’m serious. I prefer someone tell me, “you remind me of the talking ass in the Bible“. I’ll take that! But Pharisee? Please No!

Jesus Didn’t Come To Protect His Reputation
Jesus’ whole life and purpose was filled in how he lived his life. But do you know what people were saying about Him?

“He came eating and drinking and he was a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!”

That sounds nice when you read it in Biblical times. Want to hear how that sounds in 2011?

He came as a freeloading pig eating everyone’s food and an out of control alcoholic, a criminal and thief, just like his friends.

Doesn’t sound very nice does it? Did he ever get up in front of  a crowd and defend His reputation? Nope.

The thing is, you can portray a holy life for 30 years, slip once and you will be known for that one mistake. Welcome to planet earth. Population: crazies.

What If?
What would happen if we took the lock off our true identities? What if we got rid of the fancy religious words in our prayers and use our common language? What would happen if we actually broke bread and had conversation with homosexuals, harlots, drug users and liars instead of people just like us? What would happen if we put our barriers down and stop worrying so much about what people think?

I’ll tell you what would happen. We would be criticized, told that we are hypocrites and fools. We would be spoken in a negative way and “Christians” will turn your story into a sermon illustration.

Yeah, that sucks! But you know what else would happen? You would look more like Jesus. Imagine that!

How would you describe your true self?

How do you fight the temptation of Pharisaical living?

I’m Moe, a native New Yorker who loves God, family, others (in that order). I am a pretty outgoing person who loves to be competitive and  hungry  for the things I’m passionate about.

I am passionate about teaching, tutoring and leading people. I am a big believer in books (both physical and digital), organization (love GTD) and growing people (everyone has potential). I love coffee, writing, reading, photography and really cool software. To read more from Moe, check out Beta Christian.

31 thoughts on “Unlocking the "Me" in Christianity”

  1. I’ve been reading through the gospels and it’s been scary to see how closely the behavior of the pharisees matches that of people in the church.

    I’m with you. I’d much rather have someone say “you remind me of the talking ass in the Bible”.

    How would I describe my true self? More. There is more below the surface of what I allow people to see in real life and through online connections (social media, blogging). I don’t feel like I’m faking it, but I have been half-assing it.

  2. How would I describe my true self? Broken. I’ll be honest-I portray this “I’m good!” facade a lot of the time. Exhausting. I want others to see me as a ‘broken, yet beautiful’ son of God.

    Good word today, Moe!

    1. I think that’s my whole point Dustin. We work so hard at “looking good” that we don’t have energy to try and be good. We are wasting our energies on the wrong things.

  3. Moe, you have always reminded me of the talking ass in the Bible. In fact, it’s the first thing I thought when we “met”. :P

    I grew up in a primarily Christian environment. There was certainly a culture of us versus them. And, there was a lot of focus on passages like Hebrews 12:1, which says: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” In my adult life, I’ve come have a truer grasp on “all have sinned and all fall short.” Sharing Christ with others isn’t about conversion and prostelitizing. It’s about being the hands and feet of Jesus-it’s about meeting the needs of others. It’s about living as He lived. It’s about builiding relationships and being real about my struggles.

    What really shook me out of the pharisaical tendencies was when I counseled some inmates. When they told me their stories, what choices and circumstances led them to be incarcerated, I was shocked. They were really no different than me. Who’s to say that I wouldn’t have ended up in the exact same place if I had the same circumstances? The greatest difference is that I had a heritage of faith, of people who had prayed for me since I was a child, which I truly believe spared me from a lot of bad things in life. {Woah, long comment. Great convo starter, Moe.}

    1. I knew you always saw me as an ass. :)

      Good points Keri. Seeing other people and their lives, their choices is a humbling experience. We are no different. We may not even be better people, we are just… more fortunate. I love that you mentioned that you had a community of people who prayed for you since you were young. That matters… a lot.

  4. Moe, you are a man after my own heart. The past 3-4 years, I have struggled with the current state of the church because it looks so different than how Christ lived. My last church even went as far to say that they didn’t want any church leader being seen in a bar – the exact place Jesus would be found today! We are more Pharisitical than we like to admit.

    As for describing myself – broken. I’m much more broken than people think and it’s not that I try to hide my brokenness. It’s just assumed that since I speak and lead a ministry, I have everything together. I don’t. I struggle with a God who says it’s not good for man to be alone, yet has kept me alone for 9 years. I struggle with a faith that tells me to be pure and holy, when my natural self desires to be unholy and very impure. I don’t have the answers, I don’t always seek the answers, and I doubt.

    And I try to show that as much as possible so my students understand following Christ isn’t about being perfect, but being in a relationship.

    1. I think we have misunderstood ministry. We think that our failures speak ill of our God. Every single character in the Bible, Prophet, leader, disciple, etc.. has failed. Some badly. What their restoration speaks of is not our failure, but the grace of God. I’m perfectly OK with showing my faults to speak of a Holy and Graceful God.

  5. Such great points, Moe. But let me flip the coin real quick.

    What about those that go the other way. Because they don’t want to be “fake”, they start celebrating their weaknesses and failures?

    The ones that can’t take a gentle rebuke because they say “I’m just being real. I’d rather be real than be something I’m not (i.e. not like Jesus).”

    How do you deal with someone that doesn’t want to change for the sake of appearing “holier than thou”?

    How do you think we can live holy lives apart from the self-righteousness? Or should we just be satisfied with being “real” at the expense of a transformed mind?

    Just trying to look at the other side of this because I see plenty (especially in the blogging community) of Christians who almost celebrate sin. It’s like this repressed 5 year old comes out that curses and drinks beer just because they were told for their whole life that it was sinful to do it. Now they do it just in spite of all that and the whole time they say “Just because I do this, it doesn’t make me less of a Christian that you!”

    1. Yes, there is another side to this coin (life = coin? Who knew?). Like all things, there are extremes. To me pharasees weren’t bad people. They just took their “religion” to an extreme. In the same way, there are people who take their condition and sin to another extreme. They can’t change so why try. They have a “It’s my party and I can cry if I want to” mentality. They also want the cake and eat it too.

      I believe the key in successful Christian living is finding where we are today and striving toward holiness more each day. We should never be satisfied of who we are today. God loves us just the way we are, but He doesn’t wants us there. He wants to transform us into the image of Jesus Christ, more each day.

      We have to understand what the Bible says. When we do fall and sin (and we will) we have to hate it. We have to be disgusted with it. We have to loathe it with all our hearts. We learn from it and move on. The “christian” who falls into sin and brushes it off like nothing is doing himself and His Savior a disservice. He doesn’t understand grace, he doesn’t understand perseverance.

      I don’t think sinful = real. Real means being who you are. Fighting, getting back up. Confessing, asking for help.

      I always like to tell people that If our behavior and approach is any different in church as it is outside of it, we have a lot to think about. The building is not the temple. We are the temple.

    2. Tony,
      You pose such dreat questions here as you play devils advocate. Ia ttended an organic church conference a few months ago and one of the teachings was on the opposing positions in the Bible between the Jews and the Gentiles. The Jews are often seen,as we see in the Pharisees, as the legalistic bunch. The Gentiles are often painted as the libertine crowd.

      Much of this division is still seen in the church–those we operate out of self-imposed rules and regulation and those who have a “whatever goes…it’s all good” mentality. Both are dangerous and both are counter to Christ’s message.

      Great comment! Thanks for sharing.

  6. The real me? I’m really messed up and incredibly broken. Definitely in desperate need of a Savior, Healer, and Restorer. But you probably already got a sense of that, Moe!

    I also want to say that I love my church. God is doing amazing things here – for the last five or so years we’ve been taking off our masks, getting real about our brokenness, and finding true healing in Jesus Christ. It’s been amazing! And now this newness is beginning to leak out of us and invade our community that lives outside our church walls.

    And if our small community can be completely transformed by the power of God then so can everyone else’s.

    1. I love to hear what your church is doing. I know that there are a bunch of churches that understand their responsibility and take it seriously. The result of that is what you share. You go out and start to get contagious. That’s what is all about.

      Thanks for sharing.

    1. The Jesus I read in the Gospels is pretty radical. I love to learn more and more of him. I’ll be honest, often times, I care what people think… too much.

      Thanks Loren.

  7. Moe, excellent post. I feel pretty good about who I am. I’ve grown a lot in my faith and have to come to a point where I have my own faith. My faith is not based of what others tell me or think. I live according to what I read in the Bible. I rarely use big words and if I do I probably used them wrong. I have a good friend I work with who is a lesbian. And many of my friends I play flag football and basketball on the weekend with are sinners.

    I honestly rarely say the name Jesus to my friends and people who I run in to. Now I will talk Jesus with them if they want to. I want my life, my actions, words, attitude, to be the witness. I don’t want to tell people about Jesus, in a way. I want to show them how much he means to my life and how greatly he affects it. If your heart is truly a heart after Christ it will show up in your life. You won’t need to tell people you’re a Christian. They’ll notice something different about you from the rest of the world.

    I understand your thought in that we will be criticized, called hypocrites, and fools. But honestly it doesn’t happen that much. Or maybe it’s just me. Either way. I think you learn to allow those who don’t understand your belief’s to not bother you. I get it here and there, mostly at work, but my reaction to what they say always determines their power. I don’t give power to their words. I squash them with love or just make them laugh with a joke. :)

    Again, great post Moe!

    1. Thank you for sharing that Joseph.

      I am a big believer in investing in people. If sinners see us as people who invest in them, in their relationship they being to let their barriers down. Often times we are drive by Christians. We see someone and share our $.02 worth of the Gospel and if there is no reaction, we keep going. That approach lacks love (which happens to be the greatest of all gifts).

  8. I think you’re right on the money here, Moe. If there is any place where we could be ourselves it should be the church, but it’s not. However, being a part of church that stresses grace has helped me a lot. As a pastor, it’s especially difficult. But taking the risk to show vulnerability with the congregation has gone a long ways.

    1. Thank you for sharing Cody. Stressing grace is a great approach. It’s that whole “being moved with compassion” that made Jesus so special. I like to believe we should do the same.

  9. Yes! Yes! and Hell Yes!!

    This is by far my favorite thoughts from you Moe…

    One think comes to mind when I was reading…

    Jesus: Peter, do you love me?

    Peter: yes of course I do, You know I do.

    Jesus: The tend to my sheep.

    This 3 times over!!!

    Jesus didn’t say…well if you love me… make me a huge church with like a bagillion people you don’t really care about…

    or provide for yourself and your family and let your neighbor die of starvation and thirst…and in his sin i might add…

    We love Jesus…by loving other first!

    love it bro!

  10. Good stuff Moe! Thanks for the morning laugh with the ass comment. Too funny!

    My true self is the prodigal rebel. What you see is what you get. I returned Home 4 years ago after a nearly 30 year stint out in the world.

    What did I run from? God.

    Why? I thought He was hard to please and strict, like my parents, church and private Christian school. Always on you for wanting to wear pants or listen to Peaches and Herb. You know the big stuff. I never felt that I fit in or was part of the “right” crowd, even as a young child, so bailing was the better option. Why? Faking it has never appealed to me. Be real or go home.

    It’s super easy to get a little Bible knowledge and go all Pharisee on the ones you’re closest to. My husband isn’t as far along on this journey and he’s told me when I’m being preachy. Uh-oh. NOT THAT!!! So, I’ve learned to take my preachiness up with the Big Guy and His Kid, so we can talk it out and He can work through me. If it’s up to me, I’ll screw it up. Every. Single. Time.

    I try to stay connected to the fact of what Jesus did and has done in my life. In Brennan Manning’s The Ragamuffin Gospel he talks about the slow work of God. Yeah, about that…..imagine if we trusted Him in the lives of, not only ourselves, but our loved ones and friends. WHAT? Yeah, trust God with His slow work, His perfect timing and instead be so abiding in Him that He and His astounding love comes pouring out of our cracked pots onto the lives of all the people He brings across our path.

    Just yesterday in my quiet time I heard this in my spirit…..”I’m living my life in you!” Huh? Me? But don’t you know what I am? What I’ve done? What I’m still capable of doing?” And His response? Are you ready?

    “I AM the one who made you who you are. You are right with Me.”

    SHUT-UP! I know, right! He just changes everything. Little by little. He’s just that cool.

    Holy long comment batman! I even got off topic. My bad.

    1. You can go as long as you like Rebekah, it’s not my blog. :)~

      Thank you for sharing your story. Something that resonated with me while I was reading your comment is that God does what He does in His time. Often times we want to rush God, or tell Him what to do. Foolishness really.

      I am reminded when Paul wanted to go to Asia to preach and the Spirit forbid them. I hardly ever hear that the Spirit forbid them with anything. Why? Because we are too cool to want to do God’s work our way in our wills.

      I would love to hear from you how God is getting ready to use you. That ready is exciting.

      Now, this ass gotta get back to work! :)

      1. Moe, I’d love to tell you how God’s getting ready to use me!!!! The catch…..I don’t know :) All I know is where my heart goes instantly and with great fervor and that is to all the prodigals out there. Those who have bailed on their parents faith, God or church. For varying reasons, obviously. I have a heart connection to those who some religous people would write off. If we write off those who aren’t doing what “we” think “they” “should” be doing…..we’ve forgotten, again, the mighty work of the Father.

        When we get amnesia, we need to fill our memory banks with Luke 15: 11-24, God doesn’t write anyone off. He waits for us, pursues us, and aches for our return.

        Soooo, Moe…..if God’s gonna use me in the fashion of my heart’s desire, you’ll find me outside the camp with all those angry and cynical people. By the grace of God being salt and light.

        Or, maybe not. I just can’t say :)

  11. Well, from one ass to another…

    One of the things I find disturbing is when you visit, join, or attend a church and because everyone is cut from a more-or-less similar cloth they assume (hey, there’s another ass reference…) that you must be as well. And in doing so, you’re automatically “in” on some levels.

    Raised in youth group? Me too! Attended every collegiate ministry? Me too! Have a shiny veneer that doesn’t reflect the actual scratches or scars underneath? Me too! But dare to mention that while in youth group, while active and loving Jesus, you got too physical with your partner – on more than one occasion? Or while in college you drank? Or that you sometimes (snicker) get angry? Say or do things that run counter to what you show for those few hours every week while in public? Whoa hey now – that’s not like “us.”

    To me, one of the worst things about the Pharisees wasn’t that they imposed all those rules, it’s that they thought themselves higher than those under the rules. My greatest fear is not that I will be SEEN as a hypocrite by others – because I see that though my eyes often enough – but that I will ACT as one and not care that I am.

    Being honest enough with myself to admit what a schmuck I can be and being honest enough with myself to want to turn from – and to work on turning from it – is the reality I want to show and strive for.

    1. Great thoughts Sonny. I think there are good intentions in having said groups, but I often wonder if they create more division and less community in the church. If you really think about it, we have created:

      – denominations
      – groups
      – committees

      and much more. What this does is put people in little pockets. And since community is so important in growing in Christ, we feel like we can’t do that if we are not part of said group and or committee.

      If there is any consolation, I love you just the way you are. A schmuck and a bigger ass than I am. :)

  12. Sorry to be a little late to this post.

    So great! Thank you for calling us all out on getting real. Something i’ve been pursuing for awhile now in my walk with Christ. I grew up in church, surrounded by a “Christian” community. When I rebelled in my teens and came back to my faith a few years later- i understood why I rebelled. What I saw from the majority of Christians around me were judgmental attitudes and rules. I never thought I would live up to God. It took me years to FINALLY realize He had done it all on the cross and I had nothing to prove. I’m so SICK of what the “church” has become. I want nothing of it. In my current church and family I’m seeking a revival in my own life and the lives around me. May we get real and continue to grow in our likeness of Christ each day- leaving sin behind us and pressing on. Thank you for this post.

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