Depending on who you ask you'll get a litany of answers: narrow-minded, hypocrites, self-centered, exclusive, intolerant ... and those are just the nice ones!
I know a lot of Christians who are working hard to distance themselves from those terms. However, I don't think any of them identify what is really wrong with Christians.
The problem is NOT pointing out that Christians aren't perfect. The problem is Christians not being honest about their imperfections.
I'm not giving permission for Christians to go do whatever "sinful" thing they want. I am challenging them to do something much harder: be honest about their past, present and future imperfections.
As a follower of Jesus I believe that Jesus died for sinful broken people and I'm fully aware that I am one of them.
A Christian's hope should NOT be in an empty pursuit to act holy, or an endless cycle of penance (trying to balance out our bad deeds with good ones). Like a 4-year-old trying to win an olympic sprinting medal, we will fail.
God doesn't want us to "do" better to earn his love. God loves you now, not "when you...". That is why the Bible says that, "God showed his love for us by sending Christ (Jesus) to die for us while we were still sinners." Our hope is not in our own effort or perceived "holiness." Our eternal hope is in Jesus.
The Bible calls Jesus the friend of sinners, the son of God, the hope of all nations. Sometimes those who carry Jesus' name on their buildings forget why he actually came.
He didn't rise from the dead and tell his followers to go and "franchise churches in my name." He states his reason for coming as, "to seek and save the lost."
What's wrong with me and other Jesus followers is that sometimes we forget that we are the ones in need of saving.
I know that saying Jesus is the only way to eternal life is offensive. In fact, the Bible clearly noted 2,000 years ago that it would be. But that doesn't make it not true.
Funny thing is, I don't believe my conviction that Jesus is the hope for every person including myself is bad news at all. I'm not upset that he only offers one way. Rather, I'm thankful that God offers us a way at all! And that's good news that even though there is something terribly wrong with us, there is hope.
Ben Griffin is pastor of theAlley church at Jamaica Avenue and 80th Street in Cottage Grove.