Recently a friend mentioned that he named his car Michelle “because it looks like Michelle Obama.” While it is not uncommon for people to name possessions after well-known people, I have never heard someone name a car after a person because they look alike. I did not quite understand the reasoning and pressed the matter. It turns out that the looking alike was limited to color – both are black.
The admission astonished me.
This person claims to be a progressive Christian.
No wonder the so many people do not see the difference between progressive Christianity and the more traditional Christianity. Ephesians chapter 4 provides many useful guidelines for conducting our life, but very important among them and what should be a defining verse for all Christians is verse 29: “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear.” I freely admit that I have limited use for political correctness and frequently write about extremes in the use of language. Nevertheless, I have no use for statements or actions that are inherently destructive or damaging, whether they were made in all seriousness or for the sake of humor.
My friend may have intended the naming of his car as a joke, but I think he actually meant it in some misguided attempt at acceptance. Unfortunately, though such comments may be made with a true lack of malice, they carry the full weight of inconsideration and do as much damage as those that are made with harmful intent. The same Ephesians passage cautions us about being responsive to guidance from the Holy Spirit in all that we do. While no person is perfect, thoughtful consideration will lead to understanding of what is and what is not acceptable speech or behavior.
Such can be the challenge with attempts at being clever, but we have no excuse to damage the witness we have to the world as people called apart. The last few years have brought too many headlines of the church behaving badly with sex abuse scandals, social stances that represent antiquated (unchristian) thinking, and numerous financial scandals. Such headlines give legitimacy to questions about the relevance of the Church in society. The Church as an instrument of anger and pain in no way reflects the calling of the Church in the world.
Ephesians chapter four defends the purpose of the church and those in it. We must examine how well we uphold the principles behind the purpose of the church and live that our consistently. Unless the church begins to function and garner headlines as an instrument of peace and healing, entire generations will miss the blessing that comes from being in relationship with God.
As much as my friend’s comment personally offended me, it led to the time of reflection about my own comments and my role in the church and the Church’s role in society. I have made many changes regarding the information I take into my mind and the media to which I expose myself in the last months. The more selective I have become in those areas, the more deeply I have been able to reflect on my personal status. At some point the reflection should translate into action or it serves only to be an egotistical exercise in self-aggrandizement – much like the behavior of the Church in the last few decades. For every thing there is a season; now that the season of gestation is complete and the season of growth has begun.