I’ve spent a decent portion of my life judging “nominal Christians.”
You know, those so-called believers who trudge to church week after week but “don’t really mean it.” They might show up for the fun stuff: the holiday hay rides, the shock-and-awe worship services, maybe even an occasional mission trip (as long as it is far from home); but when it comes down to the nitty gritty of letting the Gospel seep into the soul they are clueless. They don’t understand the Gospel isn’t just a salvific math formula to repeat in your head. They don’t get that life transformation only happens among close knit congregations committed to transparency, authenticity, and accountability. They often see the faith as another trophy on the shelf of the ideal life: 2.5 kids, making associate vice president of the firm, minivan, white picket fence . . . teaching Sunday School.
Lately, however, it’s slowly dawned on me – what if I turned my glib dismissals of others onto myself? Would I pass the test? What if I were just a nominal Christian too? Did someone out there think I was? Where exactly is that line between committed and nominal? When has a person done enough to cross it? What if “they” were me?
Recently, I was droning on to my wife about how we will not be those people who just show up to church and don’t do anything. “They aren’t real Christians,” I said.
My wife paused for a second. “Well, something keeps them coming back.”
See, the problem is Queen Elizabeth was right (did you see that coming?). We don’t have windows into people’s souls. All we ever see, even of people we know fairly well, is a tiny portion of their total activity much less their thoughts, energies, and passions.
An example is warranted here.
I was recently talking with a successful businessman. I’ve known this man (I thought) for many years. I went to high school with his children. They were all interested in faith, attended church regularly, but were not sufficiently “on fire” for me to consider them to be growing spiritually. However, through my recent conversation I learned this man had for years mentored and tutored a young teenager. For years!
Maybe he never was nominal. Maybe I was just a judgmental jerk.
The lesson here is not that it is ok to be laissez faire with our souls, not at all. We must be passionate, committed followers of Jesus. We must challenge each other and hold each other accountable.
The point is however, passionately following Jesus can and will look different for all of us. It’s very easy to call someone else, especially someone from a different denomination, different culture, or with different gifts and interests, nominal. It’s very hard, however, to tangibly measure love, repentance, humility, hope, and trust in the Lord.
So let’s be patient with each other. Let’s pray for each other. Let’s realize that every person who darkens a church door, for whatever reason or however often, is there because somehow the same Spirit living and working in us is at work on “they.”