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In This Case, Pointing is not Rude

A young Indian man studying law in South Africa decided to attend church. Raised a Hindu, he became fascinated by the teachings of Christ and wanted to know more. One Sunday morning, as he climbed the steps of a local church, an usher rudely stopped him.

“Where do you think you’re going, kaffir?” the usher snarled.

“I would like to attend church,” the young man replied.

The usher’s face hardened. “There’s no room for kaffirs in this church. Get out of here or I’ll have my assistants throw you down the steps.”

Years later, reflecting on this painful incident, Mahatma Gandhi reportedly said, “If it weren’t for Christians, I’d be a Christian.”

As a young man, I thought the same thing. Christians were just so…un-Christian. In high school, at the persistent invitation of some classmates, I reluctantly attended a church camp, where I was immediately singled out as a nonbeliever who needed saving. All weekend long, I was hounded by a boy preacher who told me I was a “walking corpse” bound for hell unless I repented.

Another time, my boss asked me to drive a client home whose vehicle had broken down in the parking lot. Within seconds after getting into my car, this man began his Christian pitch, peppering me with questions and declarations that seemed to come right out of a fundamentalist tract.

Given these and other uncomfortable incidents, I was a shoo-in for “Least Likely Man to Accept Jesus Christ as his Personal Lord and Savior.” Much later, after my conversion, I realized that rejecting Christianity because of Christians is too easy. Frankly — and with all respect to Gandhi — it’s lazy.

Do you reject your sports team when they lose or a star player does something stupid off the field?

Would you leave your posse if one person in that group was caught in a transgression?

Do you swear off your favorite restaurant if the service is a little slow on a particular night?

Listen, I understand: we Christians are supposed to follow the teachings of our leader. Yet no one lives up to their standards and responsibilities 100% of the time. We all stumble. At some point, we even fall.

Rather than focusing all the time on fallible Christians, how about taking a good, hard look at the infallible Christ? When I was 27 years old, I did that very thing. After warily attending church with my wife, I was drawn to the words of Jesus that were being preached from the pulpit. I dusted off my confirmation Bible and read all four Gospels, one right after the other. It took a while, but I eventually found myself joining Thomas when he confessed before the Risen Christ, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).

There’s an old Buddhist saying, “Do not confuse the finger pointing at the moon for the moon itself.” When I point to Jesus Christ, I invite you to gaze at Him, not me. I still fall short of the glory of God.  Occasionally, after my faith weathers a storm or I demonstrate grace when grace is not deserved, I realize that Jesus has truly rubbed off on me. Marveling, I point even more emphatically at Him.

We Christians are messy, just like the rest of humanity. We screw up. We often miss the mark that’s been set up for us. Lots of people let us know that our actions don’t always line up with our words. But when we’re down, don’t immediately turn your eyes away from us. Look again. We may be on the ground after a fall, but we’re pointing. Pointing toward the One who captured our hearts at a time when we needed Him. We’re stretching our finger to touch Him once more.

I was taught that pointing is rude. But we Christians make an exception when we point to Jesus. You are always welcome to point with us.

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