Questions I Hope No One Will Ask: Why Aren’t Christians Better People?
by C Michael Patton
I remember hearing the story about the Christian farmer who acquired two new cows. He took his wife out to show her the new acquisitions. He told her, “Yep, fine looking cows aren’t they? But don’t get too attached to both of them. One is for us and one is for the Lord.” The farmer’s wife replied, “Which one is the Lord’s?” “Don’t know yet,” he said. “No need to decide now.” After a few months, the farmer came into the kitchen where his wife was. He was downcast. “What’s the matter,” she asked. “It’s the cows. One of them took ill last night. I am sad to say, but she died. There was nothing I could do.” “Oh dear,” the wife replied. “Which one was it? The Lord’s or ours?” “It was the Lord’s,” the farmer quickly came back. “But I thought you had not decided which was the Lord’s.” “Nope,” he responded. “It was the Lord’s. The Lord’s cow died.”
While this is a great illustration when it comes to Christian stewardship, especially of our finances, it broadly applies to how so many of us Christians treat the things of the Lord.
I will get back to the Lord’s cow in a moment.
I am so often convicted by my inability to live up to my calling and representation of Jesus Christ. I am quite hyper-critical, especially of myself. Idle time for me breeds much self-condemnation, remorse, and feelings of insufficiency. I have to discipline myself quite a bit here. I cry out to the Lord “Why aren’t I a better person?” The issues are plenty. While I don’t have any acute self-destructive addictions that would make most people’s top ten list, I am addicted to sin nonetheless. I am often mean, irritable, and selfish. Ask my wife. She will be happy to fill in the details. In short, I don’t have a stable personality in many ways. I never know who is going to wake up. I can manipulate truth with the best of them. Sometimes I justify my selfishness do to the bitterness that life often rewards. The easiest thing to ease my conscience is to compare myself to other Christians around me. I pick out the worst of them and say to myself, “At least I am not that bad.”
However, the guilt is intensified when I begin to look to the outside world and see many people who don’t even love the Lord who act better than I do. They seem to be more giving, have better marriages, and less self-conscious. It is true that I cannot see deep into their lives, but, nevertheless, from my perspective, many of them seem to be doing better on the Christian score card than me. In short, it seems that people, non-Christians and Christians, are letting the Lord’s cow die.
Not only this, but we see moral failure all over the place by Christian leaders. Those who are supposed to be leading the way fall in the ditches of depravity themselves. From child molestation to secret homosexual encounters, Christianity is at no loss for scandal. Then there are the great historical black-eyes from forced conversion (inquisition) to wars being lead by the church (the crusades). I don’t want to blow this out of proportion or be unfair here, knowing that fallen leaders will always get more press, but the fact is that Christians often don’t fair much better than non-Christians.
Sure, there are many like me who think in cosmic scales. I have imagined being martyred for my faith. No matter how I imagine it, I always see myself making that ultimate sacrifice. As well, I think to myself that if I had a million dollars, I would give most of it away. And you know what? I think I would. However, these cosmic cows so often give way to the day to day cows. All of them are dying. All of them are the Lord’s. It is not the cosmic sacrifices that are hard, it is the widows mites. It’s not the big things that we resign that are hard, it is the little things. Its not the theoretical cows that are sick, it is the actual ones.
The more I talk to other Christians, the more I find this real struggle present. The things we want to do—the things we know we ought to do—don’t get done much. And the thing that frustrates them is the same thing that frustrates me: we all want to be better people. We all want to sacrifice our cows. But for most of us, we have to pick ourselves up off the ground anew every day. The Christian life, for so many of us, is a life of perpetual new beginnings. It is starting over again every day due to the failures of the previous day.
Why doesn’t the Lord just change us? Why does he allow so much character failure from his children? Our prayers are sincere. But, when we back up and get a good look at things, it does not seem like Christians are much better people.
Why aren’t Christians better people?…
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