Have you ever been at a party where your friend says something really stupid?

What was that? you think. Please repeat. But you regret this thought, because, yes, he really did say something that insensitive or ignorant or downright offensive.

Your first reaction is to walk away. You want to disappear, to make it clear that Hey, I’m not with this guy. 

But how can you do that? How can you abandon your friend, despite the poor image he’s casting — the one that is, if only slightly, being reflected onto you.

At bottom, you have a few options.

1. You can defend. But even as you defend him as a person, you can never justify what he said, because it was damaging and pitiful and wrong.

2. You can leave. But this feels like treachery. After all, he is your friend. You’ve been through things together, you’ve got a bond that goes impossibly deep, and you know — at least, you hope — he won’t leave you in the lurch when you make the same mistake.

3. You can pretend nothing happened. But this is risky, because silence is compliance. Doing nothing puts you in danger of being lumped in with the schlemiels. You’ll be pinned with the badge that reads STUPID or NARROW or HYPOCRITE, and you don’t want that.

4. You can step into the gap. You can insert yourself into the awkward void, taking a higher road of love and grace. This may mean embarrassment, even guilt by association, but it may also mean bridging the gap between friend and foe. It may mean demonstrating the way of reconciliation. (Note: this doesn’t mean flaunting your own position; rather, it means tolerating, loving, and, if necessary, forgiving the other.)

* * *

On a couple occasions lately, I’ve been frustrated with other Christians. Even ashamed.

Even before it aired, I was discouraged by Ken Ham (young-earth creationist and founder of Answers in Genesis) who felt it strangely appropriate to debate Bill Nye (famed 90s “science guy”). This is the sort of thing that is unnecessary and almost entirely unhelpful. It solves no problems; it entrenches people in their radical bubbles; and, most destructive of all, it detracts credibility from Christians. Don’t you get it, Ken? You’re putting my reputation on the line here, too.

Without getting into the science, the debate made all Christians look less reasonable. It makes the whole Church less appealing to engage with.

Part of me wants to tell Ken Ham to just chill his bill. He may be affirming the faith of like-minded believers, but he’s not attracting any seekers. He’s not someone nonbelievers will look at and think, Oh yeah, I want to be like that.

In a different way, I was recently disappointed in the renowned Christian author, Donald Miller (Blue Like Jazz, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years). He blogged something that seemed to undermine the importance of the Church. Writes Miller: “So, do I attend church? Not often, to be honest. Like I said, it’s not how I learn.” (Read the full post for context.) Basically, Miller said he doesn’t get much out of sermons and doesn’t particularly enjoy the singing. He said his time of worship, when he feels closest to God, is when he’s working, “when I build my company.”

He just wrote a follow-up post responding to backlash, but it still rang a bit hollow. Miller stuck to his guns that, while he has a soft spot for traditional Church — “I love it like a foundational part of my past, as though it were a University I graduated from to join a much larger church” — he’s moved on to a new kind of worship. After all, Miller says, “[God’s] not calling us to be sanctified through dutiful boredom.”

I won’t get into all the points of disagreement here, but let’s just say I think Jesus, scripture, and history all suggest that traditional Church — biblical fellowship, communal worship, preaching, sacraments — are very important in any Christian life, and cannot simply be replaced by divine intimacy through work or anything else.

Ham and Miller have not only said things I disagree with; they have, in my opinion, actually harmed Christianity as a whole — not irreversibly, of course, but harmed all the same. To me, Ham undermined some of the credibility of the faith (damaging for non-Christians), and Miller undermined some of its spiritual infrastructure (damaging for Christians).

Sometimes I just want to put my head down. “No, no, no,” I want to say. I want to ditch this party, like I don’t know these guys.

* * *

But disowning isn’t exactly a teaching of Christianity. Stepping into the gap is. We are called to love, with mercy and grace, despite our disagreements.

Whether you agree or not that Ham’s or Miller’s recent words have done no favors for the Church, certainly you will agree that there are Christians out there who aren’t attracting the attention you’d like. It’s likely, in fact, that you and I, at one point or another, have done such harm.

So, with all these faith-vandalizing Christians on the loose, why would anyone want to join the fold?

Our good friend Gandhi points to the problem and solution when he says: “I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

The problem is that Christians are, oftentimes, poor examples of Christianity. To offer a brief list of people you should not look to to find the best representative of Christianity: Ken Ham, Donald Miller, Tim Keller, Pope Francis, Mother Teresa, C.S. Lewis, Paul, Ann Voskamp, Karl Barth, St. Augustine, John Calvin, Kevin DeYoung, Mary, Rob Bell, your pastor, me, any Christian you’ve ever met.

All fall short of the high standard of God. Even the cool ones.

The solution is finding the One. The only one who is a literally perfect example of Christianity. Redemptive, compassionate, strong, merciful, confident, self-sacrificial. You know who it is, just from those descriptors, no name required. And the winner in the category of Christian Ambassador of All Time, the one who lived the truest and best and fullest form of the faith is, actually, dun-dun-dun… not a Christian. He’s a Jew. And his name is Jesus.

* * *

It must be said, of course, that there needs to be something different about those who call themselves Christians. We should be striving for — and approaching — holiness. If we are not being sanctified day by day, if we are not known by our love (not, as some would like it, our knowledge or lack thereof), then we have failed to realize the transforming Light of Christianity.

I hope there are lots of Christians you admire. For me, God has used my parents, siblings, friends, professors, and preachers to teach and guide. But I only try to mimic them as far as they mimic Jesus.

That’s why I’m a Christian, despite Christians. Because I know Jesus. Because I want to live like him. Because his Spirit empowers me to do it.

And that’s why I step into the gap when it would be easier to run away or deny any association. Because these mortal wrecking balls are also my brothers and sisters. Because it’s exactly what Jesus did for me and you. He interceded. He stepped into the breach between me and God, between the imperfect and the perfect, and said, in spite of everything, “He’s with me.”

Posted by Griffin Paul Jackson


  1. Excellent.
    John Calvin, in the 16th Century, made many wise comments on Genesis: “He who would learn astronomy…let him go elsewhere….”

    ”Moses wrote in a popular style things which without instruction, all ordinary persons, endued with common sense, are able to understand; but astronomers investigate with great labor whatever the sagacity of the human mind can comprehend. Nevertheless, this study is not to be reprobated, nor this science to be condemned, because some frantic persons are wont boldly to reject whatever is unknown to them. For astronomy is not only pleasant, but also very useful to be known: it cannot be denied that this art unfolds the admirable wisdom of God.”

    Both these guys have a B.S. Neither guy is well qualified to debate the science. It was a PR event for both. And Ham adds to what the Bible says. Most Christians do not accept his YEC view. http://textsincontext.wordpress.com/2012/05/03/in-the-beginning/
    Here was a recent debate by real scientists.


  2. Looked back at an article from a year ago. Although you mention Donald Miller, Tim Keller, Kevin DeYoung, and Rob Bell, it strikes me that the one who really bothers you is Ken Ham. It is impossible for us to realize how strongly we are influenced by the popular culture, but I would like you to consider that part of your revulsion is a reaction to that influence. Nevertheless, in the matter of creation, we do have to decide how far we will go down the path–for me, there has to be a literal Adam and Eve, because the account of man’s fall into sin is so foundational to our theology. Logically working back, there cannot be any death before man’s fall. So, where does that leave one in the understanding of creation?


    1. Griffin Paul Jackson February 12, 2015 at 3:14 pm

      You’re certainly correct that Ham’s assertions about this issue in isolation are bothersome to me. You’re also correct that part of my frustration comes from the way culture treats his position — it is vehemently against it. However, influenced as we all are by culture, I genuinely do disagree with him on this point.

      That said, we must find our points of agreement. We must find where we meet “down the path.”

      Regarding our view of creation and the Fall, believing that God used evolution to bring about humans (as I do) does lead to difficult questions on things like timeline, biblical literalism, and the Fall. I’m not sure how I would answer all of those questions — though there are many good books and articles on the subjects — but I do believe it is apparent that all people are sinful (total depravity). Not that we should discard a literal Adam and Eve for this reason, but we don’t need them to be literal to agree with the problem of pervading sinfulness and therefore the necessity of Jesus.


  3. Griffin, this isn’t a comment on this post, but I wonder if you’d be interested in googling “Three Sons Club” (a club for fathers who have at least three sons, or boys who come from families with three or more sons). I just think it is so super dumb, and by implication devalues the daughters. What is frustrating to me is that it was started by a well respected pastor, who has written some excellent books. How can someone be so “on point” in all other ways, and yet be pushing something as stupid as the Three Sons Club?


    1. Griffin Paul Jackson January 10, 2018 at 10:35 am

      Hmm. I just looked at it briefly. My first thought is that it’s just strange. Why three sons specifically? What about two-son families? And, yes, as you say, what about the daughters in those families? Or three-daughter families? Seems arbitrary and potentially controversial. That said, arbitrariness and even gender-segregated clubs can be fine (I think some clubs exclusively for boys or girls can be okay). I’d certainly have to do more research first. But yeah, I’m not sure I’m against it on principle; but it would need a good bit of caution, balance (a girls’ group? letting in families with only one or two children?), and I’d need to explore the purpose more. I wonder what kind of fruit it’s bearing? Do we know any of the results of the club? I should look at testimonials. Anyway, it does seems gimmicky, weird, and potentially problematic (and I’m not thrilled with some of the ideas about “manhood”), but I’d have to take a deeper dive. Maybe I will — I come from a family of three sons! Haha.


  4. Too funny—you qualify to be a member! I guess it’s not bad, per se, just seems immature to me, and an unnecessary turn-off to non-Christians, especially with all the gender confusion in our society today.


    1. Griffin Paul Jackson January 10, 2018 at 10:59 am

      I definitely agree with that. I’m sure many non-Christians–and plenty of Christians as well–would not take kindly to the club.


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