There are a lot of teachings in the church that are really damaging because they inadvertently suggest that Christians should deny fundamental aspects of their own humanity.
I have previously spoken briefly about how I was influenced by a lot of Charismatic teachings the last few years, and although that’s not the main thing I want to talk about in this post, it will definitely give a clearer context to this issue.
If you’ve been exposed to a lot of different forms of Christianity before, chances are you’ve come across the prosperity, name-it-and-claim-it, inspirational, motivational type of Christianity. Unfortunately, this is the type of Christianity that is often at the forefront of western culture.
The whole attitude of denying your own humanity is a big part of the Charismatic movement and unfortunately often even seeps into other forms of Christianity.
Many Charismatic Christians think you always have to act weirdly happy and enthusiastic in a borderline manic way that probably scares the hell out of non-Christians. And many Christians act as if you have to act confident about pretty much everything, even when you actually don’t have the answers. Some Christians even suggest that you should deny your flaws and weaknesses.
Christians are pretty darn good at encouraging people to be relentlessly “positive” and to deny their doubts and struggles. This seems harmless at first, but it comes at a high psychological and spiritual cost.
The thing is, God never intended us to deny our humanity.
Without realizing it, I’d gotten into a type of Christianity that looked a lot more like Buddhism than the gospel. Buddhism teaches that your desires are bad and that your ultimate goal should be to escape your desires and even your identity.
How did I not see that I was living more like a Buddhist than a Christian? I accidentally became an ascetic, constantly trying to run away from myself, hating myself for my desires and trying to avoid the realities of the human condition altogether. But the thing is, as long as you’re a human being, the human condition is inescapable.
No matter how hard you try to become this super-spiritual super-Christian, you will keep getting smacked in the face with the fact that you are a human with weaknesses and limitations and struggles.
I don’t get how we have the whole book of Psalms, which we read quite frequently, yet still think that facing our humanity is something shameful. Why aren’t we like David, openly and authentically lamenting and bringing everything to God? Why do we lie to ourselves and to God? Why do we feel the need to hide the truth from those around us and from non-believers? We stifle questions and doubts and frustrations. In actuality, this repression of humanity is very unchristian.
There’s this common Charismatic teaching that the main reason Jesus came to Earth was to teach us how to be exactly like Him. Not only is that extremely arrogant and even New Agey (Christ consciousness, anyone?), but it disregards the fact that none of us will ever be God in the flesh. And even in His divinity, Jesus still wasn’t ashamed to experience every facet of humanity except sin. He experienced temptation and felt fear and every other healthy human emotion, and He wasn’t any less divine for it.
I want to feel free to acknowledge every part of my humanity. I want to feel free to be human and to rest in the fact that I will never be Christ. If I think I can be perfect, why would I need to rely on Jesus’ perfection?
Why have we been conditioned by the church to be ashamed of our fears and doubts and struggles? We feel like we have to suppress normal human emotions and avoid any confusion or ambiguity. What this ends up looking like is a load of broken people acting really arrogant about stuff they’re actually quite unsure about.
There’s so much we don’t know. We have finite knowledge and wisdom, and we get it wrong so much of the time. That’s just a part of being human. You can be uncertain of your own knowledge yet still be sure of God, but so many Christians mistakenly think that you can’t do those two things at the same time.
The fact that there are teachings in the church that say it’s your fault if you’re struggling or even if you’re sick is quite unsettling. As if Jesus hasn’t blatantly told us that we’ll face hardships and trials in this life. As if our struggles say something bad about us, when in reality they can do the opposite. If everything is going well for us, we have to ask if we’re doing something wrong.
When you look at the world, is the main problem of most non-Christians that they embrace their humanity too much, or that they try to run away from it? Honestly, I think it’s the latter. People run from their struggles and emotions. They suppress their deepest desires and numb themselves to their pain. I don’t see people who are too alive. Rather, I see people who are only half alive, never truly living life to the full. Wouldn’t it be ridiculous for those of us who claim to be spiritually alive to become guilty of this same thing?
As Christians, we shouldn’t run from our deepest desires and questions and doubts. We should bring it all to Christ and believe that He’s big enough to handle it all. We don’t have to suppress what’s going on inside of us because we don’t have to deal with it all by ourselves or rely solely on other broken humans to help us through it.
Following Jesus should make us feel fully alive and fully human, not less alive and less human. And it should make us feel even more like our true selves, not less. Being a Christian shouldn’t be this wishy-washy, one-size-fits-all experience in which we willingly submit to brainwashing and coercion and intellectual suicide. God doesn’t want mindless clones. We shouldn’t pursue a one-dimensional existence, scared to truly experience life in all its facets.
To be human means to struggle. To question. To doubt. To feel lost. To think freely. To have flaws, and lots of them. To be uncertain.
Life is uncertain. The human condition is uncertain. What so many Christians try to do is find certainty in everything, but that’s just not reality. We have to find peace in ambiguity, because ambiguity isn’t going to end until we die. Now we only know in part, but one day we’ll know fully.
I want my uncertainty and my humanity to cause me to run to Christ rather than away from Him. I want to experience life fully and never suppress the storm inside of me. It’s never too much for Him.