One time, my car broke down and I had it towed to a mechanic. When I got there the guy said, “Let me tell you why I am the man for this job… Your particular car is my specialty. I’ve worked on this make of car for 30 plus years. I know every bolt, part and spec of this vehicle. I could take it apart and put it back together blindfolded. Boy… today is your lucky day cuz you couldn’t figure this out if you tried. Your car is in the best hands with me.” I have to say, I felt pretty confident! I mean first of all – he called me boy and put me down like all good mechanics do! Second, it was a mechanic shop with the tools and certificates on the wall. And third, the guy looked really greasy. So I left it with him feeling great about it. A week went by then two and no word from the mechanic so I just stopped by one day to check on my car. Sure enough it was up on the lift, and he had it dismantled but it looked like it was dismantled with a hammer.
Right off the bat, the guy assured me that he had it under control. And honestly there wasn’t much choice other than to leave it seeing the condition it was in… so two more weeks go by and it looks even worse. Two more after that and I couldn’t even recognize my car but the guy keeps insists he knows what he’s doing … Another two weeks and another two after that and nothing! But this guy… he still insists he’s a top notch mechanic… and I am beyond angry at this point… and then I started noticing a couple of things… There were really no other cars around but mine… His hands were still really greasy and dirty but all of the tools hanging up in his shop were pristine… not a speck of grease on them… well, except for the hammer – it looked well worn. What was going on?!? He had the shop! He had the certificates on the wall. He had all the tools. Why didn’t I have a fixed car? And then it struck me…
Regardless of the guys tools, regardless of the certificates on his wall, regardless of the destroyed thing I used to call a car … this guy was no mechanic – not a real one anyway. He was never getting my car fixed and guaranteed he would never get a job at a real mechanic shop. I was angry that my car was destroyed… but honestly I was even angrier that this guy pretended to be something he wasn’t. What was the point? Why lead me on like that? Didn’t he realize the damage he did? To me personally for sure – but also to the profession of small shop mechanics. How could I ever trust one of these guys again?
Ok… confession. None of that happened to me. My car is fine. Well – it actually is a piece of junk – but it’s still running – for the most part. But as you read it – what were you thinking? Maybe that I am some kind of dummy for going along with that imaginary mechanic for so long… but also – I bet you were thinking you hoped that guy got in trouble or lost his business. I mean if that had been a real guy – he would definitely deserve to be in trouble and lose his shop – no doubt!
But what if instead of the title mechanic – what if we changed that story to be about someone with the title of Christian? How many people can you think of right now that you know love to profess their faith but do nothing with it… or even worse point to all of their years of experience, all of their “tools” and “certificates” on their wall but the extent of their use of them is talking about them… or is telling others what tools that they don’t have… pointing out everything they see wrong but doing nothing to help fix anything.
Its easy to claim the title… it’s way different to use it… to put into action.
When we misrepresent who Jesus is through our mis-deeds or non-practice of our faith, it is staggering the amount of damage it does. It’s easy for people to write off Christianity because of the hurt they experience from one Christian pretender.
It’s easy for us to say, “well people shouldn’t judge me based on my actions… they definitely shouldn’t pass judgment on all of us based on their experience with one.” Well, just like the example with the mechanic, they aren’t passing judgment – they’re assessing our claims by our actions or non-actions. Some of the most bitter, angry, unhappy people I’ve ever known are people who claim to be Christians but in fact cannot be.
When people seeking Jesus meet one of those people? Just like someone who trusted that small mechanic shop, they might say I have limited resources… I can’t afford to take another chance like that. It’s just easier to not trust any longer. Why go back?
The simplest passage I can think of as a reminder for us as followers of Jesus is 1 John 2:4-6, “Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”
Let’s not be like that lousy mechanic. Let’s build a good reputation for ourselves as well as everyone else who truly, actively, loves and follows Jesus.
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Jason Rehmel is the Lead Pastor at Eastside Christian Church on the east side of Cincinnati. If you are someone who has had a terrible experience(s) at a church or churches – stop by some weekend and give it one more shot with Eastside. Whether you have felt judged, or dismissed, or unwanted – wherever it has been – Eastside is different.