Keep Searching . . . It’s Out There
I was in a grocery store the other day and spotted a coworker standing over the grapes in the produce aisle. He reached toward a cluster, pulled off a single grape, and popped it into his mouth. He plucked a grape from a different cluster and ate it as well. He did this several times until he found just the right bunch. Satisfied, he placed his grapes in a clear plastic bag and walked toward the checkout lanes.
We ran into one another back at the office and he told me his story. He bought grapes from the store earlier in the day, but when we went to eat them, they were overripe. So he returned them to the store and was given permission to replace them. He wasn’t about to repeat the same mistake, so he sampled a few just to make sure.
My friend did what many shoppers do around open produce. I researched the practice and learned that many retailers permit it. Grocery store owners and managers are often fine with customers taking a small sample, one grape, for instance, before purchasing an entire cluster. They want their patrons to be happy with their purchases, and it seems a small price to pay for the sale.
We do this in other areas, too. If a store doesn’t carry our preferred brand, we keep looking until we find a store that does. If one tool doesn’t do the job, we search the toolbox for one that will. If the first person we date is a dud, we keep dating.
When something isn’t acceptable, our first response isn’t to stop our search altogether and conclude that the acceptable doesn’t exist. We look beyond the unacceptable, believing the acceptable is still out there.
This principle has a spiritual application as well. If you’re uncertain about God, the Christian faith, or the church, and that uncertainty is based on poor representations of them, please don’t abandon your search. Poor role models exist in every enterprise—business, athletics, government, charitable organizations, the church—the list goes on and on. But as a general rule, we don’t give up on businesses because some businesses have operated illegally. We don’t stop watching professional sports because of a few unethical players. We don’t stop giving because some charities have misused funds. And I’d like to suggest that we don’t give up in our quest for faith, or write off the church, because some people who were supposed to represent them well failed to do so.
It happens, though. I know young adults who have nothing to do with God today because they grew up in homes and churches that were religiously toxic. The adults in their lives talked a lot about God and spiritual things, but they were inconsistent at best, cruel at worst. I know others who were disenchanted by well-known religious figures whose lives and legacies imploded after their selfish and immoral behavior was uncovered. And I know still more who can’t get past the believers they know personally who come across to them as arrogant, judgmental, and condescending.
The Exceptions Aren’t the Rule
Disappointments like these can be heartbreaking. I understand how they can have a negative impact on the way a person thinks about faith. But please hear me when I say this. They are the exceptions, not the rule. People like these do not represent God and they do not represent the Christian faith.
Let me share some things I believe accurately represent God, the Christian faith, and the church. Hopefully, these will be the qualities you’ll look for in others as you continue your search.
What to Look For
Up to this point in my blog, I haven’t quoted formally from the Bible. But I believe it’s time to do so. It’s really the best way for me to convey what the Christian faith is all about to people who are open to considering it. So if you’re able to look past what is unacceptable and open to discovering what is, here are some good representations of faith.
Love. “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:7, 8). This principle is key to the Christian faith. It doesn’t require agreement with other people in all things. But it does give a person the capacity to see others as God sees them, to value them as God values them, and to love them as God loves them.
Forgiveness. “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13). People of faith know they have been forgiven much by God. And because they have been forgiven, they choose in turn to forgive the people who have hurt and offended them.
Compassion. “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:35, 36). Jesus Christ never wavered in his compassion toward people. His followers do the same.
Service. “The greatest among you will be your servant” (Matthew 23:11). People of faith look to Jesus Christ as the ultimate role model of service. Sadly, our culture elevates power and influence. Strength wins over weakness. Those with advantages overrun the disadvantaged. You know how it feels to read stories about people who make great sacrifices, who put the needs of others above their own needs. That kind of behavior is modeled on a key tenet of the Christian faith.
I could list more, but I think this will do. Here’s my point. When it comes to matters of faith, we’ve seen the poor examples, the faulty representations. Some people look at them and find reasons not to put their faith in God. But if we’re willing to look beyond the unacceptable and trust that the acceptable is out there, we’re likely to find it. Look for people whose lives are marked by love, forgiveness, compassion, and service. Chances are, those qualities are rooted in faith.