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Monkey See, Monkey Do Not: Calling yourself a Christian when you avoid emulating Christ

Everyone but white Evangelicals understand the message and teachings of Jesus.

I love my Atheist and Agnostic friends. I love my Muslim friends and Jewish friends, my Buddhist and my Hindu friends, my backsliding, formerly Christian friends, my self-admitted heathen friends, my “I’m definitely going to Hell” friends.

I love the way they all emulate Jesus. I love how Christlike they are.

Not in flowery prayers, effusive social media posts, or showy Sunday sermons; not in brazen bumper stickers, self-righteous public protests, or finger-wagging table side lectures — but in their very lives. Where the rubber meets the road, in the small and the close of who they are, they all seem to get it: the stuff Jesus said really mattered.

Most wouldn’t claim Jesus as divine, and many would contend that as a historical figure he never existed, but when it comes to living the actual values attributed to him in the Gospels, to incarnating his compassion and goodness, to daily making the world he preached about here — they seem to have far more respect and use for Jesus than most white Evangelicals I know.

They have his compassion for the hungry and hurting “least of these,” while the self-identified saints seem to have contempt for such people. They strive to love their neighbors as themselves, instead of erecting walls in a gated community of cloistered privilege.

They reflect Jesus the Great Physician, in their desire for care for every human being, as opposed to hoarding healing from the most vulnerable. They honor the planet and the diverse life upon it, that the professed Christians show such frequent disregard for.

They get that God would love the world, and have no allegiance to America.
They share Jesus’ respect for women, instead of nurturing a toxic misogyny that sees them as less than, and then passing the buck of the disparity to God.

They have a morality that is far less pliable than the Evangelicals who’ve thrown their adoration and their loyalty behind a President who is completely antithetical to the life of Christ described in the Scriptures.

They see the hypocrisy of the strange political bedfellows these professed Christians made, they notice the cognitive dissonance of their sermons and their actions, and they recognize the self-serving, modern-day Pharisees from a mile away.

I love the community that is being created in these days by disparate, like-hearted, mutually respectful humanity — one that doesn’t need to preach Jesus or wear Jesus or claim Jesus in order to reflect him.

The people who most trumpet the name Jesus here, seem the least willing or able to do what he told his followers to do. They have either been raised in a polluted and perverted religion so long that they can’t recognize him anymore — or out of political survival, selfishness, or self-preservation, willfully choose not to get him.

I want to be with people who get him.

As a lifelong Christian, I have no desire to align with people who claim faith in a Jesus they clearly have no interest in being inconvenienced by. I have no interest in self-proclaimed Evangelicals, who have no “good news” available for anyone who isn’t white and Republican.

I’d rather stand alongside the vast multitude of people who simply preach with their lives — the merciful, compassionate, barrier-breaking love Jesus made his life’s work.

I’ll stay here outside their gatherings, with the heathens, the unbelievers, and the backsliders, resembling Jesus.

John Pavlovitz

The original version of this Op Ed was published on johnpavlovitz.com

John Pavlovitz launched an online ministry to help connect people who want community, encouragement, and to grow spiritually. Individuals who want to support his work can sponsor his mission on Patreon, and help the very real pastoral missionary expand its impact in the world.

About The Author

John Pavlovitz

John Pavlovitz is a 20-year ministry veteran trying to figure out how to love people well and to live-out the red letters of Jesus, both online in this global community.