[Before diving right into it, I would like to give some background…if you don’t want to read it, I’ll make it clear where the apology starts.]
11 days ago, I saw the movie “Blue Like Jazz,” based off of Donald Miller’s best selling book and adapted into a movie by Don’s efforts and Steve Taylor’s experience.
This movie reminded me of the book that marked a point in my life when I really started to love Jesus.
There’s a quote in the book (that I’ve been mistakenly quoting as being a Catholic priest for years) that reads:
A guy I know named Alan went around the country asking ministry leaders questions. He went to successful churches and asked the pastors what they were doing, why what they were doing was working. It sounded very boring except for one visit he made to a man named Bill Bright, the president of a big ministry. Alan said he was a big man, full of life, who listened without shifting his eyes. Alan asked a few questions. I don’t know what they were, but as a final question he asked Dr. Bright what Jesus meant to him. Alan said Dr. Bright could not answer the question. He said Dr. Bright just started to cry. He sat there in his big chair behind his big desk and wept.
When Alan told that story I wondered what it was like to love Jesus that way. I wondered quite honestly if that Bill Bright guy was just nuts or if he really knew Jesus in a personal way, so well that he would cry at the very mention of His name. I know then that I would like to know Jesus like that, with all my heart, not just my head. I felt like that would be the key to something.” (Miller 214)
I read this as a freshman at Greenville College in Southern Illinois (perhaps during a holiday choir concert practice…only during the times that my section wasn’t singing) and that night, I asked God to let me know Jesus like that.
That is the only prayer that I’ve ever had answered nearly immediately (that I can think of).
When I woke up the next morning, I found that anytime I thought of Jesus or heard his name…I felt something that I hadn’t felt before, similar to the feeling you get when someone you really care about finally “gets it” and stops screwing up their life and you start to see them moving in the right direction.
That feeling, more often than not, will make me start to tear up. It’s often not tears that fall down my face that people can see, but I’m sure it shows in whatever weird expression I do when that happens.
All of that being said…somewhere along the way, I forgot about this. I didn’t forget the event and I didn’t forget the feeling, but my poor choices, my selfish ambitions hardened my heart from truly feeling this anymore. I know I’ve felt it in these past years…but I know that it had been far less than before.
This is where the apology comes in.
Within this disillusionment that I will not blame on other Christians or the schools I went to, within my selfish ambition to gratify my wants and felt needs and within my all but vocal denial of Christ, I hurt many people (including myself).
In the “Blue Like Jazz” book (this is portrayed a little differently in the movie but the message is not lost), there is a part where Don and some of his friends decide to make a confessional booth on the Reed College (an incredibly liberal college known for its opposition to Christianity) campus during their most “God-forsaken” event of the year, marked by drugs, alcohol, promiscuity and so forth.
This confessional booth is not to give these students a change to ask for forgiveness from God (as they do not recognize that as necessary due to their lack of belief in him), but instead, it is for the Christians to apologize for the negative things that Christians have done to the name of Christ through history, what Christians had done to these students in their own lives, and also to apologize for what they personally had done to wrong others.
I don’t want to keep quoting huge chunks of the book because I don’t want to ruin some of the best parts (in my eyes) for you and would rather you just read it as a whole yourself (and there may be copyrights that limit how much I can copy, so I’d rather stay on the safe side…you could probably look it up if you wanted to).
You’ve waited long enough…
Jesus spoke a lot about matters of the heart. He clarified that God does not just want us to do good deeds and then fill our hearts with other things. Jesus said that “You shall not murder,” is not limited to ending the life of another, but he sets the bar even higher and says that if I hate my brother in my heart, then I have already killed him in my heart and have sinned. By this standard, I am more than likely guilty of all ten commandments.
I have allowed myself to be characterized by the very things that God lovingly warned me to stay away from. In the process of doing this, I have made fools of people by manipulating them to trust me through a façade that portrayed a good Christian boy who loves the Lord.
I have apologized and I’ve done the same things over and over until my words were understood as empty.
To put it fairly simply, as someone that has studied Christian Ministry and is now pursuing a Masters in Divinity, I have been the hypocrite that has kept people out of the church and made the church dissatisfied with itself.
More than that, I have projected my understanding of myself onto every guy that I know and would not allow myself to trust them in the areas that I knew I struggled. If I was able to fake it, wouldn’t it make sense that everyone else was?
I am not discounting my faith. God has done miraculous things in my life and I have known him…for seasons. My ADD has shown itself the most in my spiritual life. As I was once accused, repentance for me was temporary; I would change, but it would never last.
On January 15th of this year, I realized something needed to change.
God has done incredible things in me since then, but that’s not what this is about.
This apology is for anyone that has ever been hurt by a Christian that said one thing and did another, for those that have been hurt by Christians that seem like they can be trusted, this apology is for people that have been hurt by people like me.
Let me make this perfectly clear: Jesus Christ does not look anything like the Carl that many of you have been hurt by or any of these other Christians that have lived lives that make “secular” people look like saints.
I have been inconsistent and hypocritical, but Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever and he is exactly as he says he is.
1 John 4 tells us that if we don’t love, then we don’t know God, and in the same way, if we don’t know God, then we don’t know love.
There is a sense in which John seems to be saying, “You think that THIS stuff is love??? You have no idea what you’re missing out on! GOD is love! God makes all of these lesser things look like complete sewage!”
I am sorry for the things that I have done and I pray that you will not allow my past to be your view of Christ, but instead that you would know him through the good he is doing in the world and through the inspired word of God recorded in the Holy Bible. I hope to join the other true believers in giving you a better picture of what Christ really looks like.
If you have any questions or would like to talk further on this, please contact me and I would love to discuss this further.
If you are someone that I have wronged, please confront me and I will apologize. I fear that the number is much larger than I could know due to word of mouth.
Forgive me, a sinner.