The Four Kinds of Embarrassing Christians

Sometimes I’m embarrassed by other Christians. 

Often, that says more about my spiritual development than theirs.

Recently, I revisited one of my all-time favorite movie characters, Blanche Gunderson. In the 2009 movie, New in Town, Blanche is the secretary at a Minnesota manufacturing plant assigned to the corporate executive from Miami, Lucy, sent in to disassemble the plant.

Blanche welcomes Lucy and demonstrates seven kinds of small-town, Christian love and friendship before she discovers Lucy’s true mission. In perfect genuine fashion, Blanche brings Lucy a bowl of tapioca when she confronts her on the truth, leading to this quote:

“Blanche Gunderson: And that’s okay? It’s okay to pull the rug out from under folks as long as it’s nobody that you know? It’s okay because we’re just silly podunk Minnesotans, right? We talk funny and we ice-fish and we scrapbook and we drag Jesus into regular conversation. We’re not cool like you, right? So we don’t matter.”

Blanche, to me, is a hero and role-model. She made me reflect on the embarrassment Christians sometimes cause one another. I believe there are four kinds of embarrassing Christians.

The first kind, are the Blanche Gundersons of the church. These Christians aren’t trying to be sophisticated, cool, or relevant. They simply love Jesus and others with their whole genuine, unguarded selves. They’re not reading the latest blogs or studying ways to make their faith more palatable to the world. They’re simply living their lives, loving Jesus, and speaking freely what pops into their minds.

Any of us who are embarrassed by or uncomfortable around the Blanche Gundersons in our lives need to seriously get over ourselves.

That’s right. We Christians belong to an extensive, diverse family of believers and not everyone wears or shares their faith in the same way. Some cross-stitch Bible verses on pillow cases, others sing or preach from grand stages, another slips tracts describing the Roman road under their plates at restaurants, and others shout from street corners wearing sandwich boards proclaiming John 3:16.

Some of us think we serve God better by distancing ourselves from the quirkiest among us, but that’s not God’s command.

Romans 12:10 says, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” Throughout the New Testament, God’s command to the church is to be devoted to one another and to continually increase in brotherly affection.

We grow when we bear with one another. We testify to God’s gracious, abundant, reckless love when we stand by one another. And we please the Lord when we go out of our way to go beyond tolerating brothers and sisters with different ways, but seek to see them as He does.

Keep in mind that one person’s sophistication is another person’s Podunk, so your quirks may be the source of another Christian’s discomfort in a different setting!

The second kind of embarrassing Christian is one whose hidden sin comes to light, leading to the need for public confession and repentance. While this is a wildly uncomfortable moment for the Body of Christ, how we love one another through that fall from grace testifies to the world about the nature of Jesus’ love.

Of course, Christians should “act like Christians,” and of course, sin shouldn’t be tolerated. But, we all sin. We all fall short. And the brother or sister having to process public repentance deserves to have the family of God stand beside them acknowledging it could have been any of us that fell.

Galatians 6:1-3 is clear on this matter. “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”

The third kind of embarrassing Christian is one who is engaged in sin, but is unrepentant because they don’t recognize their behavior as sinful. This is where we learn to exercise self-control, studied restraint, and love-inspired courage.

We need to be certain that our assessment of sinful behavior is based on a thorough knowledge of scripture and not a cultural or societal norm. We need to remember that there are different understandings of some aspects of our faith on which good Christians disagree.

But, we also need to have the courage to have uncomfortable or hard conversations when we have conflicting understandings of what it means to live Christ-like lives, so others have opportunity to repent if they’ve been misled by false teaching or have simply deceived themselves by hardening their hearts.

Either way, we are always to express the truth without condemnation, with love, and with clarity. We can even thank God when we’re involved in these situations because they force us to dig in to His Word and press in to Him to gain a stronger understanding of what we believe is truth.

When speaking with “outsiders,” we serve the body best by focusing on our biblical understanding of behaviors and choices and avoiding second-guessing the nature of another soul’s state of salvation.

The fourth kind of embarrassing Christian is no Christian at all. God has warned us that false teachers will rise up and teach what is not truth. When others are presenting a gospel as Christian, and yet it is so foreign to God’s Word as to not be recognizable as representing Jesus, we should educate others to the truth.

Calmly inform people that there are wolves in the church disguised as sheep and use the opportunity, not to focus on the wolf, but to describe genuine sheep and the voice of the shepherd, so they can learn to discern.

The family of God is always in process, and will be, until we’re home. Be devoted, be diligent about knowing what you believe, and be discerning.

Above all, let us learn to excel at love, to boldly proclaim the truth, and to represent Jesus together.

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    The Conversation

  1. Bruce Cunningham says:

    I’m not embarrassed by any of the four- anymore. Grateful that God has allowed me to learn that Blanche Gunderson is right on the money, just as John the Baptist was. Those who are sinning against that which the Bible is clearly describing as sin, but are unaware of it, are a challenge rather than an embarrassment. They challenge me to lovingly provide them with guidance, hoping for their restoration. Those who fall into sin and need to repent are to be restored with love and sound judgement. I can’t remember how many times it was my turn! And those who are wolves in sheep’s clothing don’t embarrass me because they have always been around, and don’t truly represent God.
    I am not an ambassador for the “Church”, but for Christ. I’m never embarrassed by Him!

  2. Jann Butts says:

    Another exceptional blog, Lori!!
    You bring God’s truth to light. Thank you!
    Have an AMAZING Thanksgiving!