Rarely do we find honest public confessions from U.S. Christian leaders about the state of our faith practice. That’s why a line from Gary Gunderson’s 2004 book, Boundary Leaders, has stuck with me.

Gary is a Baptist minister who has worked for many years in interfaith health programs at Emory University. The memorable line in his book is:

“I’m trying to follow Jesus as best as a middle-class white male can, which is to say, not very well. I could add other adjectives for myself, but none would make mine sound anything remotely like the lifestyle of the first-century itinerant carpenter whose example I choose to emulate.”

While Bible scholars have the challenge of translating scripture into familiar languages, individual Christians and congregations face the challenge of translating the Christian calling into our culture and lifestyle.

And, honestly, our tendency is to downplay those parts that don’t suit our tastes — especially Jesus’ strongest calls for personal sacrifice and love of enemy.

Our common practice is to “translate” the teachings of Jesus to fit — and even support — our comfortable ways of living.

Gunderson rightly notes that our culture is radically different from the one in which Jesus lived and taught. That acknowledgment raises the important but difficult question: How do we follow Jesus in this fast-moving, technologically advanced world that early Christians would not recognize?

Any assumption that we have figured that out is folly. Perhaps the best we can do is admit to giving a lot of time and energy to this effort — even though we continually come up short of the mark.

Even at our best, we are practicing Christianity with loopholes.

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