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Why are Christians so Bad?

Why is there so little difference between the lives of Christians and nonbelievers? Last week, a speaker at my men's group posed this poignant question. Christians have almost the same problems as nonbelievers. We get divorced, commit adultery, abuse alcohol and food, and do other destructive things in almost the exact same numbers as our secular counterparts. Why?

Jesus said that all the issues of life proceed from the heart. Lust, murder, rage, lying, all come from our own heart and corrupt us. Truly, the heart of our problem is the problem of the heart; not our physical heart, mind you, but the inner person, our core, who we really are as people.

For years, I knew that our heart contained clues to help us improve our lives. But what is the biblical definition of the heart? It's "the spring of our desires, the governing center of our intellect, psychology, inner life, feelings, character, volition and personality. … It is the heart which makes a man or beast what he is" (THE NEW BIBLE DICTIONARY). But how do we change it?

During my midlife crisis, I discovered that the heart is a biblical word for our subconscious, the inner repository into which all the events of our lives have been stored. Everything we have ever experienced including all our memories and the feelings associated with them are indelibly recorded there. If the heart is broken - and whose has not been? - Our lives become warped and we can't straighten them out, no matter how hard we try. This twisted-nest affects our capacity to obey God.

All God's law is summed up in the command to love. Thus is great news because, "love never fails." If we loved perfectly, our lives would be far richer and more effective. But it's as hard for a person with a broken heart to love as it is for a person with a broken foot to run. It's also as hard for a person with a broken heart to be faithful, to not indulge his lust, nor eat or drink too much, nor lie, nor steal, nor mess up his or her life in the countless ways that we do. Our broken heart keeps us from living better. It prods us to self-destructive patterns, causing us to fail repeatedly, no matter how hard we try to 'be good'.

Life shouldn't be this hard. God has given us all we need to heal our inner brokenness. This is precisely what Jesus was empowered to do for us and He passed that capacity on to His Church. God has given spiritual healing gifts to His Church to make us more whole. But like the Pharisees who tried to keep Jesus from healing, much of Christendom has erected elaborate doctrinal fortresses against the healing we so desperately need.

Certain religious traditions do this in different ways. Some maintain that because God has given us a new heart at conversion we don't need to heal our old broken one. Others argue that because old things have passed away and all things have become new we don't need the healing Christ was anointed to give us. Still others explain away the spiritual healing gifts clearly offered us in the Bible by devising elaborate doctrinal positions that absolve us from having to live and work in the same power Jesus exhibited when He healed the sick and cast out demons. They simply ignore scriptures that tell us that we should do the works Jesus did and greater.

Even counseling is suspect in many of these religious circles. Though Jesus is the wonderful counselor and many of God's people are equipped to offer the wise counsel we so dearly require, some pastors convince themselves that all Christians need is to memorize enough Bible verses. Ironically, those same pastors usually get upset when their parishioners anesthetize their unbearable emotional pain with food, alcohol or prescription drugs.

I'm reminded of a church that discovered that someone was stealing from the offerings. They investigated. Much to their chagrin, the culprit was a young man who had memorized more Bible verses than anyone else. I love the Bible and feel it's important to know and understand it but filling our head filled with biblical information doesn't somehow make us obedient.

I'm convinced that the major reason why the Church is just as bad as the rest of society is because we have left God's healing gifts unopened beneath the Christmas tree. We are plagued with sinful destructive behavior largely because we ignore Jesus' mission to heal the brokenhearted and liberate the wounded.

During my own midlife crisis, I attended a two-week intensive healing retreat in a Nebraska monastery. I wanted to resolve the underlying cause of my own compulsive behavior (what the Bible calls, 'besetting sins').  I learned there to explore the "hidden things of my heart" - to unearth the buried treasures of wisdom concealed there for decades; things that would reveal to me the unseen source of my compulsive behaviors.

The exercises, dreams, and conversations I experienced there revealed that my core problems started with my parents. That's no great revelation to any of us. No one had perfect parents. The genesis of many of our problems is in their imperfect parenting. My father returned from WW II section 8 - psychiatrically damaged. He was a rage-aholic throughout my childhood. My mother lost her eyesight shortly after I was born. But this isn't about blaming them. They did their crumby best, as I did in raising my children. Still, I needed to understand where my problems came from in order to solve them. You can't heal what you don't comprehend.

What happened next will probably sound weird to you. Some may even write me off as being terminally flaky. That's your choice. I choose to risk being vulnerable in case others may find hope from my experience.

During a spiritual healing session, a gifted counselor showed me, with Jesus' help, how to rid myself of the problem inside my own heart. When I asked God to show me where my problem began, I saw an image in my mind's eye of my parents when I was a child.  I cringed. The pastor who assisted me with my healing asked me what I wanted to do about them. I hesitated. He prodded me to say whatever came to my mind. Reluctantly I said I wanted to get rid of them. The pastor said I should ask Jesus, who was very present with me in this experience, to give me something to eliminate them. Again, I wavered. This didn't seem very Christian to me. He encouraged me to just trust him and do what he said.

"Jesus," I prayed, "gives me something to help me get rid of them." To my utter amazement, Jesus handed me a blowtorch! When I told the counselor this, he asked, "What do you want to do with it?"

"Burn them up," I replied. "Then do it," he said. I paused. How could this possibly be Christian?

The man seemed to read my mind. "Just do it," he said. "I'll explain later."

So, in my imagination, I torched them both, reducing my mother and father to a pile of ashes. He then told me to ask Jesus to give me something to remove the ashes. When I did, Jesus handed me a vacuum cleaner to suck up the remnants.

After we were done, I felt a sense of enormous relief. However, I voiced my concerns to the counselor. He told me, "Look Ken, you obviously didn't destroy your parents. Your father isn't even alive. What you did was destroy their imago, the defective image you carried of them in your subconscious."

As strange as this may sound, I can tell you this: somehow, the roots of the self-hatred that had plagued me throughout my entire adult life were suddenly gone, and with that went most of my compulsive drives. I left that retreat a changed man, freer, more joyful, less anxious, and better able to be who I really am without being constantly hampered by a deep sense of inadequacy. And those sins that threatened to overwhelm me have never had the same power over me since. Once the pain is gone, who needs anesthetics? 

In our sinful world, no one escapes adolescence without some part of their heart being broken. As wonderful as the new birth is, it changes our spirits. It doesn't automatically heal all our emotional brokenness. Salvation is a progressive verb, becoming whole a lifelong journey. The major reason the church is as damaged as the world around us is because we haven't learned how to appropriate God's power to heal our own lingering emotional pain. This is something He uniquely promised to do for us in the end times (cf. Jeremiah 30). It's something we all need.



Ken Unger is President of and founder of, where you can learn more about him and his transformative ministry. click here ,
 "Ken's new book, The Ultimate Breakthrough, goes beyond self help to self healing. You can preview it at The Ultimate Breakthrough "
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