You watched them leave their driveway every Sunday morning to worship their God. You saw the pamphlet they stuck in your door while you were out grocery shopping — the one that talks about a God Who loves you and changes lives. You heard them say to their children, "What would Jesus do?"
Maybe they were the neighbor who talked to you at the Homeowner's Association dinners. Maybe they were the coworker who wore a cross around their neck. Maybe they were the childhood best friend who always offered a standing invitation to their local church. Maybe she was your mom, the first to tell you about a God who created your favorite flower.
But you were the brunt of their road rage that Sunday afternoon on the way to Olive Garden. You saw her cuss out the waiter and leave her table a mess because "he sucked at his job anyway." You heard him scream at his son for leaving the toys in the yard again.
Your atheist neighbor wasn't the one you heard gossiping about you behind your back at the barbeque — it was the Christian one. Your coworker with the cross necklace is the one hiding in the break room on the job, cursing the management. The childhood best friend just cheated on his wife. Your mom was the one who told you God hates people who are different from you.
On behalf of him and her and them and myself, I apologize. We told you God loved you but showed you that we didn't. We sang of a God of second chances and refused to give our family members a second chance. We preached about a righteous God until we were blue in the face while we held our own private sins behind our back like a weapon to be used in a moment of anger. We were wrong. We were human.
I beg you to remember our own mortality and realize our shortcomings are no reflection of God. I beg you to understand that His character and love are not tainted by our actions, and our feeble attempts at goodness are only weak, fractured echoes of the Good Shepherd.
This is a challenge to my fellow Christians to refrain from abusing grace to paint over our failures. Grace doesn't make our sin "okay"; it just allows us to move forward. But we are still called to point towards something better and greater. It's a responsibility. It's a privilege. Don't be the reason they don't believe.