When I was about 19 and my brother 14, we performed karaoke to the song “Christian Cowboy” for a New Years Eve Party. We had people clapping along and I think I even heard a “Yee-haw!” We went all out with the denim and the cowboy hats. We were totally…lip-syncing. Yep. Oh, and the hat I wore was borrowed from my sister.
I was a teen when I heard this joke. “A man walks into a saloon out west and sees it full of men wearing jeans, cowboy hats, and western shirts. He orders a drink and then asks one of them, ‘Are you real cowboys?’ ‘Yep,’ one of them answers. Looking at their feet he asks in puzzlement. ‘Why aren’t you wearing cowboy boots?’ Another cowboy answers, ‘We don’t want to be mistaken for the truckers.’”
I laughed at that joke (not because I dislike truckers), but because the world is filled with people who are fake, posers, dudes, people wearing cowboy hats and boots but wouldn’t know how to get on horse without a bulleted PowerPoint instructional slideshow. Cowboys have a saying for it. “All hat, no cattle.” Putting on the right clothes doesn’t make you a rancher. Just because I can almost quote John Wayne’s western movies doesn’t mean I’m a cowgirl.
I grew up with John Deere shirts and “Nothing Runs Like a Deere” key chains, visited Deere’s home, but I’ve never even driven the John Deere haying tractor that my parents own. My John Deere shirt actually says on it, “Play in the Dirt,” which makes my family laugh because they’ve seen me flip out when I get dirt under my fingernails. (In my defense, I’m a writer. Dirt would get into my laptop keyboard.) As you can tell, I’ve got the look down, but not the actions.
Unfortunately, there are also a lot of fake Christians. Each denomination and church has them. They’re the “Christians” that show up with a certain Bible version under their arm, but pick and choose which words they want to obey inside so they don’t have to show mercy or love to the unsaved. They say “Amen” after almost every phrase in a pastor’s sermon but scream profanities at their wives and kids through the rest of the week. They have the story of the Good Samaritan memorized, but ignore their bi-polar, single-mother, crack-addicted neighbor.
The Apostle Paul was right: works can’t and won’t get you to heaven. But James, the early church leader and the man who had the unique reality of growing up with the Son of God, was right as well when he said faith without works is dead. “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this:” he states, “to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27)
With some it is all rhetoric and reputation. They don’t want to get their hands dirty actually doing things for others, whether it’s witnessing instead of condemning, praying for and with their wives instead of beating them, or lending their phone for their neighbor to make a phone call because she doesn’t have the money to pay for a cell phone.
And guess what, crops, cattle, and Christianity can get awfully dirty.
It’s been a long time since my brother and I lip-synced “Christian Cowboy” but I do remember rather well the last verse.
“Now when the round-up’s over, and pay day rolls around;
When all the strays are branded, and when all the lost are found…
We’ll check the reins up yonder, in valleys green and wide,
But we’ll never make a Cowboy – unless we up and ride.”
Just because I blog about spiritual applications doesn’t make me better than the next Christian. Just because I almost always wear skirts or dresses to church doesn’t mean I’m any more worshipful than the person next to me with the purple hair and lip piercing. Yes, even when it comes to Christianity, sometimes I’m the biggest fake of all. Many times that lip-syncing Christian – is me.
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James 1:27 is so often overlooked’ I didn’t even know it was in the Bible until I did a study of James 3 years ago.