Actor’s Worst Job: Working for a Christian

Because his resume includes everything from Oscar nominated work (Foxcatcher, The Kids Are All Right) to a well-received turn as the Incredible Hulk in the blockbuster Avengers franchise, it’s likely that actor Mark Ruffalo won’t have to worry about having quality employment anytime soon. But like most people, he hasn’t always enjoyed his work.

But when he was asked in a recent promotional interview about the worst job he’s ever had, Ruffalo didn’t mention anything in the realm of acting. Instead, he referred to working in a guitar store with a “hardcore fundamentalist Christian” who was “really mean.” He went on to describe the man in question as “a little bit racist” and “incredibly condescending and arrogant.”

I recognize that we only have Ruffalo’s account of his experience to go on, but it nevertheless sparked a number of thoughts:

1. It reminded me that, whether we like it or not, people outside Christianity are always watching those who profess to follow Christ. They’re watching to see (a) if Christianity “works,” i.e., if someone can live an attractive life as a Christian, (b) if they can detect inconsistencies and therefore be justified in dismissing Christianity, or (c) both. This is true in virtually every context: work, school, professional organizations, dorm rooms, fraternity/sorority houses, informal groups of friends, kids sports, family gatherings, etc.

2. Because Christians often rightly speak about how their faith can and should change the way they live, those watching will inevitably hold Christians to a higher standard, moral and otherwise. This is inevitable and, frankly, as it should be to some degree.

3. The upshot of this scrutiny is that Christians can’t adopt a mentality that depends on others to be representatives or ambassadors of Christ. By virtue of our faith, that job falls to all of us. That, in turn, means we’ll need to be quick to admit our faults, ask forgiveness when necessary, and generally cultivate an attitude of humility. And because all of this is challenging to say the least, we surely need to ask God for the grace to grow in carrying it out faithfully.

4. Related to the previous point: over time, those around us should get the impression that one of the reasons the gospel is such good news is precisely because it’s for people like us, i.e., for sinners. We don’t look to Jesus because we have it all together (as if such people existed). We look to him because we don’t. That’s why his forgiveness and transforming grace are so necessary, and so wonderful.

5. Even if we take the above points seriously, it certainly doesn’t guarantee that everyone will like or approve of us. Jesus didn’t enjoy that kind of reception, and none us will even begin to live up to the standard he set. But like him, we’re called to walk faithfully anyway.

6. We’ve said something similar many times at The Crossing, but I’ll repeat it again here. When people within in our community are moved for whatever reason to look into Christianity, wouldn’t it be great if they were willing to approach (or be approached) by someone within our church to find out more? And that they were willing to do that specifically because they already had the kind of relationship with that person that was compelling enough for them to do so?

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