What if I Stumble?

If you were a Christian coming of age in the 90s, it’s likely that your most prized CD was DC Talk’s Jesus Freak. You wore that moniker proudly, maybe even had the T-shirt. You didn’t care if they labeled you a Jesus Freak, ‘cause there was no denying the truth. My favorite song on the album wasn’t the title track, though. I preferred the more pensive “What if I Stumble?”—which came up as I was listening to some old music on shuffle the other day and totally took me back.

The song opens with this Brennan Manning quote:

“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today
Is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips
Then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle.
That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”

Manning’s words and the hook to this song perfectly expressed one of my deepest held fears, and probably the greatest misunderstanding I held concerning my faith in high school. I thought that if I didn’t live perfectly, my mistakes and poor choices would lead someone away from Christ. In my mistaken reading of 1 Peter 3:15, I thought “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you” meant that I needed to have a gospel presentation as tight as a “Four Spiritual Laws” tract. I aspired to know my way around apologetics like a ninja. I began to think that if I was always happy and well behaved and nice to everyone, then people would want to know how I did it. As soon as they asked, I was poised to go tell it on the mountain—“Jesus!”

Yet, somewhere in my subconscious, I had DC Talk’s chorus on loop:

“What if I stumble
And what if I fall?
What if I lose my step
And I make fools of us all?
Will the love continue
When my walk becomes a crawl?
What if I stumble
And what if I fall?”

I didn’t understand that Peter’s encouragement was to readily share the hope of the gospel, and I didn’t understand that the point of DC Talk’s song was that when we do stumble—and it is inevitable that we will—we can have confidence that God loves us despite it all:

“I hear You whispering my name
(You say)

My love for You will never change”

God redeems sinners. His forgiveness is perfect and powerful enough to bring us from death into life. But even our forgiveness, applied imperfectly human to human, harnesses great weight. A humble apology is disarming. It mends instead of escalating conflict and can start to heal even the deepest wounds. Most importantly, asking for and extending forgiveness offers better insight into what it means to be a Christian—that we are foolish, fearful, helpless, redeemed, purified, and welcomed members of the new family that God is building here on earth and into eternity.