Here’s a challenge: spend some time in the grocery story, or in your neighborhood, or maybe among non-believing members of your family and ask them to describe the one singular trait that describes Christians.
Knowing the tenor of our current culture, I think many of us might get responses like “angry,” “judgmental” and “uncaring.”
Of course, such descriptions do not describe all Christians.
In fact, the vast majority of Christians I know aren’t worthy of such labels
You and I know of plenty of believers who are patient, fair and compassionate.
May their tribe increase!
But, thanks (or no thanks) to the antics of some, Christians may have a real PR problem.
In other words, a clamorous minority is making it challenging for a faithful majority.
My goal in writing this post is not to get everyone to like us.
Jesus made it clear that by identifying with Him we too can expect a degree of persecution.
Standing on truth (let alone seeking to live it out) can earn a person some enemies rather quickly.
But there is a difference between a person experiencing true persecution for living for Christ and someone who flippantly chooses harshness and strife instead of gentleness and respect.
To a degree, I understand what’s going on.
Our culture scares us. Our leaders fail us. Our world is changing at a breakneck pace.
And the speed at which we get information is blinding. It seems we learn about a new crisis every hour.
Jesse Carey, in an article entitled When Did Christianity Turn into a Contest of Who Can Be the Most Angry? describes just a few of the typical sources of our angst:
People are upset over laws. They’re upset over things politicians say. The are mad that a gorilla got killed; they are mad that people are mad about the gorilla. They are mad that some pastors are saying things they don’t agree with. They are mad at the government. Mad at Facebook. Mad at the media. Mad at how other people parent. Mad at what some people see as acceptable forms of entertainment.
There’s a lot going on out there, producing a lot of anxiety.
As a result, it appears that some have decided to a pour a lot of energy into waging a vitriolic, never-ending war on everything that is viewed as unrighteousness.
Hence the (often unfair) reputation that Christians are an angry lot.
Yet, when Jesus was speaking to His disciples just prior to His crucifixion, He offered them a picture of what he hoped they were known for:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
And, as if the words of Jesus aren’t enough, we find throughout the New Testament that the people of God are challenged to live lives of grace and love before an unbelieving world.
Maybe we all could use a refresher on the fruit of the Holy Spirit:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
This doesn’t mean we sweep away sin. Jesus didn’t and therefore neither should we.
It just means that we learn to prioritize according to Jesus’ desires.
Peter wrote this about the engagement we have with those who don’t understand Christianity:
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that,when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. ( 1 Peter 3:15-17)
It’s good to remember that Jesus is in the redemption business, not the demolition business.
Let’s be honest. It’s fairly easy (and in a sick way, a bit entertaining) to sit behind a keyboard and lambaste someone in a war of words.
But it’s much more difficult to actually leave our home and do something loving for someone we dislike or disagree with.
For some sorry reason, it seems that a small segment of Christian culture has embraced the former.
But the words of Jesus, along with pages of Scripture, appear to endorse the latter.
We are to be known for our love.
Just like Jesus.