By Barb Early
I just spent most of September in conferences and conventions. And if there’s a common thread woven into the discussions I had and overheard among the three, you might be surprised. The theme that resurfaced over tables at all three conferences wasn’t the writing life, agents, editing, the perils of publishing, or any such thing. The one things I remember people discussing with ardent tones was…Christianity. And I hate to report that except for the middle conference, the ACFW, many of the people I talked with and overheard were embittered and angry.
Now, I do understand that the world will not love Christians. Jesus prepared us for this fact in Matthew 10.
It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household? Matthew 10:25
But I’m finding it more commonplace to encounter people who have legitimate and serious gripes against those who profess to be Christians. Like the woman I chatted with over my omelet one morning, who discussed her painful and humiliating experiences at a Bible camp as a child.
Or the multi-published author who “entertained” us at dinner one night making fun of his over-ardent and belittling evangelical neighbors.
And don’t forget the outrage over groups such as Westboro, who deem their diatribes of intolerance and hatred as an act of faith. Add other reports of corrupt religious leaders and abuse of children, and we present the world a chilling cocktail they want no part of.
And as fewer and fewer young people grow up in the church, the cultural rift will only grow greater. Now, I’m not saying that we should act more like the world to win the world. That faulty argument has never worked. If you become just like the people you are trying to reach, what are you winning them to? I do believe the Christian should direct his life in a manner in which he believes is pleasing to God. But one thing we do need to do is take a close and serious look at how we relate to people outside our subculture.
If our goal is to prove political or moral superiority, we’re nothing but a noisy gong. If we’re trying to affirm that our definitions of family are healthier, and that our ideas of where we all came from and why we’re here make more logical sense, then we are nothing but a tinkling cymbal. Representing Christianity to the world does not generally take place in Congress, on talk radio, or on Facebook. And having the snarkiest comment, the brightest argument, or the most amusing protest slogan earn us no points.
We are not in competition with the world to prove our way is best, rather we are envoys to the world. And as envoys, we have been delivered a message of peace, one that has the power to draw men to Christ. (Not all men. Jesus said most people will choose the broad way that leads to destruction.)
I guess what I’m saying is let’s not add to that number of those hiking down the broad way by acting like jerks.