Thursday, September 26, 2013

How to Live Like a Christian Without Being a Jerk

By Barb Early

Normally our faith posts can be challenging, affirming, or inspiring. They don’t generally devolve into a rant. But this rant fits, I think, so please bear with me. And in a stroke of bad writing, I’m going to start out by including a little back story.

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.

It’s no wonder our society is confused and turning away from Christ. And while there’s not much we can do about the wolves hiding among us (except expose and stop them when we find them), often we spend much of our time and zeal spinning our wheels. We’re investing energy to create a Christian sub-culture, one that’s comfortable and supportive to us. We have our own language, our own entertainment, our own music, our own standards of behavior. We send our children to our own schools and colleges (and I’m not implying that any of that is wrong). But we’ve forgotten, I think, that we are a subculture, and what’s normal to us is often alarming and scary to those outside of it.

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.)

When the old missionary Hudson Taylor went to China, he didn’t go to belittle their culture, win arguments, or to prove English culture superior. He went in humility and faith, dressed like the Chinese people and lived with them, and mingled his message with much love and prayer.

If we’re going to make a difference in this world, to overcome the negative impressions our faith is gathering, it’s going to take the same thing, not just snarky memes on Facebook.

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.


  1. Thank you for the reminder, Barb. Can you confirm that all 3 conferences were based on Faith? ie Christian conferences

    This past summer I was in Thunder Bay, Ontario and began talking to a woman who was reading a Harlequin romance book. We discussed imprints and I told her of the Love Inspired line. That was when she brought up the topic of Christianity. She said something to effect that there were Christians living in her building and that's what a Christian was, she didn't want to be one. I'm embarrassed to say that I knew who she was referring to, but had to keep my opinion to myself. Instead, I remarked on how some Christians just didn't 'get it' and then I switched the topic back to books before our conversation became lively.

  2. Anita--only the middle conference was a Christian one. The other two were not. I just happened to be around when other people brought up the topic. And they do, and have a lot to say.

    In some cases, I was able to say that every religious group seems to have offshoots that are controlling and manipulative, and that people see tend to notice them, and not the many others who sincerely and sweetly live their faith.

  3. Well, if you are going to rant, this is certainly a worthwhile topic. It kind of relates to my post from last week. While we don't compromise our beliefs, we could fit much better into our culture in other ways.

  4. Amen, Barb!

    We've all discussed Facebook around here several times, but I'll say again how sad it is to see how people use it to tear others down, show scorn, and bicker. I don't find it a good witness when Christians do this.

    Christians are sinful people. But we also need to remember that we have the Holy Spirit in us, and He takes us as we are, but doesn't want us to stay there.

    I'm glad you were there at those conferences as a witness, Barb.

  5. Wow. Barb. I've seen so much of this recently, myself. Just before the conference on the train, there was a twenty-something young man who wouldn't make eye contact at the dinner table. When my friend and I finally won him over, we discovered how someone in the room across from him on the train was being ugly about him and others in the name of Jesus. It was so mortifying. I was pretty stunned by the ugliness. Think Westboro. All I could really say that he'd hear at that moment is not all Christians are like that, and they're the type who give Christians a bad name.

    Too much salt ruins the taste. Too much light can blind a person or give them migraines.

  6. Wow, thanks, guys. I really struggled with this post. It's so easy to say or do something offensive or insensitive without realizing it. And I also know that many Christians are damaged people who have turned to Christ for healing--and sometimes it takes a while to learn how to play nice with others. (I've been there...)

    But in many cases it seems like some Christians have taken to bullying and belittling the lost, rather than seeking their redemption. This is sooo not the mind of Christ

  7. Ugh. Christians. Do you remember that old song, They will know we are Christians by our love?

    I guess that fell out of favor back in the Jesus movement. No one will listen to us unless we speak in love and I don't mean skipping the truth... but perhaps one on one we can show Jesus to the world and for that person their opinion of a Christian can change. IF not, they are being just as intolerant as they think WE are (and with good reason)

    thanks Barb!

  8. It's just so hard to overcome those bad examples...

  9. Excellent post, Barb, and a subject that needs to be addressed again and again and again.


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