It is no secret that Christians don't exactly have the best reputation outside (or even inside) the church. Jesus says we should be known by our love, but today it seems we're known for traits and behaviors that are much less flattering.
I've heard Christians referred to as judgmental, hypocritical, pushy, and just plain mean. Unfortunately, the people who call us those things are often correct.
But that needs to change. The world needs the gospel more than ever, and we're supposed to be the messengers of that gospel. Turn on the news and you will come face to face with the prevailing darkness in our world. The world needs bringers of light, love and joy—people to bring light and life into places that know nothing but darkness and death.
People don't listen to people they don't like—and our reputations are getting in the way of our ability to share Christ with the people who need Him most.
No, being a Christian won't always be popular; Jesus promised that. The decisions we make and the ways we live our lives are counter-cultural in almost every way. But unpopular and unlikable are not the same thing.
Here are a few things Christians do that can make us unlikable—and how we can curb those bad habits.
1. We insist on being right. We are people of conviction, people who believe something strongly and fight for that belief no matter what. But all too often, those convictions make us bad listeners.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone who was convinced they were right even before you opened your mouth?
That conversation starts to look a lot more like a monologue.
I'm not suggesting we weaken our convictions, but rather that we practice the art of listening and work on understanding. Hearing new ideas doesn't weaken our own, and listening to someone who lives their life differently won't compromise our integrity.
Instead it will help us connect to someone new and give that person a new frame of reference for the kind of friend Christians can be.
2. We use Jesus as an excuse to be angry or rude. Rejection is a fear deeply ingrained in each of us, and I think as Christians, we're just waiting for the moment we're going to be rejected. So you know what we do? We work to make that happen sooner. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. We feel that we have to fight for our beliefs, that we're going to be challenged or rejected, and so we become headstrong, mean, even rude before anyone else gets the chance.
We site Scripture saying, "Jesus was hated, so I'm going to be hated too."
But we forget just who hated Jesus: Religious people.
Jesus being hated isn't an excuse to be rude. Jesus was hated because of His love. And if there's any reason we are hated or rejected, I vote that it be because of love too.
3. We let our agenda be "conversion" over love. I want to be careful in how I say this, because I am not at all undermining Jesus' command in the Great Commission. But sometimes we focus on converting people instead of loving them, and that's where I think we are disliked the most.
I've heard people on the receiving end of evangelism compare it to their experience at a used-car lot. Someone who doesn't know you is trying to sell you something—something you're not sure you want in the first place.
While evangelism is part of our job, and the Great Commission is something we should be working to fulfill, we should be doing it a whole lot more the way Jesus did it—through love.
The people Jesus was harshest with were the people who claimed to know Him—religious people who were missing the point altogether. Love was always the point, and love is what Jesus showed to the people who didn't know Him, the people whose lives were changed most radically.
We'd find our audience much more receptive, and ourselves much more likable, if we focused on making disciples through love instead of through apologetics.
Being a Christian is a hard balance to walk. We want to be true to our beliefs no matter what—even if that comes at the price of not being liked for them. But often I think the opinions of those outside the church can be used as a spotlight, highlighting places in us where we're missing the mark, or off from where Jesus wants us to be.
Let's not compromise ourselves for the sake of popularity, but rather let's respect the feedback we're being given and use it to take a good hard look at ourselves and the way we're coming across. We'll be better for it.
With more than a dozen years of local-church ministry, Justin Lathrop has spent the last several years starting businesses and ministries that partner with pastors and churches to advance the Kingdom. He is the founder of Helpstaff.me (now Vanderbloemen Search), Oaks School of Leadership and MinistryCoach.tv, all while staying involved in the local church.
For the original article, visit justinlathrop.com.
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