I remember one of the things I was taught at church as a child was this: being a Christian isn’t just about being a nice person. How true! A living Christian faith isn’t about being polite. We aren’t just called to be ‘nice’. We are called to be transformed, new people enlivened with the peace and joy and love of knowing the one who made us and died for us.
There’s more to being a Christian than being nice. But there isn’t less to being a Christian than being nice. If I am transformed by Jesus, surely that would make me nice! Not weak and feeble. Not a pushover. But kind and gracious, surely!
That’s why seeing someone commend me on Twitter earlier today made me a little sad. Here’s the tweet:
(For the uninitiated, “#FF” stands for ‘Follow Friday’, a custom by which – on Fridays – you give advice to your followers on Twitter about who else they might like to follow. Today, Scott (an atheist who I’ve never met but talk with on Twitter quite a bit) recommended me to his other followers. Thanks Scott.)
What are we known for?
Sure, it’s always pleasant when someone says you’re a good egg. But this made me really sad. I’ve got to know how Scott thinks a little since January when he saw my Ricky Gervais article and starting asking lots of questions. He’s not a fan of religion or faith (and that must shape his views), and he wouldn’t claim to speak for all non-Christians.
The two bits that make me sad are ‘even though’ and ‘despite’. I’ll answer honestly even though I’m a Christian. I’m a nice bloke despite my faith (in his view a delusion).
In his mind, and presumably experience, by default a Christian wouldn’t be open and honest, a person with my faith wouldn’t be a nice person. The default Christian is dishonest, unpleasant and sees themselves as beyond reproach or questioning.
This is sad.
Like I say, this is one person and this view may not be the case everywhere. But having interacted with quite a lot of people like Scott – reasonable, but not Christian – and having seen the way media presentation of Christianity is going, I fear it may be. I fear that society at large doesn’t think Christians are very nice.
This is sad
I find this very sad. Jesus said this:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
The mark of being a follower of Jesus – the way HE says we will be known as His – is love. This of course includes love of everyone, but first and foremost it means loving ‘one another’.
I want to make something clear: the vast majority of Christians I know are full of love, are beautifully kind and caring people. They are nice! And they should be. They are called to be. It is their responsibility to be.
But it also breaks my heart to see the ways in which Christians treat one another, and the way that in the public eye we have become known as people of exclusion and hate, not welcome and love. I have been so upset by the manner in which conversations recently around same sex marriage have been conducted. There has been such hate and vitriol by Christians on both sides of that discussion. There has of course been dialogue filled with love, compassion and grace from both sides as well, but there should be more of it.
We can do better. We can be nicer!
This needn’t be the way things are, though. There is no reason why people should think of a Christian and think ‘bigot’ or ‘hateful’ or ‘unkind’. Jesus was none of those things, and neither should we be.
Sometimes we put such a high premium on being right that we forget the importance of being kind. We would rather win the argument than love our ‘opponent’. Jesus so totally models the opposite of this that he was willing to be killed by His ‘opponents’ in order to extend love.
I end, then, with two messages.
For non-Christians: On behalf of Christians, on behalf of the Church, I am sorry. We have a message of love and inclusion and radical grace, but so often we fail our Saviour and our world by letting that get obscured. We have never claimed to be perfect, but I am sorry for the times we fail.
For Christians: Let’s be better. Let’s rather be loving than right. As we continue to discuss important things, and to do so publicly, let’s remember that the only way to be known as Jesus’ disciples is to demonstrate love. Let’s take back the reputation of our faith and be known for radical love and kindness by people, whether they agree with us or not.