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A Christian Response to Hatred of ChristiansOctober 26, 2023
The Sutherland Springs Baptist Church was the site of a shooting that killed 26 church members on November 5, 2017. The response to that shooting was often quite callous. Some of the social media reactions can be summarized as follows, “Faith in God is to be mocked, in particular, Christian faith, and when Christians are slaughtered during a church service, that is the perfect time to pile on. To paraphrase: ‘Where was your God, you stupid Christians? A lot of good your praying did! Go ahead and stick your head in the sand some more and keep praying to your imaginary deity. You deserve each other!’”
There is no question that there is a culture war raging against God and faith in God, especially Christianity. I fear, too often, Christians that don’t help their own cause. Christians have a bad reputation for being unkind, intolerant, harsh, judgmental, hypocritical, and self-righteous. Oh, and uneducated. These are all traits that are common amongst non-Christians as well, but they don’t profess to believe in the Bible, which has a lot to say about love. Jesus said to his disciples, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). He summarized all the law and the prophets this way, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:36-39). The most famous definition of love ever written is from I Corinthians 13. It includes the words from verse 4, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.”
“Christianity” and “Love” are two words that we hope are associated together. Sadly, there are a lot of people who tell stories of deep pain when people of faith treated them in unloving ways. I want to share thoughts about how we, as Christians, can better treat people we disagree with in ways that may be experienced as loving.
First, remember God is God, and we are not. Therefore, it is God’s job to handle the judgment part of eternity. We should not look someone in the eye and tell them they are going to hell because we think they are doing something unbiblical. This includes any statements that could be perceived in this way. The better we know someone, the more that person will grant us the right to be heard (see below). That also means that they will better know us and our flaws. Our judgment is experienced as quite hypocritical.
Second, if you think it is important to share that you think someone is living in some way that might bring judgment from God upon them, only tell them once, and that is only after you have taken time to pray about it. We Christians tend to pound people with our opinions, telling them directly and looking for ways to imply that they need to change. My rule of thumb, which I call Earley’s Rule of Relationships, is that, if I think it will help at all to tell someone what I think about their choices I will only say it once, period.
It is far more productive to earn the right to be heard. That is to spend time with the person, show friendship and love for them, and come to a point in the relationship that they trust us, and actually care what we think. Then when they ask, hopefully our love for them is not an act, but has become very real, and our response will be one of love, not judgment, and God can reveal His love for them through our actions. We read in I Peter 3:15, “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…”
Finally, if you have bullied someone with your Christian faith, ask for their forgiveness. It is so important that Christians be associated with the word “Forgiveness” as well as “Love.”
Is there someone you are separated from because they think you are judgmental? Do you feel comfortable asking someone you trust if you have broken any of the above rules? If not, then you probably need to ask someone if you have broken any of these rules. If you do feel comfortable asking someone then I hope that you will. An important friendship, your growth as a disciple, and someone else’s relationship with Jesus Christ may depend on it. (To find out more about Al Earley or read previous articles see, www.lagrangepres.com).