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Drawing up the lines.

Don't get me wrong here. I am a Christian. I love and respect Christians and non-Christians. But sometimes I find myself thinking, "Enough is enough!" when I see the interactions between "believers" and "unbelievers." I know that faith is important, but does it give us the right to be jerks? Free reign to act and speak as we wish? Sometimes I wonder if we transferred our mannerisms and words out of our religious discussions and into any other topic, would we be disappointed in how we treat others?

My goal is not to call anyone out, to attack Christians, or to go off on a "I have it all figured out!" rant. This article is my attempt to open eyes on both sides of the fence. For believers, to be aware that your words and actions DO NOT go unnoticed. And to unbelievers, explaining what a Christian SHOULD be like, and to not judge God or our faith by somebody on a religious bender.

My observations over the years of the dialog between Christians and non-Christians has been a great learning experience. There were many who I watched with great interest as they calmly discussed what they believed and were listened to and even respected. Did they dilute the importance of what they had to say? Not at all. They just knew HOW to share it. On the other side, and unfortunately more noticeable, were the Christians who were so passionate about what they believed that they ignored the core aspect of their faith. They were quick to attack, scold, and condescend the person or people they were communicating with, just because they thought differently. Was it wrong to be passionate? Not at all, I respect that about them the most. I wish more would have their conviction and boldness. But at what cost is the message of grace and love being shared? If you share the message of God's love at the cost of showing His love, did you really accomplish anything?

The point is, "Play nice, don't burn bridges."

R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

As I was growing up, I was taught the importance of respect. This was a cornerstone of my upbringing, so I did my best to be respectful. Given, I did not always succeed, but at the very least it was always on my mind. I bring this up first because this is the main issue I hear from people who disagree with the Church or Christianity. They feel that many times there is a complete lack of respect shown to people who believe differently. They are right.

I had an interesting conversation with a young man who was having a hard time taking Christians and church seriously. After talking about the way we both believed for while, I found out that a large part of why he had issue with the Christian faith was because of the way he was treated by the people of that faith. When he was younger, he asked some questions about God and evolution that apparently did not go over so well. This is a common topic for the younger generation, and it is sad that I see this outcome more and more. Instead of respectfully discussing this topic with him, he was quickly and harshly corrected. As evolution is taught in our schools, this type of questioning is to be expected! Shouldn't we be ready for them?

Instead of taking the time and opportunity to share in love what Christians believe, he was told to be silent. Am I saying this one event caused this young man to doubt God? No. Did this one interaction cause him to shun the church? Probably not; but talking to him further showed a string of events just like this one that eventually made him feel unwelcome in church. Respect was forgotten, and in its place was zealous religion without love.

I have had many opportunities to have discussions with people about their faith in God, or lack thereof. I do my best to show respect, and many times it has ended with, "Thank you for talking with me about this. You have treated me better than any other Christian I have tried to talk to." The part that tears at my heart is "tried to talk to." There was an opportunity given to a believer to share their faith with somebody who wanted to talk, but they ignored the basics of love and instead attacked.

That's the power of Pine-Love baby.

With the lack of respect is obviously an environment devoid of love. If asked to list examples of love, I think that "Christians" would be low on many unbelievers lists, if listed at all.

1 Corinthians 13:1-7

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,t but have not love, I gain nothing.

4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;t6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

I know that most people have good intentions when sharing their beliefs. Believers and unbelievers for the most part are trying to share what they think is truth so that others are not mislead. I believe without a doubt that Jesus is who he says he is. I believe in God with all my heart. But if I try to share Him with others without showing love, it is just noise. We can argue that even though I do not show love, my motivation is love, and that is all I need. It would be a pretty flimsy argument. If we read the gospels and look at Jesus, we can see what we need to be like. This man time and time again would find himself surrounded by people not living for God because they WANTED to interact with him. Never had they seen such a man willing to deal with them; and with love! Their experiences were with religious men of the day who were more worried about keeping up appearances and furthering themselves, not having true relationship with God and others. Jesus ate with them, walked with them, and spent time with them. He taught with wisdom and passion, all the while with love. The result? They listened.

If you share the message of God's love at the cost of showing His love, did you really accomplish anything?

This seems to be the lost art in many Christian circles today. You have to ask yourself, is the way you talk to and treat others making them want to listen, or to shout at you to shut up? Some would say, "We need to make them see the truth!" But Paul says that it is the love and kindness of God that lead a man to repentance. This does not mean there is no room for tough love. But if that is your default mode of operation, has it become more about you and your argument and not the love of God?

Enemy Mine.

Sometimes the impression I get from believers is that it is "Us versus them." This is a really counterproductive mentality to have. If believers took some time to slow down, to not be so quick to throw around their debate topics, counterpoint, and rebuking, they would find that many non-believers are actually comfortable discussing God and the bible. We have let the smaller number of aggressive atheists discolor our view of everyone else, and so we treat everyone like a threat that must be avoided or dealt with.

This is very curious to me because I know that the prevailing attitude of Christians is, "Don't judge all of us by the crazy people! That is not what a Christian really is!" Many of the "atheists" (I put it in quotes because some people classify themselves as such simply because they don't know where else they are classified) are intelligent people who are not maliciously trying to disassemble the church. Many are OK with us believing what we believe, and are also willing to let us RESPECTFULLY talk about it and actually LISTEN! It is sometimes when a believer tries to brow beat them to convert them and "save them" (again, we can just share what we believe. We can't shanghai anyone into heaven.) when they obviously get defensive. Was it the message that offended them, or was it the messenger? Persistence is fine, but only when there is true communication going on. I am pretty sure a false conversion to "get this crazy religious nut off my back" wasn't what Jesus really had in mind. :)

The point is, "Play nice, don't burn bridges."

Bootcamp is over.

I think the reason many Christians are so terrible at sharing their faith is that they have forgotten what it is like to deal with people who don't believe as they do. I believe that a healthy church life is important, but if it takes you completely out of the game, what good is it to anyone but you? I have seen too many Christians admit that they don't know anyone that isn't a Christian. It is like seeing a man fish a pond with no fish. What is the point of it other than he likes to look like a fisherman?

If you are up for a nice experiment, go and find somebody who does not believe in God and ask them what they think about God and Christians. Then sit down, shut up, and take notes. You will get a better understanding of where the Church as a whole has been failing, and then you can start doing something about it.

So for those who may be a little gun shy, here are some tips to get back into things.

  • Study.
    You will be surprised how much people "think" they know about the bible and God that is false teaching and is the result of "religion." You will be even more surprised that much of it is the result of a believer trying to win an argument! You need to know what you are talking about if you want to stop this cycle.
  • React in love. Always.
    I do not care if they are disrespecting you and your momma, you do NOT allow yourself to go to their level.
  • Listen.
    You will be surprised how much this will teach you. Listen to their beliefs without the immediate intention of proving them wrong. It will allow you to understand where they are coming from. You might even *gasp*... make a friend. ;)

Bam.

I already know that some people will read this article and feel the need to correct me. Some (until reading this line maybe) already have planned their righteous words of anger to be poured out on me to make me repent of my sin. I just hope that you read this article knowing the heart behind it. Take what you need to, and go on to be the example Jesus called all believers to be.


        
  

About Me

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Curt Blanshan / Youth Pastor, Tech, Lover of Bacon

Crazy in love with my wife and best friend, father to a little ball of energy I call my son, and passionate about youth ministry. When I get time, I try to keep up on tech. Oh, and I love bacon.

Comments

  • Anonymous's picture

    Submitted by on May 11th 2011 //

    Thanks Curt for sharing your thoughts. You gave me pause for thought and reflection, which is needed at times. Bless you and Taryn.

  • Anonymous's picture

    Submitted by on May 11th 2011 //

    Brother, I am proud of you. I love you, and I cannot wait to see how you takle fatherhood! Give Taryn my best and blessings to you both!

  • Anonymous's picture

    Submitted by on December 21st 2011 //

    I see this post was from time ago. I'm new to all this stuff (blogs and tweets) I love this article because it made me see that this is how I am when I try to talk to my son about Jesus. I need to LISTEN to him when he tells me why he doesn't want to go to church etc and I need to just share with him what I am learning and then let God do his thing. Thank you! I'm learning so much !!

  • Anonymous's picture

    Submitted by on May 11th 2011 //

    Great thoughts we all need reminders of Curt.



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