Is there a wrong way to be a Christian? That is a question that you will have to answer for yourself. I know that there are times when I feel like I have failed at being a Christian. There are times when I feel like others have certainly muddied the waters. Do I know what is in another person’s heart? No, I do not, so for that reason, I will not judge you as a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, an Atheist, an Agnostic, a Buddhist, or whatever faith or non-faith you have. Specifically, speaking about Christianity though (since that is my faith of choice), I think that there are ways that behaviors can hurt the perception of Christianity. As a result, those behaviors and perceptions change the way we all see each other and the world.
I recently read an article and a blog post within hours of each other: Church Members Mistreat Homeless Man in Church Unaware It is Their Pastor in Disguise (ireporterstv.co) and How to be a Christian without being a jerk about it (Feet In, Arms Out by Elizabeth Rawlings). They both effected me in different, but very similar ways.
I first read the article about the pastor and the church. I was greatly saddened and even angered by the behavior of the people in the church and then began to ask myself, “have I welcomed everyone that has walked through the door of my church with a smile and honest interest in their lives? Have I shaken their hands or given them hugs? (I freely admit, I am a hug addict!) Have I ignored or walked around someone that needed assistance? Have I not helped when I could have?” I realized that I have not always been the first person there to say “hello.” Sometimes, I don’t even say “hello.” I can have and give many excuses, but really it comes down to I didn’t want to in the moment. Does it make me bad? No, but it certainly does not make me welcoming. Does it make me human? Yes, and it shows my flaws. I hope that I would not be the person that walked away, told him to move, or gave “the look.” I think every church should have this experience or something like it. One doesn’t know what they will do or not do until placed in the situation. I hope that I never act like church is a social club and not a time of worship and renewal.
I then read the blog post about not being a jerk. I almost clapped while reading. So many of the points resounded with me as the things that irritate me with many Christians. I can understand why the negative perceptions of Christianity are perpetuated through these behaviors. Once again, I had to take a look at myself – am I doing any of these things? Am I being a jerk? I am happy to say that I don’t think so (at least not in this context)…please let me know if you ever catch me at it though!!
I also saw a video “Totally Biased: The God Debate,” that made me laugh:
My favorite part was when John Fugelsang talked about not blaming Jesus for what His fan clubs have done.
I have noticed in America (I have not noticed it as much when traveling) that when we as individuals find something that we really enjoy, we want to share it over and over again: “You must see this new movie!” “You have to try this new restaurant/recipe/drink/diet!” “You will LOVE (insert whatever you want the other person to try)!” When are you on the receiving end of the “you must try…” it can be annoying, you may or my not try “the next great thing,” and you move on with your life. When this happens with religion, with people sharing their faith, suddenly, a boundary has been crossed and it is no longer alright to share.
I enjoy a good conversation on faith- why you do or do not have it, what your chosen belief or non-belief system is, where your chosen path has led you, how this effects who you are. This is great stuff! It is all about relationships. I have friends of many faiths, many atheist and agnostic friends, many that are just confused and don’t know what they believe. I have friends that were atheist or agnostic that are now Christians and I have friends that were Christians and are now atheist or agnostic – usually because of the hypocrisy that they have seen from Christians, specifically in the United States of America. The great part is that every single person has a different story. A different effect on their life. A new perspective that helps me reevaluate what I believe and how I live out my belief.
I sincerely hope that I have never pushed someone away from God based on my behaviors or words, but I know that because I have lived my faith, there are some that have come to have their own relationship with Christ. When I was first informed of this, it blew me away. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized my behavior and words can plant a seed of spiritual renewal or a seed of rejection. Do the people that I am referring to have the same relationship with God that I do? Of course not! Does it make it less or more than my relationship? No, of course not! I am thankful that I could be an instrument of God’s work, but I know that I am not the one that made them believe. I am not the one that changed their lives. The Spirit did that. Their hearts were changed and they made a choice. Am I happy for them, yes, because I know how much happiness my faith has brought me and I hope they have that as well. Have I been happy when my friends have turned away from God? I can honestly say that no, I am not happy, but I respect that they have made their choice as well. Do I hope and pray that the Spirit will change their hearts back to God, or for other friends to God for the first time? Yes, I do, once again because I would love for that person to feel God’s love themselves. Does this make me a jerk? I hope not! My path is not their path, but that does not make either of us wrong. I believe that God loves us no matter what. It is our choice to accept the gift of His love or not.
So, this brings us back to the original question…is there a wrong way to be a Christian? What do you think?