Wednesday, June 15, 2016

What Your Un-Churched Friends Won't Tell You

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Note: I first posted this story two years ago, but in light of recent events, I thought I would post again as some of the comments are still relevant. Even if we Christians feel that we are doing our best to be a light in the world, many others don't see it that way, so it's worth taking a step back and figure out what message we are sending to others outside of the church.

At times, well-meaning Christians are blissfully unaware that they are annoying the heck out of the people around them with their words and actions. Some are so delusional, that when called upon the carpet for their behavior, they assume that they are just being persecuted for their faith.

I recently asked a group of people to tell me what it was that they wished Christians at large would stop doing. I asked friends, family members and former co-workers. This group represents young people, older people, male, female, straight, gay, religious, atheists and some are a combination. Some refused altogether though I promised that all comments would be anonymous. Below are their honest thoughts.  Are you guilty of any of these? I know I am.

Judging

Not surprisingly, the number one response from just about every person was that they wished Christians would stop judging others. That is a pretty easy statement to make, so I tried to press further to get a better idea of what they meant. 
“It takes two seconds for a Christian to convince themselves that a person is a ‘bad’ person just by how they present themselves. Christians see the martini tattoo on my left arm and instantly think ‘troublemaker.’ They probably think that even when they see the cross tattoo on my right arm.”

“I am always annoyed when they assume from looking at me that I have not been ‘saved.’ How do they know?  I have a great relationship with God.  How dare they assume that I don’t?” 

“I feel like Christians (or any organized religion) miss the boat when they start preaching. No one on earth can pass judgment. So why do they? I also feel like Jesus wouldn't be concerned about which books I've read, how many times I've prayed, or any of that. He'd be concerned about whether I cared. Whether I loved. Whether I was true to myself and others.” 
“If Christians loved people where they are instead of trying to change them into the person they think they should be, the message of Christ would not only be heard, but lived out as well to the world. Christians spend more time judging and condemning than loving like Christ.” 
“If you judge people you have no time to love them."
The bible couldn’t be any clearer on the subject of judging: “Do not judge or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 1:1-2) Still, just about every Christian I know, including myself, struggle with this to some degree.

1 Samuel 16:7 says, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  If this is true, and I believe that it is, then only God knows each of our hearts, our intents and our motivations. In the New Testament, Jesus was constantly ticking off the Pharisees by accepting every person that they didn’t. Why? Because He saw something in each of them that the Pharisees could not.

Hypocrisy
“I think the overall theme of my annoyance is hypocrisy to varying degrees. Many of the Christians I have dealt with utilize Christ as an excuse to do things that they otherwise would not do, but because they ‘follow’ Christian teachings do it anyway.” 
“I have this big group of friends who are quite religious on Sundays and send their kids to private religious schools. They are some of the most unethical, money hoarding, party mongers I know. They need to stop going to church and just stick with being sinners. Just going one day a week doesn't count or for some, not going to church at all, but having their kids go. That seems weird to me.” 
“I really do loathe those that ending up quoting the bible but don't live by it. So in my opinion, most Christians are hypocrites. That is why I'm a non-practicing Catholic.”
We Christians are famous for finding fault in others while ignoring our own. We all agree that we are all sinners, but for some reason, we tend to think that someone else’s sin is greater than our own. We all heard stories of preachers standing at the pulpit talking about living a godly life only to find out later that they have been cheating on their spouse. Was he aware of his sin? Of course he was. Somehow he talked himself into thinking that his sin either didn’t matter nor was minimal compared to others.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5)

Pride
“I guess if I were to summarize what bothers me about Christians, is that the majority act as though because they follow Christianity, that makes them better than everyone else, and that entitles them to act as though every action they do is the will of God, instead of acting with equality, tolerance, understanding, and honestly acting as decent human beings as the bible teaches.” 
“I guess the main thing I don’t understand about Christians is why do they care so much about what everyone else is doing? If the teachings of the bible are true, and you lead a good life, then why do you care about how somebody, that will never affect your life, lives theirs?” 
“I wish they would stop being religious and start treating others with the love of Christ.”
The Bible warns us of this behavior and almost everyone can recite this verse: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18), but some have chosen to forget Romans 12:3: “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”

I know a woman who only sees the good in other people, even when in my mind I think it’s obvious that a certain person is bad news for one reason or another. This woman makes me question my own actions over and over again.

Other Religions
“I think Christians could embrace all other religions more so. While more liberal do, it seems like most conservatives reject any other religion as not being the ‘true one.’ I don't know how it's possible that anyone on earth would know which one (or ones) are true. And especially when you consider that all the main religions are VERY similar, even paganism, which, is where many Christian ceremonies/rites come from anyway. Christmas anyone?”
Christians know of course that we feel this way because of what the Bible says about salvation: “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (John 14:6) and “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) But this person raises a good point, which goes hand in hand with the issue of pride. Sometimes Christians are unwilling to see any good in any other religion or even another Christian denomination. And guess what? It shows.
“Why do they assume that atheists or agnostics are not good, ethical people?” 
“Why do Christians think Catholics are practically a different religion?” 
“Yoga is a way to exercise. It's not a religion. Stop assuming it is. It's stretching.”
Christians don’t need to wholly accept everything that other religions teach, but respect is always in order, don’t you think?

Excluding Others
“I do believe that most Christians are good, honest people with the absolute best intentions. But there are certainly some that use their religion to hide behind their hatred and misunderstanding on the gay population. Fortunately, I've had a family that has been supportive and loving from the get-go. They accept me for who I am.” 
“I know my response is broad and does exclude some Christians. Simply said, if you're not for us, you're against us.  Whereas, there are people who want to be in the church, but Christians push them away because they don't believe or behave as they want them to. Instead of making them feel worthy and loved they heap condemnation and judgment on them and make them feel worthless and unloved. I notice much of what I say is about the church. Because Jesus did not and would not tell his people to treat other people so poorly.”
“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.“ (1 John 4:20).

Enough said.

The Local Church

Annoyances with Christians at the local level range from everything from the that one member who insists on sitting in the front row, but never arrives on time and can never stay put for the entire service, to the way many feel that they have to wear a fake smile instead of showing how they really feel.
“I know when I went to church my biggest pet peeve was that they spent more time recruiting new members than actually worshiping or studying the bible, which was different than Catholics, who were all about the rituals or worshipping.”

“Christians do not question the teachings of the bible at all, saying they know it is true on ‘faith.’ It means well but I feel that the only way to truly believe in your ideals is to question them to the very last detail and build those beliefs upon rational logical thinking. I applaud any Christian that has definite reason behind each belief, and these are the most tolerant, loving Christians I know.” 
“My son has been going to church a lot. One of those big box Baptist churches with a giant stage and sound system. I guess if that's what they need to entice people to go… To me, you just need a room and a bunch of really great people to worship alongside you and a good leader.”
“Churches shouldn't be money making machines.” 
“Let's start with stop pretending everything is peachy when it's not, but don't dump your unwanted emotional excess on me unless we have established that type of relationship. There needs be a balance there.” 
“Many people are willing to give God credit but so few are willing to give him cash.” 
“Stop rewriting the bible. I get tired of people setting up unrealistic expectations only to dash my faith when they don't work out.”
Imagine if all regular church-goers took an active role in the church by giving and volunteering when they could. Imagine if we could become less concerned about saving our seats and allowing others to have a better view. Imagine if we dared to sit next to someone less holy than ourselves. Imagine what it would be like to go to church looking like the wreck you felt you are inside. That would be a great place to be. All verses are taken from the NIV bible.

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