Many who consider themselves Christians are finding themselves faced with a new dilemma. These so-called “Christ-followers,” except for a few hiccups, have tried to follow Jesus (who they see as the Son of God) as much as their limited selfish condition will allow. But lately, they find themselves encountering people or groups of people who are ready and willing to explain to them the true definition (at least in their terms) of a Christian and Christianity. However, it is a definition that most Christians would never willingly accept.
In a nutshell, this misconceived definition is that Christ followers are mean-spirited. They spew hatred. They are intolerant. They are hypocrites. They ignore Jesus and do not have a clue as to who He really is (or, at the very least, they ignore his teachings on love and compassion) and instead use antiquated ideas of sin to judge others unfairly simply because they do not think like them. They are racist, chauvinistic, and hate the homosexual with a passion.
And occasionally, they enjoy kicking puppies. Either that or drowning kittens. It is a sad characterization. It is also patently untrue.
If we are being honest, there are without exception some hypocrites who actively and faithfully attend church. There are also without exception some hypocrites who occupy the halls of Congress, run large corporations, and work at the local gas station. There are some mean spirited people who are or have been in church leadership. There are also mean spirited people who run nursing homes, serve French fries, and are in law enforcement.
People are, by nature, sinful. And many times, whether one bears the title of Christ follower or not, a mean spirited attitude comes out as part of having a sin nature. Sin is that very quality that causes a person to run toward the wrong decision instead of the right one. And even the Bible says that no ordinary human being has ever been free from that. It is a horrible malady that has plagued all of mankind from the beginning. In other words, the wrong attitude comes out because they suffer from a deplorable condition known as being a human being.
Some of the meanest, most hateful emails and Facebook comments one will see come from those who claim to be against Christianity. They have jumped with a vengeance on Christians for things that have been posted and yet they post similar hate filled rhetoric from the other side. The difference is that a true Christ follower will not sit around and wonder “who is the real hypocrite?” He recognizes that both are guilty of sin. Both have their moments of hypocrisy. Both can have moments where they act irrationally and that nature is going to come out on occasion.
And by the way, those who stereotype the Christian faith as being judgmental, intolerant, and mean-spirited would be 100 percent correct if they were right in their understandings of the teachings of Jesus. However, they only get it partly right. Jesus did talk about love and compassion. But that was not all he talked about.
Consider Matthew 18:15: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone…If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you…If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.” These are the words of Jesus Himself and they teach all who read them some things about Him.
First, sin is a real thing and not just a matter of someone’s perspective. And Jesus called it what it was. Like it or not, there are black and white issues of right and wrong. There are some things that one may not like to hear but that is part of life. The truth is not always enjoyable and sometimes, it cannot be sugar-coated.
Second, the Christian is commanded by Jesus to confront sin. And when sin is confronted, it is usually not met with a pleasant response. That is also true when Christians confront other Christians. If a Christian truly follows the Bible (as he should), he cannot give sin a pass. Many believers, including this writer, firmly believe that when it comes to the non-Christian, the only thing that they should be confronted on is the sin of rejecting the Lordship of Christ in their lives. But in the same manner, a Christian cannot confront someone on this if they sit idly back and allow something that is wrong according to scripture to become an acceptable lifestyle. That would most definitely make them a hypocrite.
Look closely at Matthew 18:15. If Jesus was willing to confront sin and even encouraged the church to withdraw from people who would not agree with the very nature of it, could he not easily be labeled as a mean-spirited, intolerant, hypocrite? But even the most dispassionate agnostic would more than likely not see that as even remotely true. The Bible presents Jesus as a man full of love and compassion. However, it also shows that He taught that sin was real and should be confronted.
Why did He teach these things? Because He was, in fact, loving and compassionate.
There is nothing more loving and compassionate than to try and stop someone from ruining his life. One would have to be pretty cold-hearted to watch people carry on in a destructive lifestyle and dismiss it with a casual, “Who am I to judge? If that is what they feel is right, then it is right for them.”
Jesus has so much love and compassion for every single person, He simply will not stand by idly and watch a person cause pain and heartache to others, fall far short of his or her potential, and worst of all, spend eternity in Hell. That is why Jesus came to earth in the first place, to save the human race from the pain of sinful behavior. And that is why Christ followers are commanded to confront sin and help people understand the need to allow God change their destructive ways. But the true motivation behind this must always be love and compassion. If a Christian loses sight of that, then his or her efforts eventually will become mean-spirited, intolerant, and judgmental.
And no Christian really wants to fall into the old stereotype, and give liberals, atheists, and the non-believing world in general any credibility on these accusations. At least not the true Christ-follower.
If Christians gives credibility to that stereotype, then one might believe they actually enjoy kicking puppies and drowning kittens! Which for the record, most do not. But when a Christian resolves to live as Christ lived, then the new dilemma will quickly dissipate.
Opinion by Rick Hope