Giving Jesus a Bad Name

“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Ghandi

Author Anne Rice recently announced that she is renouncing Christianity. I can understand her feelings. It is quite easy to look at the world today– full of legalistic, condemning statements, judgmental attitudes, hatred spewed publically in the name of Christ– and wonder why anyone in their right mind would want to be a Christian. Most of the air time dedicated to Christianity highlights the ranting of Pat Robertson or the alleged affair between Benny Hinn and Paula White or Ted Haggard proudly delcaring that he now says “hell” from the pulpit (and he isn’t referring to the place) or Westboro “Baptist Church” protesting at soldiers’ funerals. We see people teaching their children to protest by allowing 5 and 6 year olds to carry “God hates Fags” posters. It’s enough to make me want to tell them that the closest Jesus came to hating a group of people was his disgust not with sinners but with the Pharisees, the religious legalists who hated the sinners that He came to save.

Some have apparently already been quick to pass judgment on Rice’s announcement and on Rice herself, only further confirming that many in Christianity have bypassed Jesus and returned to a legalistic rule-keeping religion that couldn’t be further from the relationship Jesus died to provide for us. I wish that my friends who are not believers would have the opportunity to hear and see true faith in a widespread realm like social media or the evening news. Unfortunately, calm, rational, and loving but firm grace isn’t interesting enough to make the news. So I wanted to share this post from Russell Moore as an example of what “real” Christianity looks and sounds like. Not harsh, judgmental and self-righteous. But wise, forgiving, calm and humble. Real Christianity doesn’t lord over unbelievers (or the wayward brother or sister) as if we have done something to deserve the salvation we claim to be our own. Rather, true Christianity remembers daily, “Were but for the grace of God go I.”

If all you know of Christianity is the close minded, hateful rants of the self-righteous, read this, and know that most of us dislike them as much as you do. But we don’t rant against them. We try to follow our own advice. We pray for them. We encourage them to compare their lives to Scripture. We hope they meet Jesus and recognize (or at least remember) their own sin and need of a Savior. And we firmly hold to the faith that God is Sovereign and the loud screaming of a few will not so defame his glory as to derail His plans for his people.

Jesus didn’t condemn people into saving faith. He challenged them. He spoke truth, but he spoke it in love, with compassion. We would be wise to do the same if we wish to consider ourselves capable of carrying the title Christian, which means “Little Christ”. If your attitude and actions don’t make people see Jesus in you, either change your actions or change your title. The Gospel itself is offensive enough on its own; it doesn’t need our help.