Do you find that when you share your faith in Jesus Christ that some people already have an image in their minds of what Christians are really like? Do they have a ‘Christian Stereotype’ fixed in their minds?
It is true that some Christians can come across as:
· Intolerant of other religions
· Judgemental of others
· Anti gay
· Dogmatic and intolerant of others’ opinions
There are a number of Scriptures that I could use regarding this subject, but here are just two.
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.” John 3:17-18
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3 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 7:1-5
How do we communicate with people of other religions, gay people, and people who are totally anti religion without coming across as a ‘Christian Stereotype’? It is a challenge –when we share Jesus we need to demonstrate His love first and foremost. It is absolutely essential that we do not come across as judgemental or with a condemnatory attitude.
A very good friend of mine has described me as ‘dogmatic’ on occasion because I hold firmly to my beliefs. We cannot compromise the message of the Gospel in any way, even if we know that it may not be received well. It is vital that we show the love of God in our exchanges with people.
Last night I was asked a challenging question. It was this: “I like to think that my father is in heaven waiting for me; I know that he wasn’t a Christian, but he was a good man. Do you believe that he is heaven?”
I asked a couple of questions and discovered that the man had some knowledge of church as he went to Sunday school as a child. Also he had been ill for a period before he died, so I explained that many people call on the Lord in situations like that, which gave me an opportunity to explain about the parable of the Vineyard owner in Matthew 20: 2-16, who hired labourers at different times of the day, but paid them all the same wages irrespective of how long they had worked.
Key Point: Take people back to scripture because that is what opens the hardest of hearts
We need to take people to scripture where possible because that is what opens their hearts to the truth. It is a living and powerful Word and I have seen it change the hardest of hearts.
“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
When asked if there are many roads to God, I always explain that it would be nice to believe that but then go through scriptures that clearly show that “many roads” are not the case. Using scriptures like John 14: 6 to explain that the only way to God is through His Son Jesus Christ, and that all other roads lead to the wrong destination.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7: 13-14
I was asked once if I hated homosexuals because I was a Christian. My reply was that I didn’t hate anyone in anyway at all and said that God is the same way. He loves people more than anyone ever could. In fact He loves them so much that He sent His only begotten Son to die for them. What greater demonstration of love could anyone show? The truth of the matter is that God doesn’t hate the sinner; rather He hates the sin itself.
Let’s remind ourselves that we need to live out our lives so that the people who watch us do not see us as hypocrites. Our Christian walk speaks volumes about us, long before we have the chance to start quoting scripture!
Also try not to get into the “you are wrong” type of exchanges. Instead, let people know that you appreciate what they have to say. Then, in love, tell them the truth. The Holy Spirit will be with you.
Tell the truth in love…it’s the only way.