Warning: PG-13 entry because I use profanity and talk about real issues.
Over the past few days, I started to think about my friends that aren’t Christians and it dawned to me that they might actually be cooler than Christians.
To clarify by what I mean cool, I mean that these non-Christians keep it real. They admit mistakes, they don’t try to push their lifestyle on me, they’re more open and more importantly, they are more of this world.
Now, I am not saying that all Christians are bad, but there are a lot of not so good Christians out there. We shouldn’t be of this world, but in order to be what Jesus called us to be, we need to be less of a “holier than thou” and just be what we are: human.
So where am I coming from with this? Well, to me, there are certain kind of Christians out there and I don’t want to be associated with these kinds of Christians. I want to be more of this. Christianity gets a bad rap because Christians don’t know how to deal with people.
My friend Peggy (who seems to be on the same page with me on being real) tweeted this link about the Top 10 cliches Christians should never use. Man, if I wasn’t a believer, I would want NOTHING to do with Christians that use these on me.
- “Everything happens for a reason.” I’ve heard this said more times than I care to. I’m not sure where it came from either, but it’s definitely not in the Bible. The closest thing I can come up with is “To everything, there is a season,” but that’s not exactly the same. The fact is that faith, by definition, is not reasonable. If it could be empirically verified with facts or by using the scientific method, it wouldn’t be faith. It would be a theory. Also, consider how such a pithy phrase sounds to someone who was raped. Do you really mean to tell them there’s a reason that happened? Better to be quiet, listen and if appropriate, mourn alongside them. But don’t dismiss grief or tragedy with such a meaningless phrase.
- “If you died today, do you know where you’d spend the rest of eternity?” No, I don’t, and neither do you. So stop asking such a presumptuous question as this that implies you have some insider knowledge that the rest of us don’t. And seriously, if your faith is entirely founded upon the notion of eternal fire insurance, you’re not sharing testimony; you’re peddling propaganda.
- “He/she is in a better place.” This may or may not be true. Again, we have no real way of knowing. We may believe it, but to speak with such authority about something we don’t actually know is arrogant. Plus, focusing on the passing of a loved one minimizes the grief of the people they left behind.
- “Can I share a little bit about my faith with you?” Too often, Christians presume we have something everyone else needs, without even knowing them first. Ask someone about their story, but maybe not the second you meet them. Christian evangelism often is the equivalent of a randy young teenager trying to get in good with his new girlfriend. When your personal agenda is more important than the humanity of the person you’re talking to, most people can sense the opportunism from a mile a way.
- “You should come to church with me on Sunday.” It’s not that we should never invite people to church, but too much of the time, it’s the first thing we do when we encounter someone new. My wife, Amy, and I started a new church eight years ago, founded on the principle of “earning the right to invite.” Invest in people first. Listen to their stories. Learn their passions, their longings, and share the same about yourself. Then, after you’ve actually invested in each other, try suggesting something not related to church to help you connect on a spiritual level. If the person really gets to know you and wants to know more about why you live your life the way you do, they’ll make a point to find out. Then again, if you come off as just another opinionated, opportunistic Christian, why should they honor your predatory approach with a visit to the church that taught you how to act that way in the first place?
- “Have you asked Jesus into your heart?” As many times as I’ve heard this, I still don’t really know what it means. Why my heart? Why not my liver or kidneys? This also makes Christianity sound like a purely emotional experience, rather than a lifelong practice that can never entirely be realized. But yeah, asking someone if they’re engaged in a lifelong discipline to orient their lives toward Christlike compassion, love and mercy doesn’t exactly have the same ring to it.
- “Do you accept Jesus as your personal Lord and savior?” Again, this is not in the Bible. Anywhere. And for me, it goes against the whole Christlike notion of the suffering servant. People tried to elevate Jesus to the status of Lord, but he rejected it. So why do we keep trying? Plus, the whole idea of a lord is so antiquated, it has no real relevance to our lives today. Be more mindful of your words, and really mean what you say.
- “This could be the end of days.” This is one of my favorites. We Christians love to look for signs of the end of the world; we practically have an apocalyptic fetish. It’s like we can’t wait until everything comes to a smoldering halt so we can stand tall with that “I told you so” look on our faces, while the nonbelievers beg for mercy. Yeah, that sounds like an awesome religion you’ve got going there. Sign me up!
- “Jesus died for your sins.” I know, this is an all-time Christian favorite. But even if you buy into the concept of substitutionary atonement (the idea that God set Jesus up as a sacrifice to make good for all the bad stuff we’ve done), this is a abysmal way to introduce your faith to someone. I didn’t ask Jesus to die for me, and if I’m not a Christian, I really have no concept of how that could possibly be a good thing. The whole idea of being washed clean by an innocent man’s blood is enough to give any person nightmares, let alone lead them into a deeper conversation about what Christianity is about.
- “Will all our visitors please stand?” If someone finally is brave enough to walk through the doors of your church, the last thing they want is to be singled out. They probably don’t know the songs you’re singing or the prayers or responsive readings you’re reading. Depending on the translation of the Bible you use, the scripture may not make much sense, and they probably have no idea where the bathroom is. So why add to the discomfort by making them stand so everyone can stare at them? Also, calling someone a visitor already implies they are simply passing through, that they’re not a part of things. Instead of “visitor” or “guest,” try something less loaded like “newcomer.” Better yet, walk up to them, introduce yourself and learn their name.
Does any of that sound like something you’d want to hear from a Christian if you were curious about faith? Or maybe you have no interest? This is the kind of stuff that turns people off.
That’s what I feel sometimes when I hang out with Christians. Everything they do is along the lines of these 10 cliches. There’s the guilt trip on you for not going to church regularly. There’s that idea that because I am not a regular church goer, I’m doomed to hell. It always appears that their lives are better off.
But that’s not always the case. In the Christian belief, yes our lives are better. But the believer doesn’t know that. Why can’t we as Christians be less of the douchy kind of Christian and be the kind of Christian that Jesus was? (Oh that’s an idea!!!!)
I always seem to have more fun with my friends when either faith is never brought up or with those who just don’t care. It’s because they are able to live their lives knowing that there is no kind of agenda to convert. Yes it is great to bring Jesus to light to those who don’t know, but man, stop sucking at it with these cliches.
“You need Jesus!”
“I really don’t want you to go to hell, so here’s a million Jesus facts.”
“My life is better than yours because I go to church.”
“Look how great I am because I have Jesus!”
“Jesus saves. You need to be saved!”
“Here’s a tract.” (Without any follow up.)
“I only listen to Christian music because it’s the best music in the world.”
That’s the kind of bullshit that turns people away from Jesus without actually getting a chance to know Him. And when I am with Christians, I always feel like I can’t be myself mostly. Maybe it’s because these Christians I am around are too sheltered in their perfect bubble and don’t accept that they’re human. I want to be human. And guess what? I am human!
And what’s worse is that these Christian people love to hang out with other Christians 24/7. That’s very unJesus-like. And to be honest, what’s the fun in that? They’ve turned the faith into a religion and I despise religion.
“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” — Mahatma Gandhi
Take it from an outsider looking in to actually see through the B.S. If Jesus was walking around earth among us right now, he’d have a lot of SMH moments when viewing what these so called Christians are doing. They’re too safe.
Being around Christians 24/7 actually destroys faith and perception. Being a perfect bubble is not healthy. What it does is give a Christian a certain sense of security, like a Linus blanket, and we never grow. That would suck balls if I never grew in my faith.
Plus, I feel like I sometimes suffocate around the Christian crowd because they are so secluded in their little world that they don’t realize the other things going around. I have nobody to talk about non-Christian things I enjoy like movies, video games, gangsta rap, fashion, etc. I feel so judged if I don’t follow their mold.
I’ve been going to a church recently near my neighborhood and I’m starting to like it there. The people there seem real and more importantly, the idea about being a Christian fits well into what I am trying to say in this post. (And their goal is to not be perfect, but rather that they are perfect.)
This past Sunday, the message was about being a neighbor and it tied into the Good Samaritan story. The question wasn’t who our neighbor was, rather are we neighbors to others? Are we able to just simply love people without an agenda?
Apparently from my experience hanging out with the Christian crowd, that’s a concept that I don’t see often. I know so many of these Christians who hang out with their own crowd so much that when they have the opportunity to talk to a person that isn’t a Christian, like a homeless person or someone with a disability, they freeze because they don’t know what to do. It’s pathetic to see people who claim to be all about Jesus yet can’t love His people.
But back to the sermon on Sunday. It was a thought about the good Samaritan that I never thought about. But it brought up a good point. How often do we hang out with people that aren’t Christian with no agenda? How often do we just love our neighbors and enemies? How often are we hanging out with the “wrong people”?
I first got a dose of this in college during my junior year. To be very blunt about it, I was stressed the fuck out balancing all my journalism classes and trying to be a leader with an on-campus fellowship. It got to the point where my grades were not that great and the attendance to the fellowship was bad. The fellowship was on life support and a part of me felt that I didn’t do my part as a Christian to keep it alive. My faith was being challenged.
But thanks to my good friend and pastor Elton, he taught me exactly what it means to be a Christian. He said that Jesus didn’t walk around passing out flyers to the synagogue and he never used any of those annoying cliches. Instead, he hung out with the “wrong crowd” and he loved the people. He showed what God’s love was all about without actually pushing the faith on them. It was love without any strings attached.
So instead of pushing our fellowship and passing out flyers, we loved our college campus community by offering them free homemade boba. (Who doesn’t love free?) No flyers, no signs, no nothing. We just loved. It didn’t bring in a whole mass of new attendees to our meetings, but I felt that in that one day, I truly lived like Jesus did. That’s pretty gangster. (And now it’s an annual fellowship tradition to just love people with boba.)
That’s the thing that I enjoy doing with my non-Christian friends. There’s no pressure, agenda to talk about Jesus. These people may or may not know I’m a believer, but it doesn’t matter. The fact that I am hanging out with them gives them a better impression of my faith than a pushy cliche talking fool. And to be honest, loving non-Christians is a whole lot easier sometimes than loving fellow believers.
I guess it’s the actual battle that believers go through every day. I’m not saying that we need to be like the image of the cursing priest in the comic above, but man, life would be so much better if we actually allow ourselves out of the Christian bubble and live a little.
The goal that Jesus set for us was to not be a Christian and only be with Christians. What Jesus wanted from us was to believe, band with believers, then go out and hang with non-believers. But in order to do that, we have understand and be like the “wrong people”. If we are not like them, how can we connect with them? If we don’t allow ourselves to be challenged and vulnerable, then we’ll die in a bubble of failed faith. Jesus knew that when he hung out with all the outcasts of society because he loved.
I really wish that more Christians understood this approach. Being ignorant to the real world won’t do it. Let’s not go with cliches to reach people. Instead, let’s just love people. It’s easier for everyone to see God through love than through memorized lines of fear.
Let’s live and love the way Jesus did.