Not again. Why do Christians have to be so weird, awkward, or awful?
It’s what goes through my head at least once a week when reading the news. If you aren’t the church-going type, I don’t blame you in the least for shaking your head or avoiding us like the plague. Our well earned public persona of judgment, criticism, and bigotry means it’s an uphill battle to build actual friendships. It’s like pleading with my junior high crush to reconsider that a speedo-wearing swim team member could still be cool and all—“Just give me a chance! Please!”
And yet, if I could say anything to the world around me, it would be this: We’re not all like that.
Now before we go any further, let me be really clear—I am a Christian, and I have no shame or fear around saying so. I believe wholeheartedly in the God of the Bible, and am firmly convinced that following Jesus has brought more good into my life than I could have possibly imagined. I went to Bible college. I went to seminary. I have degrees in this Jesus stuff. What’s more, I work at a church, and actually love the work I get to do.
But still, that fact causes a problem. You see, when people find out that you’re a Christian and (even worse) work at a church, they immediately assume certain things about you. Think I’m kidding? Imagine you sit down on a plane for a cross-country flight, and find out right around take-off that your seatmate works at a church. Nobody wants that. We rank right above “screaming baby” in the seatmate pecking order. Heck, I’m one of them, and I don’t want to talk to us on a plane either.
Why? Because unfortunately, in our culture, being a Christian has come to mean a certain set of beliefs and behaviors—many of which have very little to do with actually following Jesus.
All too often, my chance at having a genuine friendship with someone hinges on whether or not they can get to know me—have a beer, play a game, or take a motorcycle ride—before they find out I’m a Christian. If they meet me first, then chances are pretty good that we’re going to get along (despite my introverted personality and nerd tendencies.) If they find out I’m a Christian first, it’s a massive uphill battle at best.
Again, if there was any single message that I could give to the American culture about Christianity, it would be: we’re not all like that.
We’re not all judging you.
We’re not all Republican.
We’re not all angry.
We’re not all weird and cultish.
We’re not all interested in political power (or even politics in general).
We don’t all hate homosexuals.
We’re not all scared and waiting for the world to end.
Being a Christian in America these days often feels like inviting a friend to your family Thanksgiving, and then watching in horror as he meets your offensive drunk uncle first. It’s a long road back after that first impression. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve had someone say to me, “I thought you’d be mad/disappointed/angry because of [some random belief or issue] since you’re a Christian.”
It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
In fact, it’s heartbreaking how far we’ve fallen. After all, Jesus himself said that people would know that we were his followers because of our love for one another. Paul, one of the early church leaders, said that we should bless those that persecute us. And yet, the picture of Christians today is the exact opposite. We were supposed to be the people that were the most accepting, the most caring, the most willing to defend and care for those in need—and yet, these days, not so much.
I hate that I have to decide whether it’s “too early” after meeting someone for them to find out that I am a Christian. My biggest hope when I meet someone new is that I can just get them to have a beer with me without them asking what I spend 9-5 doing every day. Because if they do, then they discover what I’m actually like.
I’m embarrassed at the atrocities that are committed in Jesus’ name.
I’m insecure and confused a lot of the time too.
I struggle with addiction and self-doubt.
I don’t have my s*%# figured out.
I have a bad habit of making inappropriate jokes at the worst moments.
I want to be loved and accepted.
I’m a normal, flawed human being just like you.
And on top of all these things, I desperately want you to meet the Jesus that changed my life. I want you to know how He’s blessed me far beyond what I could have ever dreamed. I want to tell you about how he’s freeing me from fear or how he’s given me resources, opportunities, connections, and relationships that I could never have made on my own. I want you to meet the God that changed my life because I believe he wants good things for you too.
So on behalf of Christians everywhere—can we get a beer? I promise not to ask you about your day job either. Deal?