(Photo by Lindsay O’Neil)
Keeping ‘Christ’ in Christianity
By Kyle Jane Heskett
How do you think Christians appear to the world? Probably in a number of different ways, but the most common outlook I encounter is negative. There are many who do not share this attitude and I do not want to diminish those that do not fit this mold. However, we need to recognize the fact Christians are quickly becoming known as intolerant, judgmental, and unloving. The worst part is, it is not entirely society’s fault this stereotype exists.
In American culture, Christians have been known to condemn sin in an unloving manner. I’m not talking about extreme examples like bombing abortion clinics or holding hateful signs towards homosexuals. Every judgment, criticism, and complaint we say in private, bears just as much weight. As Christians, we need to realize that people notice what we say and do, even if it is not in the public eye.
Are we becoming known more for the things we are against, than those in which we are for? At some point, we have misrepresented Christ, whether intentional or not. We need to love unconditionally, show mercy, and spread hope. We are to forgive and empathize, not only with our fellow believers, but especially with those who think differently than us. In this way, we can show a picture of Jesus to the outside world.
Two of my favorite stories of Jesus conversing with sinners, involves the adulterous woman and the woman at the well. These stories carry some of the most powerful examples of unconditional love I have ever read. In John 8:1-11, a woman caught in adultery was brought out in the temple court by the Pharisees and presented to Jesus. The Pharisees used this woman to try to test Jesus’ reaction to the situation. Jesus didn’t condemn the woman, yell at her, or explain all the reasons why adultery was wrong. Instead he forgave her and set her free. The woman at the well in John 4 was an outcast and Jesus knew about her sinful past. He not only spoke with her when no one else would, but offered her the greatest gift: eternal life. He created each of these women with a purpose and saw them as valuable. We too need to see others as creations of Christ’s image, no matter who they are.
Another example is the parable of the good Samaritan that Jesus speaks of in Luke 10:30-37. A man is robbed, stripped, and beaten on the road to Jericho. It was a Samaritan who had compassion on this man and took care of him. It didn’t matter who this man was or what he did, the Samaritan showed a picture of Christ that day. Jesus commands us to “Go and do the same.”
What we say and do matters. Showing love and mercy should not be taken as an excuse to approve of ungodly things, but when we strive only to expose sin and prove others wrong, we miss out on sharing the whole picture of who God is. We need to stand up for truth, but we must also love others despite what they think the truth is. Christ is love. Let your words and actions be done with love.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven… For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?”
– Matthew 5:43-47 (NASB)