A couple years ago I read this great article in Christianity Today about how after quite a few surveys they discovered something about Christians.
Despite popularly held belief, people outside the faith typically liked Christians. They thought that they were usually nice, trustworthy, likable humans. Reading this article, I felt a weight lift.
“Wait, people don’t hate me?”
The Church has spent a lot of time getting persecuted. But for as many people who hate Christians there are people hating other people and things.
Growing up in The Church I felt much like the article said I would, like if I so much as said Jesus’ Name too loudly in school I would be left friendless and with a permanent stigma of being *gasp* uncool. The article assured me that my fears were unfounded.
But growing up in the real sense; graduating high school, working, living on my own, and making friends with people who aren’t Christian- I learned a freeing truth.
Non-Christians don’t see Christians like the Pulpit thinks they do.
In fact, most everything I was told would affect my “witness” or my “testimony” didn’t.
I’ve been judged more harshly in the name of being a good example to non-Christians by The Church than anyone outside of it has ever judged me or my faith.
I remember a conversation I have kept going back to over and over again:
I’d just gotten back from probably the worst women’s retreat I’ll ever experience. It was even book-ended by conversations about my “witness” that were exhausting.
The next week I poured all of my frustrations out onto the desk of one of my co-workers. I told her that I had been told I needed to stop being friends with the man who was to be the Man-of-Honor at my wedding (and still would be if I was getting married tomorrow). I was told that I needed to understand how the amount of time I spent alone with men while at work would be perceived. Mind you, I was working for the Park Service in a division where I was the only girl. I was advised to look for other work, other friends, and to do all of this to “protect my marriage”.
Beside myself, I was near to tears in my friend’s office. I felt like an absolute failure. How could I be so wrong? How could I feel like these things weren’t right when I was being told otherwise?
Yes, I had slept on the floor of my fiance’s apartment sometimes when I stayed late, but usually, so were seven other people.
What must people be thinking of me?
After my word vomit covered the entirety of the last half hour, she looked at me and said words that can never be retracted:
“When I look at you, that’s not what I see.”
There it was. Words from a non-Christian, telling me that they didn’t think anything of the kind about me; telling me that other of my actions were the focus of their opinions; telling me that when it came to The Church’s thought about what she “should” be thinking- they couldn’t be further from the truth.
I wish I could say that that’s all it took to really set me free from the lie that because I cuss and drink and talk about sex that I’m the worst example of a Christ-Follower ever- but that is a work-in-progress.
Here is my nugget of hard earned wisdom.
Unless you talk to people about Christ, you aren’t going to know what they think of the fact that you’re a Christian.
We can’t spend our lives being slaves to managing people’s perception. There are those who think I am a giant sack of self-righteous crap. Sometimes, they’re right.
I can’t control what other people think. I can’t crawl into their brains and give them all the reasons I do A. B. or C. I can’t speak for anyone’s marriage, but mine is okay even though my best friend is male. Most of my husband’s best friends are women and that’s okay.
I trust my husband to be alone with other women, he trusts me to be alone with men, and if that bothers you, I can’t make it stop bothering you.
When we live enslaved to what people could be thinking about us it creates a divide that doesn’t actually exist. There is no “us” and “them” in the world.
Yes, there are people who aren’t Christians. Yes, there are people that are.
But we’re still people.
Stop projecting thoughts or feelings onto a faceless crowd that doesn’t exist.
Non-Christians probably don’t hate you for being Christian. If they do, you can’t change that by trying to be something that you’re not to appease a set of morals that you think they think you should have. Even just typing that hurt my brain.
If you really want to know what someone thinks of your faith, why don’t you ask them? Why not invite a conversation?
Peter says to, “have a ready answer for the hope that you have”.
Stop just saying you’re #blessed.
That light was green because it was set to a sensor, btw, #incorrectuseofblessedallovertheplace.
Why not, instead of bashing your friend for getting drunk because it could “affect their witness”, ask them why it’s becoming a pattern, if there are things bothering them, ask them normal person questions.
Doug and I spent several months drinking and getting drunk regularly because we weren’t happy with things going on in our lives. I wish now, that someone would have heard our cries for help instead of just judging us.
I am not a fan of getting drunk. When I do, it’s usually because something is wrong. I’m not a fan of sleeping all day either. Both are symptoms of the fact that I’ve needed help.
Ironically, it’s always been my friends outside the Church who have seen past my trouble-making to the trouble-managing that was really going on.
At the end of a human-day, we really are all just people. No one can claim to know what anyone is thinking. Creating fake divisions based on a skewed perception of what the secular world is “thinking” is the first misstep to sharing the reality of what a walk with GOD actually is.
If you want to share your faith, share it, live it, and admit when you’ve screwed up. People value transparency and honesty. GOD wants a relationship with you. HE already knows how messy and broken you are, you can’t fool Him, so why try to fool anyone else?
*This Christmas, give a foster kid a duffel bag! Stop by Rethink Trauma on Facebook and order a tee shirt*
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