It is usually an overstatement to say that everyone is doing something but it does seem like everyone on the Internet is talking about gays and gay marriage. It seems about half the posts I notice on Facebook and Twitter deal with the subject and most of the blogs I frequently read have all taken a stannce on the issue. Of course, all the politicians have stated their position since it is an election year. Even people who typically say nothing about political or moral concepts are diving into the fray.
I don’t mind a good debate, even if it concerns a hot potato (do I use “o” or “oe,” I can’t remember?). Of course, religion and politics can always be counted on to lead to such a discussion. In this case, it seems like we have both of them wrapped up together and that is probably why everyone has an opinion.
But here’s the problem. Christians have become so involved in the debate and so vocal and strident in our position it is possible that it has become a stumbling block. George Barna, the guy Christians look to for help in understanding the world, reports that ninety-one percent of non-Christians pick the term anti-homosexual to describe Christianity. In other words, this is the first thing they think of when we use the word “Christian.” By the way, not far behind were the terms “judgmental” (eighty-seven percent) and “hypocritical” (eighty-five percent).
That means when non-believers notice the fish symbol on the back of your SUV they immediately think you are an anti-homosexual, judgmental, hypocrite. That’s a lot to overcome if you plan to stop and tell them about Jesus.
Some of you are proud to be known as anti-homosexual, but is that really the first thing you want people to think about you? When they pronounce the final words over your grave, do you really want the preacher to say, “Here lies Bob. He was a fine Christian man, the best anti-homosexual in the county!”
It is easy to quickly dismiss me as being flippant and extreme, but I think these survey numbers expose a serious problem we have created for ourselves. They are simply describing the picture of Christianity that we have painted. I realize some of the blame goes to extremists like the fruitcakes at Westboro Church in Kansas who are sandpaper harsh. Their clamoring means that the rest of us must make up the difference in presenting a different version of the Christian faith.
The point of this article is not really homosexuality so don’t try and take it that direction. It is about how we represent ourselves to those who need to meet Jesus. As the church, we are the body of Christ. We are His hands and His feet. We are the tangible expression of Jesus in the world. What they know about Him is what they see in us.
When they hear us constantly arguing about issues, condemning gay people, spewing hatred toward politicians in the wrong party, and accusing everyone who does not believe like we do of being evil then what else are they to think. They are drawing the obvious conclusion that we are anti-something, judgmental, and hypocritical.
The accusation that Christians are hypocritical is very interesting to me. Most people who have any knowledge at all about the Christian faith know that it is about grace and forgiveness. The very center of the faith is that Christ died to pay the price for our sin so we could be forgiven. So here we are, forgiven sinners, yet we often go around criticizing and condemning other sinners. That sounds hypocritical to me.
Hurling stones of judgment toward others is not a new problem. Even in the New Testament, the story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery is really a story about judging other people. The climax of the event is when Jesus says, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” Yet, the way people read that story today is to make what happens later the main point of the story. They like to focus on Jesus’ words to the sinful woman, “Go and sin no more.”
If we are honest, we must admit we are more like the Pharisees who want to condemn sinners than Jesus who wants to forgive sinners. We want to skip the forgiving part and get right to the stop doing it part. The problem is that people who have not experienced grace are not able to stop sinning. Consequently, all they hear from us is condemnation and straighten out your life – not very appealing words.
We have gotten ourselves in trouble because we have taken on a task that does not belong to us. For some reason we have the opinion that our duty is to straighten people out, to let them know when they are wrong and get them moving in the right direction. I hate to break it to you, but that is not the work of the church. We have been sent out to proclaim the Good News, which is not a message of condemnation and judgment. It is a message of forgiveness and hope.
I am not suggesting that we cannot take a stance against things we consider sinful, but that must not be our primary calling card. When ninety-one percent of non-believers identify us anti-anything, it is a problem.
The task before us is enormous. We must make a one hundred and eighty degree change of direction in the way we communicate our faith. We don’t want folks to think we are negative, always against something. Instead, we want them to see the Christian faith as hope, forgiveness, and relationship with God. When they see the fish symbol on the back of your SUV their first reaction should be, “There is a person who cares about me!”