Updated: Aug 17, 2018
Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard the following:
“Society grows worse every day.”
“People hate the truth.”
“The world hates us.”
Not only have I heard these things, I’ve said them myself. It’s a common narrative. Believers know what it’s like live in a sinful world. They worry about what their child’s being taught at school. They see evil glorified on screen. It’s hard to be God’s candle when the world is so windy.
In response to this bombardment, it’s easy for Christians to develop an “us against the world” mentality. The world hates Christians, so Christians hate them back. They make fun of liberals online. Parents teach their kids to dislike unsaved relatives. Couples criticize friends for sending their kids to public school. As a result, Christianity becomes a brand instead of a belief that enables its consumers to paint themselves as the victim and everyone else as the villain.
This impacts the way Christians act in their communities. It impacts the way they treat their neighbors. It impacts how the talk to co-workers. Plenty put focus on how Christians act privately, but few emphasis how Christians should act publicly.
It’s in public places where non-believers develop their view of Christians. A harsh word from an uncle at Thanksgiving can keep an unsaved young adult out of church for years. Judgmental glances from a religious soccer mom can cause an unsaved woman to turn the other way when she sees Christians. And Christians look around, seeing their neighbors running away from them, and hang their heads in self-pity as they remember what their pastor said last Sunday “The world will hate you because you’re a Christian.” And so, they go about their daily lives believing that others reject because of their faith, and not because they’re a jerk.
When Jesus spoke to His disciples in John 15, He warned them that the world would hate them. He did not command them to be hated. There's a difference. God has called Christians to impact the world, and to do so, Christians must make an impact in the public areas of their lives. Here are three places Christians can love others better.
Facebook has become a cultural battleground where both sides belittle each other through jokes, stories, and images. Catchy memes that make political points get shared with cartoon characters on the side. Video clips explain why one generation was “the best” or “the worst.” I once saw Christian friends comment on a picture on Facebook of a man with a face tattoo. The caption read “what would you say if you met this guy?” The responses were not good.
This one hits home for me because it’s the easiest way I get myself in trouble. Online debates are tempting. Snarky comments are even more tempting. Christians should stand up for truth, but how Christians speak is just as important as what they speak. People may be wrong, but God still calls Christians to love them. That includes the cousin who posts a pro-choice status update. That includes the friend from high school that “liked” a demeaning cartoon of President Trump. There’s a lot of ugliness online. Too much of it comes from Christians. Do our “likes” “shares” and comments reflect the love, truth, and mercy of Jesus, or our own anger, frustration, and annoyance? That's easy for me to type, but hard for me to live.
In my life I found that one of the easiest places to mistreat others is at work. Who hasn’t wanted to call their boss an idiot? Christians either avoid working in a secular field altogether, or if they do, they bemoan the fact the people with whom they work are “of the world.”
I’ve seen more anger from Christians towards work than almost any other area. I include myself in that observation. The fact is that there will be co-workers who leave all the customers for you to handle while they take a smoke break. There will be bosses who make stupid comments about what you believe. Work is a battlefield, and the Christian’s weapon must be gentleness instead of bitterness. We all can’t work at Chick-Fil-A. The rest of us need to deal with people that are lazy, rude, detestable, and mean. And that’s just before our first break!
Family members can be the hardest to love. They know our faults. They’ve seen us at our worst. The family of “this” sibling doesn’t get along with the family of “that” sibling. Instead of reaching out and loving less-than-lovely family members, Christians too often disassociate with them, and speak ill of them whenever they can. While Christians seek to please God in their lives, they hate their brothers—sometimes literally.
The cruelest words are often directed towards family members. There's a sense of safety amongst family that can equip people to react and speak in ways they would never do in public. But the fact of the matter is that our family members may not be the part of our public, they make up everyone else's public. When people are approached with the Gospel, one of their most common arguments against it involved a hateful family member.
When Paul wrote to Titus, he instructed him on how to create an effective church on the pagan island of Crete. It could’ve been easy to stick to the basics. Paul could’ve just said to love God, pray, and read the Bible. That’s pretty good advice. But Paul took it one step further. He called the believers to do all that, but while doing them, to love those in their communities.
"Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone." Titus 3:1-2
When Paul wrote that, Nero ruled Rome. Nero was so bad, not even his fellow pagan Roman citizens thought he was fit for power. Yet God commanded through Paul to submit to these rulers. Paul knew if you say you love God yet scream at your neighbor, your ministry is ineffective. He knew if people sung songs of mercy and kindness, but called their city council leader an idiot, they would have little impact on the world.
We were once the idiots. We were once the messed up. Yet, while we were yet sinning, Christ loved us. Not only did He love us, He loved us in the most public way possible. He died naked in civic execution, before a crowd of local onlookers. If God can publicly love us despite our evil ways, we can be kind to our neighbor, even while he’s blowing all the leaves onto our side of the yard.
Resting in Him,