Recently I read a satirical essay by a popular author who gave an outlandish picture of a devout Christian. He seemed to be writing in character, so I don’t want to assume this is what he thinks about all serious followers of Christ, but he did capture the worldview of many.
He began the essay like this:
If I ruled the world, the first thing I’d do is concede all power to the real King who, in case you don’t happen to know, is named Jesus Christ. A lot of people have managed to forget this lately so the second thing I’ll do is remind them of it. Not only would I bring back mandatory prayer in school, but I’d also institute it at work. Then skating rinks and airports. Wherever people live or do business, they shall know His name. Christ’s picture will go on all our money, and if you had your checks specially printed with sailboats or shamrocks on them, too bad for you because from here on out, the only images allowed will be of Him, or maybe of me reminding you of how important He is.
You have to admit that paragraph is kind of funny.
What’s not so funny is that this is how many people think of Christians — backwoodsy, mean-spirited, and irrational. They think we’re unintelligent, outdated, and stubborn. Not only that, but they think we’re judgmental and self-righteous. When they think Christian, they think of people with their noses in the air and their fingers pointed at others. And they see that even the most stuck-up religious people have issues, but they’re refusing to admit it.
Who wants to be that guy? And who wants to follow a Savior who turns people into someone like that? No one does. But no one has to.
The world despises hypocrisy, and so does Jesus. Let’s rise above that. Let’s be sin-admitting, Christ-trusting, people-loving believers. Let’s show the world another picture of what it means to follow Christ. Let’s love people even when they don’t love us.
The turning point for a lot of people is when they interact with a Christian who is different from what they thought Christians were like. One of my good friends thought being saved meant being an old lady with peppermints in her purse.
Then he started attending a campus ministry’s Bible study and went to a Christian conference in Atlanta. He saw people who looked like him on the outside, but they seemed to have different goals and desires than he did. They had J’s on their feet, but they didn’t use them to run to wickedness. Their clothes were even baggy like his (this was the early 2000s, a rough time for hip-hop fashion). He didn’t have a category for Christians who looked and acted like that. And then a man took the stage and preached a message about the perfect God-man who sacrificed Himself to purchase imperfect sinners with His own blood. My friend would never be the same.
I know a lot of people who think they’re rejecting Jesus Christ, but what they’re actually rejecting is a man who doesn’t exist. They’re rejecting the Jesus they heard about, but not the Jesus of the Scriptures.
A Christian’s job is to live in such a way that shows off the real Jesus, the all-powerful, almighty, sinner-loving King of the universe.
The sad truth is that some people will see genuine Christians and hear the true gospel preached, but they will still reject the Christ of that gospel. Most of us reading this book rejected the gospel when we first heard it. So although there are false things believed about Christianity that people hate, there are also true things about Christianity that people don’t like.
I recognize that I’ve come of age during a very interesting time, where values that were once assumed are now despised. Though I think it would be inaccurate to refer to the America of the past as a “Christian” country, it’s never been as anti-Christian as it is now. This isn’t to say that there are no Christians in the United States or that religious freedom has altogether disappeared. But there’s no doubt that things are changing and deeply held Christian beliefs are not to be celebrated. And if it’s up to some, they’re not even to be tolerated.
I don’t mean to sound like a conspiracy-theorizing doomsday prophet with canned food stacked ceiling high in my basement. I assure you I only keep enough canned food in the house for the week ahead of me. But we do need to think about what it means to be faithful to Christ in a culture where our presence is less and less appreciated.
Stop Acting So Surprised
Where in Scripture did Jesus say, “You will follow Me, and everyone will love you for it”? To save you the time searching for it, I’ll answer that for you: nowhere. Instead, He said things like,
You will be hated by all for My Name’s sake. – Matthew 10:22
Jesus offended people when He came, and He still offends people now. His first followers were persecuted, as His followers have been all throughout history, and we shouldn’t expect to be the exception. Christianity was never meant to be popular. If you don’t believe me, take a look around the globe. Our brothers and sisters are being slaughtered — specifically for their faith — every single day.
Why do people persecute us?
One of the reasons is because they love the dark rather than the light. In fact, Jesus tells us all of us do. We’re like the walking dead in zombie movies, who stay in the dark because the light physically pains them. All of us are born allergic to the light, so we shouldn’t be surprised when the light angers people. We are dark-dwellers and will be until Christ shines light in our hearts.
If you’re a Christian reading this and thinking, What’s he talking about? Everyone loves everything I say, you should ask yourself whether what you’re saying is true.
Fall Out of Love with Being Cool
Some of the people reading this aren’t cool in the first place, so maybe this doesn’t apply to you. But if you are still holding on to that, I encourage you to let it go. We cannot lay our lives down for such a divisive Man while at the same time being liked by everyone. You can still dress like a rapper or a hipster, but just be aware that other rappers and hipsters might not appreciate your presence. Cool is fickle, and we can’t live for it.
Be Compassionate Instead of Being Combative
Love people, don’t fight them. That essayist I quoted earlier didn’t completely fabricate that picture of Christians. He produced a portrait of a real minority among those who claim Christ. I’ve seen people who think the way to follow Jesus is through scathing Facebook posts, hateful picket signs, and deceitful schemes. Their zeal has been terribly misplaced.
Our battle is not against those who hate us, but against the demonic thoughts that hold them captive. They’ve been deceived!
We fight not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual evil. – Ephesians 6:12
Which brings me to the next point.
Tell Others About Christ
Second Corinthians 10 talks about our spiritual fight and doesn’t mention weapons or picket signs. Instead, it refers to a message, the gospel. And only the gospel has divine power to destroy the strongholds in our culture.
This doesn’t mean you should never have a conversation about anything other than Jesus. “So Tasha, how’s your day been?”
“Fine. But speaking of days, are you ready for the dreadful day of the Lord?”
Take it easy. Remember that love part. Get to know people. You’ll like them more than you think, and then your service to them will come from love and not some desire to win or accomplish something. People are not projects but precious creatures made in the image of God.
All of us feel the temptation to buckle under the pressure. Most of us are grieved for those who’ve been offended by others who claim Christ. We don’t understand everything in the Bible, and we can’t defend every verse that we’ve never studied before. But we should continue to study Scripture and stand firm on God’s Word.
Realize the world wants to proselytize and convert you.
They want you to abandon the Lord and admit you’ve been wrong. They want you to concede that Christianity is opposed to science, morals, and progress in our society. And sometimes they may sound convincing to you. My encouragement is to stand firm. There is nothing more certain than our God and what He’s done for us in Christ. Don’t let anything convince you otherwise.
People will call you intolerant and bigoted. But stand firm. Contrary to what our culture teaches us, there are worse things than offending other people. One of them is giving people a false picture of who God is. Another is condoning things that will lead to their destruction.
Honestly Repent of Your shortcomings
One of the things that turns others off is the hypocrisy and self-righteousness they see so often. But when we’re honest about our shortcomings and repent of our sins, we get to show our hope to others. Don’t miss gospel opportunities by pretending to be perfect.
There is nothing more loving you can do for people than talk to God about them. I’ve also found that when I pray for people regularly, God grows my love for them.
As the days go on, we don’t know how people will respond when we tell them we’re Christians or when we pull our Bibles out on flights. We don’t know how people will perceive Christians in ten years. But what we do know is our God will remain faithful. And we should pray that He allows us to be faithful to Him.
Watch the Rise Video
Excerpted with permission from Rise: Get Up And Live In God’s Great Story by Trip Lee, copyright Thomas Nelson, 2015.
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My son is a huge Trip Lee fan. This makes me a very happy mama. Not because I would choose Lecrae over Rend Collective, or Andy Mineo over Kari Jobe, but because a generation of Christian hip hop fans can listen to artists who are sold-out Jesus followers during a time when being His disciple and sharing God’s Word becomes more and more unpopular! How have you seen that Christians are unpopular? Increasingly as this world grows darker and Christ shines brighter through us, we need to expect that the message of the Gospel will be more and more resented. Where are you sharing your faith? Come share on our blog! We want to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, FaithGateway Women