If we claim to be Christians, then we should sound different than the world. People should look at us and the way we talk, and catch a glimpse of Jesus. But if they listen, and what they hear sounds entirely contrary to the faith we declare, then our claim of being a Christian turns sour. Instead of seeing Christ when they see us, they see a faith full of hypocrisy, and who would want to believe in that?
I am not a bible scholar or a pastor. I don’t know Hebrew or Greek. I’m just a Christian trying to understand the bible, and how it should change me as a person and the life that I am living. Maybe that’s a good thing. I don’t have all the answers, so perhaps we can find them together.
Sound Like a Christian
James says, “If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless” (James 1:26). If you don’t control your speech, then you deceive yourself. When we become Christians, every part of us should change, and that includes our speech. We don’t get to pick and choose and be obedient in some ways and not in others.
Our words should draw people closer to Christ, but many times our words become the reason people reject Christ. “If that’s what a Christian sounds like, then I want nothing to do with them.” All it takes is one off-hand comment, or a momentary lapse in self-control, and you’ve given someone ammunition to hold onto for years. Our words should not betray the heart change that we profess to have.
We live in a world sharply divided over politics and religion. It can be so easy to get drawn into arguments, even with other Christians. We forget what it means to love like Christ and speak to others in a way that is loving. For me personally, I’ve had to stop engaging in most online discussions, because I can turn negative so quickly. The sole purpose becomes about being right, and if that happens, then loving like Christ takes a backseat. Even in person, we have to watch our words. Our friends and coworkers observe us, and when our words don’t match up with their expectations, it can solidify their doubts and reinforce their belief that Christians are hypocrites.
Don’t Betray Truth for Acceptance
Some of the things we believe are not super popular, and some people will reject Christianity because of what we believe. We can’t water down the message of the bible to make it more palatable to the culture around us. When we share the message of Christ, we need to do it in a loving way. Our words should be consistent with the truth that we are trying to share. Someone standing on an overpass with a sign about how people are going to hell grasps the severity of Christ’s message, but they’re ignoring the love and compassion in which he gave his message.
My plea to Christians is not about marketing. I’m not suggesting we need to do some focus groups and figure out how we can make Christianity sound better. What I’m suggesting is that if we are truly following Christ, and the Holy Spirit is living inside of us, then we will be living differently. We don’t need to put on an act, because there has been authentic change in how we live. That should be apparent in the way that we speak to others.
To the Skeptical Non-Christian
On one hand, I don’t blame non-Christians that look at the way some Christians act, or what we say, and come to the conclusion that we’re full of it. I wish we were all Mother Teresa, but we’re not. We are flawed individuals, and we do and say stupid things.
Accepting Christ and becoming a Christian is not about anything we have done. It’s about accepting something that we believe Christ did for us. It doesn’t make us better than anyone else, it doesn’t make us super smart, and it’s not an achievement we’ve worked for and gained. We’re still human, and we still make mistakes. When you see a Christian that you don’t think is living up to who you think a Christian should be, consider the possibility that they are flawed, and not the God they follow. Two things can be true at the same time. God is perfect, and I am not. My sin and screw-ups don’t make God imperfect or false, it makes me imperfect.
Heart First, Words Second
Whether you like it or not, when you accept Christ, you don the mantle of Christianity. You become a light to the world, and people will know you follow Christ by your love for one another. This is a responsibility we as Christians need to take seriously. I think most people look at Christians and want to see Christ. They want an explanation for this world, and most want nothing more than this Jesus thing to be real. Am I always taking this responsibility seriously?
We should be “Quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). I’m really bad at the slow to speak part. Sometimes stuff comes out of my mouth, and then I spend the rest of the day thinking about all the repercussions it will have. The more time I spend in prayer, and the more I ask God to change my heart and the way I think, the better my speech will become. If I have a heart full of jealousy, then that will overflow in what I say. If I’m holding a grudge against someone, then that anger will come out when I see an opportunity. But if I can fill my heart and mind with Godly things, then it’s much more likely the words that come out of my mouth will be God honoring.