Wednesday, August 22, 2012


The final criticism from the book UnChristian by Brian Kinnaman is that Christians are judgmental. This is probably not surprising to most people, in and outside the church.

One of the things we are called to do is recognize sin, but somehow in doing that, we've lost our love for the people doing the sinning.

Kinnaman defines "being judgmental" as, "to point out something that is wrong in someone else's life, making the person feel put down, excluded and marginalized. It is fueled by self-righteousness, the misguided inner motivation to make our own life look better by comparing it to the lives of others."

Lisa, a woman Kinnaman interviewed said, "Christians like to hear themselves talk. They are arrogant about their beliefs, but they never bother figuring out what other people actually think. They don't seem to be very compassionate, especially when they feel strongly about something."

While this may not be true of all Christians, this perception is pretty widespread. Nine out of ten young outsiders or 87% said that "judgmental" describes present day Christianity.

This isn't just outside the church either. A majority of young Christians said that our faith was too focused in finding fault with people.

Mosaics and Busters are savvy to sniffing out judgmental attitudes and self-righteousness and it makes them wary. They also are not interested in simplistic moral pronouncements. With this younger generation, how we communicate is just as important as what we communicate.

Only one in five outsiders view church as a loving place. How did we get here? How did a group that was supposed to be distinguished by our love for each other and the outside world come to be known as hateful, unloving and fault-finding?

One of the reasons is that sometimes, we are playing to the wrong audience. Instead of wanting to please God, we worry what other believers think of us. Are we towing the line in disapproving certain behaviors and groups of people because we think that will make us somehow look more spiritual?

Another reason is that we stereotype people rather than investing in their lives and loving them. We make a value judgment on appearance or some other superficial marker, but we don't actually listen and get to know the individual. These kinds of value judgments can be very subtle, and we might not even be aware of how they have crept into our worldviews.

It is also easy to come across not just as the old saying goes - hating the sin and loving the sinner - but appearing to hate the sinner as well.

In one interview in the book with a 25-year-old named Jeff, he stated, "Christians talk about hating the sin and loving sinners, but the way they go about things, they might as well call it what it is. They hate the sin and the sinner."

The thing is while we need to recognize sin, it's not our job to fix it. That would fall under God's job description. We can't expect radically different behavior without an equally radical inward transformation. We can't force an inward transformation by bullying people into acting a certain way. Jesus is the life-changer - not us!

And don't think the unbelieving world isn't watching how we treat each other. Jesus said we would be known by our love for each other. Satan has done a real number on this marker of the Christian faith because many outsiders describe us as, "eating our own."

We all mess up. Just because one person's mess up is more visible than another's doesn't mean that one is more worthy of forgiveness and restoration than another. This is an area that needs a lot of work and attention by believers.

Finally, we need to be aware of our own arrogance and pride. Pride is mentioned numerous times in the Bible as a sin God hates, but we have turned a blind eye to it in our churches. I, for one, struggle with pride. It's something I pray that God opens my eyes to because it is so sneaky and can creep into my life almost without my being aware of it.

We will get a lot further with unbelievers if we come to them out of sincere love and concern, with humility.

I'm going to list the six suggestions from outsiders themselves in changing this perception of judgmental Christians.

* Listen
* Don't label
* Don't thing you know it all
* Put yourself in the other person's place
* Be genuine
* Be a friend without a hidden agenda

We are products of grace - every believer out there. Yet, we are not known to the world as gracious people. I have to wonder if this is because we have not truly accepted that grace for ourselves. Are we still trying to earn God's love and approval? Are we still trying to fake it till we make it with a white knuckle grip? We can't truly show God's love and grace toward others until we absorb it for ourselves.

~ Blessings, Bronte

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