It is no question that Christians are hated by many people. Though the Bible does speak about persecution, it often worries me how some Christians misbehave, and then others respond negatively to that behavior, and then that response is merely shrugged off as “persecution”. Should we, as Christians, be worried about our image and what people think about us? In my opinion, absolutely! Not in a insecure high school way where we will do anything and everything to be viewed as “cool”, based on our concern about what others think about us. But should we realize that we claim to be “made in God’s image”, “ambassadors of His word”, and are defined by a label that literally means “follower of Christ”, and therefore be aware of, and sensitive to what we are putting out to the world and how we are reflecting God to others? YES!
In different reading I have done I have found something very interesting; many people that do not like Christians also do not have a problem with Jesus. Gandhi even said something along the lines of, “The whole world would believe in Jesus if it were not for Christians.” So if many non-believers don’t seem to have a problem with Jesus, and we are supposed to be reflecting Him, what are we doing wrong? I visited several websites that label themselves as atheist and agnostic and looked at some of their discussions about Christians and Christianity. Unfortunately, much of their feelings and hatred for Christians did not seem to come out of a place of “ignorance” or lack of interaction with Christians, but rather the opposite. Most of these people’s detestation for Christians came out of personal experiences in which they were mistreated, judged, spoken down to, yelled at, condemned, or damned by a Christian. I know it is not good to generalize a whole (Christian) population of people based on the actions of a few people, but these days it also seems as though it is not just a “few” people who are behaving in these ways.
I went to a discussion that stemmed out of the question “Why do so many people hate Christians?” on Yahoo Answers. The question itself was posted by a user who titles himself as a “devoted Christian” and under his question says, “Seriously… Why do so many people hate Christians? We are people! Better people than most actually, but God loves everyone… even atheists…” This arrogant statement alone seemed to answer the question that preceded the statement. “Better people than most actually”?? One user responded, “Better people than most actually is a large part of it. Many Christians have a massive superiority complex and think they are better than everyone. Many are very pushy. Maybe if they tried connecting to and respecting people instead of shoving their beliefs down others’ throats they be less maligned.” I think that is a very fair, honest and good answer.
The interesting part of this particular Yahoo Answer discussion was there were many open and honest responses from people giving their perspective of why people, or they themselves, do not like Christians. I find their comments helpful. But even more intriguing to me was the question that was chosen as the “best answer”, chosen by the asker. The answer came from a Christian, and it was not a personal comment, but merely three quotes from scripture speaking about how “Jesus was persecuted and therefore we should expect persecution as well”. It showed me that the asker seemingly was not as interested in hearing why real, “non-Christian” people “hate Christians”, as he was in shrugging those sentiments off as “persecution”. Though I believe in the words in those three scriptures I am afraid that many of the actions in which Christians receive flack for these days are in no way comparable to the actions of Jesus, and therefore cannot be viewed as “persecution as He received it”.
I think it would do us, as Christians, good to sit down and have discussion with non-Christian people around us, asking them how they feel about Christians. Our purpose in those conversations should not be to try and “win those people over” but merely to listen; hear what they think, hear how they feel, hear what experiences molded those beliefs and feelings they have towards Christians. I feel like if we would be mature enough to have these conversations, where we merely listen, and don’t feel like we have to defend ourselves, God or Christianity, then we would be in a better position to take stock of our actions, seeing which behaviors are “Godly” and therefore misunderstood by non-believers, and which behaviors are prideful, arrogant, self righteous, judgmental, condemning, hurtful, ungodly and even sinful. Also, if we were able to sit and have a nonjudgmental, unheated conversation with someone who claims to “hate Christians”, the act of merely listening and trying to understand might just begin to chip away at their views of Christians. Just a thought.