In my last post I talked about how church people can come across as legalistic and self-righteous and what they should do to avoid that. In this post I want to discuss how people that don’t go to church often misinterpret the situation and how they can look at it in a different light.
First, in many circumstances we are operating under a different definition of the term “tolerance”. To the average church-goer the word “tolerance” means something like, “I think I am right. You think you are right. One of us is right or one of us is wrong or we are both wrong, but we can still live in peace, be civil and even be friends.” To the non-church person the definition of tolerance is often more like, “You’re right. I’m right. Everybody’s right even though we are saying two totally different things. Don’t try to convince me and I won’t try to convince you.” If you want to see a discussion of two people with differing definitions of “tolerance” check out this interview between Mark Driscoll and Piers Morgan.
Second, you must realize that even legalistic Christians are usually acting out of love for you.* Yes, their approach could have been better, as we have already discussed, but the bottom line is they care about you. Think of it like this: if you knew a friend of yours was about to drive on a road in which you know the bridge is out, what would be the loving thing to do? Tell them? Or let them go and hope for the best? Obviously, you would tell them. Most Christians believe that without Jesus you are destined for an eternity apart from God in a place called hell. The most loving thing a Christian can do is try to help you see that the bridge is out and you need to make a route change. So, even though their approach may have been misguided and too blunt the reality is that they love and care about you. That is why they are taking the time and effort to tell you.
Perhaps you have been hurt by a Christian or a number of Christians in the past. There are a couple of things you should remember:
1. They were most likely acting out of a place of love
2. Not all churches and church-people are the same. There is great diversity within Christianity between churches and church-goers in the more practical matters of the faith. There is a great deal of difference between the Westboro Baptist Church and a church like LifeBridge.
3. Find out for yourself who Jesus is. Christians are followers of Jesus, and even though we try we don’t always live up to his standard (understatement of the year). Let Jesus speak for himself in the gospels. It always amazes me how many people have written off Jesus without ever reading the gospels.
*Unfortunately some churches masquerade as Christian and spew hate language with no intention of leading someone closer to Jesus, i.e. The Westboro Baptists. Those who hold these extreme ideologies are not who I am referring to here.