Thursday, 1 March 2012

Jesus Loves You, But Everyone Else Thinks You're An *#@%*&#^#!

I saw that on a bumper sticker recently. While somewhat funny, it also bothered me a bit. No, I wasn’t offended by the implicated bad language, but was bothered by the fact that often it is actually true. Often people have a pretty negative view of some Christians, and that negative view, sad to say, is often justified. Have you ever noticed that? Have you ever wondered why?

I remember looking through a Christian Business Directory once and a friend with me said, “Any business listed in there would be the last one that I would contact for anything!” My friend himself is a Christian, and the very directory that was intended to connect Christian shoppers with Christian businesses, actually had the opposite effect for him.

Once I got over the shock of what my friend had said, we talked about it. I learned that on more than one occasion my friend felt burned by business people who, though professed to be Christians, had a lousy set of business ethics. It got so bad that he has actually become quite cynical toward Christian business people. Other people I know have had similar testimonies. How sad.

Obviously not all Christian businesses are like that. Thank God they’re not. It is also obvious that someone who is usually above board could have been having a bad day. In truth, the whole thing is often quite subjective. Right or wrong, to think of someone else as being an *#@%*&#^#! depends more often than not on the individual’s perceptions of that other person. Do perceptions matter? Most certainly they do!

In commenting on the hypocrisy in the church, someone once said, “Christians aren’t perfect; they’re just forgiven.” While theologically true, I also thought, “What a load of crap! That’s just what the world needs; another pat answer!” Why do we seem to think that such responses suddenly make everything OK again? Is it OK to have poor ethics in the workplace because, as we all know, “Christians aren’t perfect; they’re just forgiven?” Is it OK for me to conduct myself in such a fashion that would cause someone to think of me as being an *#@%*&#^#!, simply because, as everyone knows, “Christians aren’t perfect; they’re just forgiven?”

I remember a place I worked at some years ago. There was a young man working there who had a work ethic that left a lot to be desired. I’m sure we’ve all met people like that. The language that came out of his mouth was foul and often negative towards others. His joking was colorful and crass, and was often offensive enough to make even a hooker want to blush. Jesus’ words, “You belong to your father, the devil” (John 8:44) could have applied to him. At least that is the way I discerned his character.

One day this person came to work and said that he was quitting. I wanted to shout out, “Thank you, Lord!” He then explained that he was leaving in order to go on his “mission.” It turns out that he was a Mormon. I thought to myself, what are you going to do, cuss and swear them into the Mormon kingdom? This I’d like to see!

A caveat is in order. Please understand that in no way am I suggesting that Mormonism is or isn't Christian, or that all Mormons are like that young man. Unlike what some seem to think, in my opinion, Mormonism is not simply another in the vast sea of Christian factions (denominations). In truth, most Mormons are decent people. Though I do not agree with them of faith matters, I count several of Mormons among my dear friends. [You may want to check out: Journey Out of Mormonism]

The point I am trying to make is that, if your Christianity and your Christian ethics is simply something that you do and live by for an hour or so on Sunday morning, then besides it being a worthless Christianity, it’s not surprising if you look like the world (or worse) during the rest of the week. Perhaps that is the kind of pseudo-Christian businesses my friend had the misfortune of encountering. Perception is everything. What do others “really” see in us? Do they see a warm-hearted and gentle child of God? Or do they see a cantankerous and difficult person who, though claiming to be a Christian, actually looks like they may have been baptized in vinegar or lemon juice instead of in the Holy Spirit?

They may have perceived us wrongly, but it is still their perception of us. More importantly, if it is their perception of me as a professing Christian, then isn’t it also potentially a perception of my faith and my Lord? Why would someone be interested in my faith if all they continually see in me causes them to think of me as being an *#@%*&#^#! ? Does God receive glory from this? Of course not.

In the book, “Rees Howells: Intercessor,” biographer Norman Grubb tells the story of how one day a visitor arrived at the train station and asked, “Is the man with the Holy Ghost in town?” Though his name was never mentioned, the person at the train station instinctively knew that the visitor was referring to Rees Howells.

How is your testimony? How is mine? What if a stranger arrived at your workplace and asked the receptionist, “Is the man with the Holy Ghost here today?” Would she automatically know that the stranger was referring to you? Does our walk and our talk line up with who we profess to be? I’m ashamed to say that sometimes my testimony needs a little work in this department. How are we perceived by others?

I imagine if Christians really took the Great Commission (Matthew 28: 16-20) seriously, then maybe none of this would be an issue at all. Maybe we would be genuinely concerned for others more than ourselves. Maybe we would be more mindful of what we say and do, lest we be guilty of tarnishing the testimony of Christ. Maybe we would really look and act like the kind of people we “pretend” to be on Sunday morning (ouch). Maybe our workplace ethics would improve to the point where people really wanted to find us in the Christian Business Directory, and do so for the right reason.

Yes, Jesus loves you and me dearly. There is no denying that. Imagine how much sweeter that love of Jesus would be if we knew that everyone else didn’t think of us as being an *#@%*&#^#! Perception truly is everything.

That’s the way I see it anyways.

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

9 comments:

  1. Excellent post Will!

    It reminds me of a quote:
    "Men show their characters in nothing more clearly than in what they think laughable."
    -- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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  2. From my friend Gerald on Facebook:

    When we had our business in PA, demographically churches were our worst customers. Some were good to deal with, but the majority were a pain in the back side. One literally stole from us. They requested multiple design layouts and bids, then stole the design and took it to another shop who produced it cheaper because they had no design time in it. Another one would order signs for their charity event and then get angry if we didn't offer to donate them when the work was done - they NEVER asked ahead of time, but would always throw a fit when it came time to pay.

    I never advertise or promote my business as a 'Christian' business. In my opinion if you need to advertise it, then you're not really what you say you are. Too many times people advertise as a Christian business as a ploy to gain blind trust and to take advantage of people.

    I feel the same about people who put Christian stuff all over their vehicles. I knew an obnoxious pastor who put 'I LOVE JESUS' in big letters across the back of his suv. I told him,"If you need to advertise that for people to know, then you better take it off of there." He actually removed it a few weeks later. :-)

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    1. I totally understand that, Gerald. I remember being asked to come and speak at a church in a neighbouring province. It required a drive of over 1000 km (600 miles) each way, four speaking sessions, and then the return trip home...all in the same weekend. The worst part of it was that they didn't even want to contribute towards the gas bill, much less anything else. They also expected me to essentially "donate" all my time and expenses back to them.

      I agree with your take on advertising a "Christian" business and the stuff on vehicles. So true.

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  3. Will,

    Great post. We are supposed to be known by our fruit. I believe that includes the fruit of our life. We have embraced such a cheap gospel that we think the way we live and what we say has no bearing on our faith.

    The end result is the opposite of what Jesus intended. He wanted us to live such beautiful Spirit controlled lives that as Peter put it "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander."

    Instead people shy away from us because of our bad testimony with the society around us. BTW I don't think you are exaggerating. Where I live being a Christian is seen as negative. Add "born again" or "evangelical" to that and it seals the deal against us.

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    1. Ross,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. Unfortunately many today have embraced a cheap gospel, which really is, as Paul said, "no gospel at all" (Galatians 1:7). Blessings.

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  4. Will, this is a GREAT article. This theme is often turned on its head and used to blame those who find fault with the believer's behaviors in the world. You have taken a clear stand to show that those things simply aren't so.

    Would you mind if I provided a link to this on my blog?

    Eric

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    1. Thank you for the comment, Eric. Feel free to link to my blog if you wish. Blessings.

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  5. Will - good stuff. I try live by Philippians 2:5 "In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus". I have been one of those you speak of that claim to be a faithful Christian but you would likely not be able to tell from outward appearances.

    It has taken 50+ years to get to this place but I hope that my daily interaction with others, my speech and any other outward expression is a reflection of my faith based on the love without cause of Jesus and the grace and mercy that comes from that.

    Our faith should be a comfort, a safe place and a set of parameters by which all things are based from but not as an excuse or a weapon.

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