I didn’t grow up a follower of Jesus. My family was and still is, but, when I was younger, following Jesus was the last thing I wanted to do. And, to make matters worst, I straight up didn’t like Christians. I thought they were judgmental, hypocritical, and, not to mention, boring. That three-headed beast made me never want to associate with Christians. However, Jesus had another plan (and thankfully).
Jesus drew me to Himself and I began following Him, but I still struggled with my former opinions about Christians. My opinion of Jesus changed, but my opinion of Christians didn’t. So, when I first heard someone tell me that I didn’t act like the Christians and they meant it as a compliment, I loved it. I had grown up not liking Christians and struggled with still thinking the same thoughts, so hearing that I didn’t act like “those” Christians made me feel good. I had unchurched friends say things like that I wasn’t boring or self-righteous like other Christians they knew, and my response was “I know, right?”. haha.
I’ve heard other Christians feel the same way when they these sort of compliments (are these really compliments or really indictments on others?). I once had a super close friend tell me that he loves Jesus, but prides himself in being not like your typical Christian. This guy was a close friend, since we both thought similar, but I have a question. Is this really something we should be allowing to happen? Should we really feel good when someone tells us that they know lots of Christians who aren’t as cool as we are? Or they might know lots of people dishonoring the name of Jesus and maybe we aren’t, but should that make us feel good?
I would we shouldn’t like these thinly veiled compliments. They’re maybe saying something wonderful about us, but they’re really telling us more about the christians in their lives than they are telling us about ourselves.
The real problem I have with this is where our focus is in all this. The focus is on ourselves. We hear about people dishonoring the name of Jesus and we hear about how much we’re rocking it, and we focus on what is said about us. I think our heart should break that this person knows so many people who haven’t been representing Jesus in the way they should. Instead of responding to these “compliments” with agreeing with them, I think we should deflect the attention from ourselves to Jesus.
I also think sometimes people’s unfavorable views of Christians are not founded in anything substantial. They might not like some Christians for some foolish reasons. So, we should try to get a little bit of info about why they don’t like some Christians and maybe we can use it as an opportunity to glorify the name of Jesus.
I worked at Disneyland for six years making dreams come true. I loved working with so many people and becoming friends with so many people. I even had a few of these friends as my groomsmen in my wedding. I loved my time at Disneyland. I remember one friend who didn’t follow Jesus tell me, “I love you, Jordan. You’re a cool dude. You love Jesus, but you’re not lame”.
I then told me that all the other Christians he knew were jerks. I asked for a bit more information, so I found out he really didn’t hate all Christians, just all the Christians on a high school football team he played against when he was against in high school. He said that they were all the dirtiest and meanest people to play against. That had left a bad taste in his mouth about Christians. He said I was nothing like those people.
Instead of using this moment to drink up this cup of pride, I told my friend that when I was in high school, before I met Jesus, I wasn’t a nice person. I would steal money from my grandparents all the time, I hated so many people in my heart, including I wanted my parents dead. I then told him that what changed me was Jesus commanding me to follow Him. I followed up to him saying that I also can still be an egotistical prick, so don’t think I’m much different from your high school opponents.
See how that was a little different from just accepting empty praise? I used it as an opportunity to hopefully mend some fences and glorify the name of Jesus. I made it about other things than just myself.
People’s low views of Christians can translate to a low view of Jesus, so we should try to use these opportunities to take the attention off how Christians act and instead put it on who Jesus is. Some people spend all their lives looking at Christians and never look at Christ. We should make sure that happens less.
I also find just accepting this cheap compliment is wrong because it’s another way we push ourselves away from our brothers and sisters in Christ. Maybe some of these people who are dishonoring the name of Jesus aren’t Christians, but I bet some of them are. And we’re distancing ourselves from our Christian family. Jesus calls us to act like a family. He wasn’t just trying to be cute or make a tweet go viral. He meant it when He said we’re brothers and sisters in His name. So, let’s not try to distance ourselves from any one, especially our brothers and sisters in Jesus.
My last point would to those who somehow feel good when they aren’t like other Christians. Maybe you’re actually around lots of people who claim allegiance to Jesus,but do terrible things, or maybe you’re surrounded by Christians who are just not living up to God’s standards. Either way, our focus shouldn’t be not being like Christians, but instead our focus should be living like Christ.
We our focus forever be on the King of Kings. The Lord of Lords.
We might be more Godly than others, but that doesn’t mean we’re doing what Jesus wants us to do. I pray we never pray like the Pharisee in Luke 18:11, “The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people“. Jesus isn’t seeking people who think they are better than others, instead Jesus is seeking hearts passionately seeking after Him.
So, let’s not rejoice when others aren’t living out their faith. Instead, use it as a moment to lift the name of Jesus higher in someone’s life, which doesn’t sound like a bad way to live every moment.