Polling shows that one of the main reasons people stay away from church is that they see Christians as judgmental. Why go to a place where people make you feel worse about yourself than you do already? Or tell you there is something wrong with you when you’ve just spent mucho bucks on a shrink who assured you your reactions are to be expected, considering your childhood?
Looking at only the “Shallts” and “Shallt nots” in the Bible can give you a skewered view that ignores God’s mercy and immense love for us. There are hellfire and brimstone preachers out there, to be sure. And there are those who see sin as merely relative, perhaps unfortunate, choices. Why go to a church that scares the hell out of you? Why bother with one that seems like a weekly feel-good coffee klatch? I can do that with my friends at Starbucks and skip the collection plate.
The fact is, God is perfect and we are not. Nor are we “good enough, considering… ” We cannot approach a perfect God covered as we all are with sin. So God made a miracle happen. His Son hung on the cross and became the perfect atonement, the Lamb of God, the divine scapegoat, for sins we cannot make up for on our own—no matter how many good deeds we do.
I’m as sinful as the next guy. And I can’t point to another and claim that he or she is worse than I. God’s law defines good and evil, and by that law, we all stand condemned. But there is also the Gospel, the good news that Christ redeemed us through his death on the Cross. Law and Gospel are two sides of the same coin. The law points us in the right direction, but does not save us. When we inevitably go in the wrong direction, the Gospel tells us we can be forgiven through Jesus.
What About Today?
Good-hearted Christians want to make the world a better place for people. The problem arises when we differ on how to do that. Can we legislate “good behavior?” After all, we have laws that say one cannot murder, steal, or ruin someone’s reputation. Where do laws stop before we find ourselves in a theocracy?
I do not have the answer to that question. But I do sense that Christian’s judgmental rap may be because we mix theology with politics and shame those who do not share our beliefs. For example, I am technically an “evangelical Christian.” Having written that, do you see me as a political conservative? Don’t jump to conclusions. The PEW Research center defines an “evangelical Christian” as one who believes the Bible is the Word of God and is called to share the Gospel (not ram it down people’s throats). The definition does not make me a Republican or a Democrat.
My beliefs are apolitical. I will not scream at you and wave a placard in your face as if God were on my side and not yours. (Can you imagine any of the Apostles doing that?)
The early church grew because Christians showed outrageous love. I think we need to get back to that, and extend that love to everyone we meet.