What are Non-Christians saying about Christian speech?

And it is true?

Jim Allen

While doing research for a book, John Shore posted a notice on Craigslist a few years ago asking nonbelievers how Christians send negative messages through their speech. In the notice John wrote, "I'd like to hear how you feel about being on the receiving end of the efforts of Christian evangelicals to convert you. I want to be very clear that this is not a Christian-bashing book; it's coming from a place that only means well for everyone. Thanks."[1]

The next morning after the posting, John had three-hundred responses.

S.P. from Nashville wrote,
When did it become that being a Christian meant being an intolerant, hateful bigot? I grew up learning the positive message of Christ: Do well and treat others with respect, and your reward will be in heaven. Somehow, for a seemingly large group of Christians, that notion has gone lost: It has turned into the thunders and lights of the wrath of God, and into condemning everyone who disagrees with them to burning in the flames of hell. Somehow, present-day Christians forgot about turning the other cheek, abandoned the notion of treating others like they would like to be treated themselves; they've become bent on preaching, judging, and selfishly attempting to save the souls of others by condemning them. What happen to love, tolerance, and respect? [2]
R. M. from Houston wrote,
Once Christians know I'm gay, the conversion talk usually stops. Instead, I become this sympathetic character who apparently isn't worthy of the gift of Christ. From my childhood in a Baptist church, I recall the "loathe the sin and love the sinner" talk, but as an adult I can't say I've often found Christians practicing that attitude. Deep down, I'm always relieved to avoid disturbing "conversion" conversations with Christians; discussing one's most intimate thoughts and personal beliefs isn't something I enjoy doing with random strangers. But at the same time, I feel as though Christians make a value judgment about my soul on the spot, simply because I am gay. I don't pretend to know the worth of a soul, nor the coming gifts to those who convert the masses, but I would guess converting the sinful homosexuals would merit a few brownie points. But I get the feeling that most Christians don't think we're worth the hassle. [3]
John Shore never expected to receive so many troubling comments. You would think by now the church would have had its community outreach initiative well-rehearsed and polished. But, after reading through many of the posts and comments, I sensed a strong, negative reaction to Christians overall, especially toward those whose speech is arrogant in tone, critical in approach, and lacking in respect. While many believers are none of these things, some could be or at least appear to be, and therein the charade.

Julie Smock commented on the Craigslist's postings and said,
I am surprised by these comments from non-Christians but maybe I should not be. We are the worst people sometimes - intolerant, hateful, gossips, rigid and hypocritical. Wow! On the other hand, some of us try so hard to do and say the right thing all of the time and it is just impossible... I am so sorry for all of the arrogant stuffed shirts out there. They give the totally wrong picture of Jesus...! [4]
It would appear some in the church have made a mess of things, and now those trying hard to live for Christ find themselves besieged with all manner of insult and complaint. Jesus said, "If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you" (John 15:18). The Blogos article Liberals Love to Hate Christians includes a quote from Gandhi who thought long and deep about the Christian faith and said, "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." The world really does look upon Christianity as a contagion poured out on humanity. What was intended for good appears to have morphed into something evil (Isaiah 5:20). So the question becomes, "Would non-believers still find fault with Christians even if every one of them lived without fault and evangelized in love?" The answer is YES! The reason, godliness will always bring an indictment on godlessness!

While nonbelievers dislike Christians for many reasons, I believe the principal reason goes deeper than many would be willing to admit or even realize. First, Jesus spoke "truths" that condemn godless men overflowing with vile passions. Men do not want to retain the knowledge of God, and will readily reject the light of the Gospel and its messengers (Romans 1:28). Second, the very words of Jesus and the apostles speak authority, righteousness, and condemnation that angered people then and will anger them today.

The world hated the message of Christ from the beginning and will continue to hate it until the end of time. To them, the idea of Christ and the cross is foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:18). Furthermore, nonbelievers abhor biblical truth and sense great discomfort in the presence of just one believer. Why? The apostle Paul answered it best by saying, "To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life…" (2 Corinthians 2:16).

Some in the church, who pretend to know the worth of a soul and work tirelessly to convert the masses will, if lacking love and respect in their speech, offend without much effort. I have witnessed a few of these offensives firsthand and on these agree with the nonbelievers.

In closing, although John Shore's research results are thought-provoking, I am persuaded many of the negative comments do not come because believers are arrogant and hypocritical but because the power of the Gospel pierces the soul with arrows of righteous conviction (Galatians 4:16; 2 Timothy 4:2).

1,2,3,4 John Shore – "What non-Christians want Christians to Hear

Image Credit: Justin Baeder; "Sorry we Christians have been such jerks"; Creative Commons

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Published 6-7-13