Why do we as Christians have such an unhealthy reputation to the world outside of our church walls? It has long bothered me that Christians claim to love others and seek to fill the needs of their community, yet we are distrusted, dismissed and even despised. Something has gone terribly wrong; there is a disconnect somewhere of colossal proportions. How did it come to this, and what can we do to correct the situation?
In John 8 (verses 3-11) we find the familiar story of Jesus saving the life of a woman caught in adultery. The religious people of the day had seized the woman, and dragged her into the place where Jesus was teaching. Beyond this obvious humiliation, these same religious folks were preparing to put the woman to death by stoning her. As they stood there, perhaps with rocks in hand, Jesus calmly knelt beside the woman. He then said some of the most powerful words in all of Scripture: “Let the one with no sin throw the first stone.” When faced with their sinfulness, the people dropped their stones and went away.
Before Jesus changed the dynamics of the scene, the crowd of people was refusing to admit their own sinfulness. Instead of showing grace and forgiveness to the woman, they stood in judgment over her. We tend to do this often because it makes us feel better about our own failures. It’s far easier to condemn someone else than to confront your own weaknesses. I think the modern church still suffers from this affliction. We are so intent on judging others that we overlook our own sins. We refuse to admit that we too have issues and that we too deserve death. We don’t want to appear as anything less than “perfect Christians”; in the process we demonstrate our hypocrisy. This is what the world finds so unappealing about us. We need to show ourselves as broken people, a work in process. Instead of judging the sins of others, we should be pointing out our own failures. When the church at large begins getting real and walking in genuineness, I believe the world will respond. As long as we refuse to admit our own shortcomings and are content to target and judge the sins of others, we will continue to drive a wedge between us and those who so desperately need to hear the message of Jesus.
The life of Jesus was all about serving others. There’s little glory in service and it generally requires us to humble ourselves to do things that we consider to be beneath us. It’s far more appealing to stand in judgment over someone rather than to serve under someone in support of their life. Yet this was the mission of Christ. He did not come to condemn the world, but rather to redeem it (John 3:17). If we would follow Him, this must be our mission as well.
To change how we are seen by the world, we must change how we interact with our world. We must return to doing the work of the mission of Jesus Christ. It’s time to drop our shields, remove our masks, and admit that we need the grace of Jesus every bit as much as everyone else. We must genuinely love and empathize with others. Judgment must be left to God; this is not our calling. Instead of condemning the sins of others, let’s learn how we might serve them in such a way that they can rise above their destructive behaviors. In turn, we just might learn how to rise above our own failings. When each of us begins to love with openness and honesty, when we stop condemning and start serving others, then the world will take notice and their attitude toward the message of Jesus will turn from repulsion to curiosity. People don’t need contempt and judgment; they need healing and forgiveness. This is the mission of Jesus. This is the message of all who would follow Him.