Christianity has an image problem in America. A recent poll revealed that many non-church goers perceive self-proclaimed Christians to be judgmental, hypocritical and unloving. When asked how they viewed Jesus, their response was that he was accepting, forgiving and loving. How is it that we are seen to be so different from the one we claim to follow? The sad reality is that many people in our society reject Jesus because they feel rejected by his followers.
I’ve read the New Testament a few times myself and I can’t find any record of any person who ever felt rejected by Jesus. That thought should grab all of us. Apparently we haven’t done a very good job of representing Jesus to our society. We’ve become known for the things we stand against and the categories of people who are loathsome to us rather than for our love and the good we do. Jesus was quite clear that everyone would know we were his followers if we loved each other. (John13:35) This does not mean that we have to throw all moral notions, codes of conduct, or proprieties to the wind in an effort to ‘live and let live.’ Jesus didn’t. How did he continually attract “sinners” to himself while maintaining and even promoting the Judeo moral code for right and clean living? The beef that the religious community of his day had against him was that he hung out with “tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners.” He didn’t live the way they lived. And as far as we can tell, he had virtually nothing in common with that crowd, but they still wanted to be with him, and he wanted to be with them.
What change do we need to make in our thinking, attitude and behavior so that those whom we think need Jesus most, will want to be with us—the ones who claim to know him, love him and follow him—and so we will want to be with them?