After a series of debates have rocked our culture in the past few years, one thing is apparent: the Church is losing her cultural influence. People today are more cynical of Christianity and its adherents, which poses the question: how can we be effective disciples when culture is increasingly dismissing Christianity?
As more and more people grow critical of Christianity today, how can Christians still be heard?
We’re not called to be hated because when we are hated, we are not effective in bringing others to Christ. Jesus said we would be hated (Mark 13:13), but He did not say that we should give people reason to hate us. As Paul said in Romans 12:12 (overcome evil with good), we should be giving people reason to love and respect us. If they hate us in the midst of our good, that’s their choice—but we shouldn’t make them choose that.
Individuals are drifting from a positive view of Christianity; but if we are not giving them reason to believe in the Church, then we are not doing our jobs.
We need to find ways to stop being dismissed as Christians. We need to find ways to develop a good standing with people once again so that once we mention we’re a Christian, we don’t end the conversation.
Consider these 5 actions we could do to avoid being dismissed and hated by others:
1. Practice Humility
Christians always want to fix everything. We believe that because we have the right answer, we can solve every problem that comes our way.
This might come as a shock, but we can’t fix everything, and we’re not meant to either.
Accepting this truth is embracing the humility that allows us to listen to others before inserting a Biblical answer. This humility gives us the power to remain silent when outrage erupts. This humility empowers us to admit that we don’t always live like Jesus and we don’t always practice the best course of action. And most of all, this humility enables us to say we’re sorry when we’ve fallen short of living like Jesus.
When we lessen ourselves like this, people see more of Jesus. But when we inflate our Christian pride, people can’t see over our ego. If we want to give people a glimpse of Jesus, let’s start by sharing in His humility.
2. Stop Trying to Change the World
A deep enough conviction can make us feel like heroes—like we’re meant to save the world. Yet, when Christian conviction pushes us to “change the world” a negative implication is that we can ignore where we are. We can dismiss the value of our local community in favor to go solve a problem across the world.
Jesus didn’t teach us to be like this—to run off with a flurry of conviction to go save the world. Instead, He gathered 12 disciples and had them go through life with Him. He favored the small, local relationships.
This can sometimes seem like an insignificant thing to do with our conviction, but Jesus showed us that how we choose to be intentional in our local community matters just as much as going out and saving the world.
Instead of letting your Christian conviction focus you on saving the world, notice the relationships around you. If you are called to do so, grow roots at home and see what fruits they flourish around you.
3. Serve the Marginalized AND the Privileged
The Church can do a good job at serving the middle-class, married, suburban American family. But when it comes to serving those in the margins of life—the poor, the unemployed, the single, the widow—things can get tricky.
Jesus gained a good standing with people because He did not simply serve the elite. Rather, He surrounded Himself with the least of these. He hung out with the people no one wanted to be with, and this spoke something to the people around Him.
The individualism of our society says we can only be friends with certain people. Well, if we want to gain a good standing as Christians in culture, let’s defy this.
Let’s stop surrounding ourselves with those who are in our same stage of life. Let’s be with the people who are different from us, those in the margins. Maybe then people will see our worldview as being legitimate.
4. Create Intimate Communities
In a society where individuals struggle with intimacy, we can exemplify the deep truth of the Gospel by simply building intimate communities.
We can develop relationships so thick with love they cause people on the outside to say, “I want in.”
The trick is, not having these communities shield us from the world. Our communities can’t be exclusive cliques. They need to meet in public, show up at workplaces, and strive to meet people where they are. They need to always be including people and showing people that there is a way to establish intimacy in relationships.
5. Practice Restraint
Finally, when a matter of moral outrage erupts, we can learn to practice restraint. We can keep silent instead of rushing to social media to voice our opinion. We can refuse to join the waves of people tumbling into the whirlpool of debate. We can simply restrain from joining a heated matter.
Restraint is something many Christians don’t get. Christians often cite the time when Jesus flipped a table as evidence that they should fight for what’s right and let their emotions fly. But these same Christians often overlook the times when Jesus chose not to strike back, with words or with actions. These Christians overlook when Jesus heals the guard’s ear that Peter cut off. These Christians overlook when Jesus chose to be silent when first asked by the Pharisees and scribes whether to stone the adulterer (John 8:6).
Restraint prevents us from making a further mess of things. It allows us to let our emotions calm down before we give the appropriate answer. It allows us to be silent long enough to hear God’s opinion on the matter.
Truly, restraint lets us give God the power to solve the issue.
If God’s way of solving the issue is to involve us, then so be it. But let’s practice restraining long enough until we’re certain of that.
Christians may be dismissed in society, but there are ways we as individuals can allow for others to believe in the Church again. It comes in living more like Jesus. The more we drift from this objective, the further grow the chasm between society and the true picture of Christ.
Let’s stop making a mess of things, and instead work to be in good standing with the people we’re called to witness to.
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