11 November 2022

When sucky Christians share Jesus.

Christians are fond of saying the reason people won’t believe in Jesus is because of fleshly, irreligious Christians. Because we’re so awful, they stay away.

It’s rubbish, and I’ve written at length why that’s so. Talk with any pagan and you’ll quickly discover most of ’em do believe in Jesus… but they don’t believe in “organized religion” (by which they mean Christianity or church) and they much prefer their own eclectic ideas about who Jesus is, to anything Christians teach. Talk with any nontheist and you’ll find they don’t believe in Jesus because they don’t believe in miracles (i.e. his resurrection, his rapture, his second coming) and hate the idea that a God who has infinite power to stop anything they consider evil, doesn’t.

Sucky Christians aren’t why people don’t believe in Jesus.

Sucky Christians are no help, either. If I’m trying to share Jesus with someone, it’s so easy for that person to point to ill-behaved Christians and say, “They don’t help prove your point.” Absolutely right. They don’t. But the reason these folks don’t believe is they don’t wanna believe. Because I believe in Jesus despite ill-behaved Christians. Most of us do!

But those who claim sucky Christians are why people don’t believe in Jesus, really just have an ax to grind against misbehaving Christians.

And yeah, I admit I have an ax to grind against ’em too. Because I used to be one of those misbehaving Christians. I grind an ax against my former self all the time. I tell on all the sins he committed, and use him for illustrations of what not to do. Many Christians do likewise with their former selves. See, we can do it with impunity, and because we’re not picking on someone else, it’s not cruel. It’d look totally cruel if we used one of our kids, fr’instance—“Man, my kid is such a sinner. You should hear what he did last week.” It’d be gossipy if we did this with anyone else. With ourselves, no problem.

I was a rotten kid in my youth. And yeah, I still shared Jesus with people—and I actually got a few of ’em to come to church with me. Despite me. ’Cause that’s how the Holy Spirit works: He takes seriously messed-up humans, and does something good through us. He can, and does, use fleshly Christians to spread his gospel. I know from personal experience as one of those fleshly Christians.

That said, is it ideal when fleshly Christians share the gospel? Of course not. Got way easier to share the gospel when I started to act like Jesus. People don’t mind hearing the good news from good people. But when you’re kind of a dick, the good news doesn’t tend to come across as all that good. Too much hellfire, not enough grace. Too much hate; no love. Too likely to become dark Christianity, dark evangelism, and proselytism. Too likely to reproduce all our worst traits, like Jesus complained about Pharisees doing to their converts. Mt 23.15

No; ideally we want fruitful Christians to exhibit all the same winsome traits as our Master: Love, kindness, patience, forgiveness, grace, compassion, peace, and joy. Because we’re trying to duplicate that in new believers; not the same phony fruit we find among Christianists—the folks who nowadays make “sons of hell” instead of Pharisees.

Don’t misunderstand me. Irreligious Christians need to repent. But can they share Jesus, his gospel, and his kingdom? Of course they can. God’s used talking asses before, Nu 22.26-30 and apparently he still does.

As one of those talking asses…

When I was young and dumb and a giant hypocrite, some of my fellow junior high school classmates got into a religious debate. I don’t even remember what it was about. I just remember I was a young know-it-all, so I felt obligated to pitch my two cents. Both of them were getting the bible wrong, and I knew my bible way better than they. So I corrected them.

ONE OF THEM. “Wait, you’re Christian?”
ME. “Yeah.”
ONE OF THEM. “You sure don’t act like a Christian.”
ME.F--- you; I’m totally Christian.”

Yeah, real Christian of me.

I should’ve felt some shame about the fact I didn’t behave Christian enough to be quickly recognized as one. Instead I was annoyed I hadn’t publicized it enough. I figured I needed to wear more Christian T-shirts.

’Cause like any hypocrite, I was all talk, no action. Telling, not showing. Faith without works. And whenever I shared Jesus with people, it didn’t make the impact on ’em it should have, because I was a crappy example of Jesus’s character, the Christian lifestyle, faith in action, anything. I wasn’t a good person. I wasn’t even a nice person. Y’know Paul’s saying, “Follow me as I follow Christ”? 1Co 11.1 MEV Who wants to follow a jerk who’s barely following his Lord?

You might be surprised how often pagans are totally aware of how Jesus acts. They know he’s way nicer than the angry Christians who rail against sinners. Way more forgiving than their “devout” family members who somehow skipped Jesus’s forgiveness requirement. When a dark evangelist doesn’t act as a Christian should, it’s a really useful excuse for pagans who don’t care to turn to Jesus today: “If that’s what religion has done for you, I want no part of it.”

I didn’t realize how my inconsistent behavior was hobbling my efforts to share Jesus. Didn’t figure it should matter anyway. Jesus is true, right? So why should it matter if I suck? ’Cause truth is truth, regardless of the messenger. Don’t tell me, “I can’t accept your Lord because you’re awful”; that’s an ad hominem argument, and logically unsound. (As if people are logical.)

Yep, being a sucky Christian killed my testimony. Kills a lot of Christians’ testimonies. We’re not gonna win people to Jesus when we’re more evil and self-centered than they!

Christians in hiding.

One of my pastors was convinced the reason Christians won’t share Jesus is the phenomenon I call “the Fear”—the irrational, baseless worry that if we share Jesus, terrible things are gonna happen to us. We’ll unexpectedly run into the most violent hardcore antichrist ever. The government will swoop in, drag us to Guantanamo, and waterboard us for fun. We’ll lose jobs, futures, relationships, opportunities, all sorts of stuff. None of these fears are rational, and that’s the whole point of the Fear: It’s meant to stymie us from doing anything.

I would tend to agree with him it’s the Fear which keeps Christians from sharing Jesus. But sucky Christians have an additional fear to throw into the barrel, and one which isn’t all that irrational: When people try to share Jesus, others find out they’re Christian. And exactly like young junior-high me, people will respond, “Wait, you’re Christian? You don’t act Christian.” But unlike me, these sucky Christians are gonna be so embarrassed.

So they reason they don’t share Jesus? Shame. Oh, they’re not ashamed of Jesus; they’re ashamed of themselves.

To be fair, it’s well-placed shame. But there’s a pretty simple solution to the problem: Stop sinning, dangit!

Demonstrate the Spirit’s fruit, right in front of people. Be loving. Be joyful. When you see strife, make peace. Be patient. Be kind. Be good. Be loyal. Control your temper. Control the rest of your behavior, for that matter. It’s the only way to show you’re an authentic Christian. Irreligious Christians can settle for Christian T-shirts.

Once you’ve got the behaviors down, people will either guess you’re Christian, or at least religious. And when they see you’re kind not judgmental, patient not angry, loving not hating, loyal not gossipy, they’ll realize you’re a safe person to go to. They’ll wind up asking you religious questions.

Happens to me all the time. I’m not like their angry Christian parents, bigoted Christian in-laws, political nutjob Christian neighbors, or those weirdos who keep coming to their door every Saturday morning. They know how Jesus is, and how Christians oughta behave, and you act the part.

For the love of God, do not figure once you reach this point, you can “drop the act” and body-slam them with the gospel. Do not share Jesus in any way other than loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, and all that. It’s not meant to be an act! It’s who you’re meant to be from now on. Any form of the gospel which lacks the Spirit’s fruit isn’t good news, and therefore not gospel. Stay fruity.

What if you’re practicing the fruit, and you’ve been practicing the fruit, but people just aren’t coming to you? Well, that can happen. Likely means one of two things:

  1. Your fruit is defective. Stop kidding yourself, repent, and seek and destroy your blind spots.
  2. The people around you actually aren’t interested in Jesus at all.

That second thing has happened to me a number of times too. Hey, sometimes people aren’t interested in Jesus. For all sorts of reasons. In my workplace now, we have two hardcore pagans with zero interest in anything which sounds to them like organized religion. In one of my previous workplaces, the last “Christian” in the office was a royal pain to everyone around, and people didn’t wanna hear about Jesus from anyone, and it took a long time to gain their trust. (Which gave me time to work on myself, so it’s all good.)

So if you’re in an unfriendly environment, practice that patience and work on yourself. Keep loving your neighbors and coworkers. Your time will come.

But in general, start following Jesus. Then come out of hiding, with nothing to fear.