Did you enjoy the Superbowl???
If you don’t live or were born in New England, I’m going to guess you didn’t! In case you want to know what side I was on…..
It was such an intense game! People here in New England feel as if ‘Justice’ was served after the complete and udder disrespect given to Tom Brady by the league. I’ll admit I’m right there – completely happy to see everything that happened on Sunday.
In the time that has followed the big game, it’s been funny to see on social media all the different reactions to that historic comeback. Since I’m friends with people all over the country from my point of view, there are some not-so-happy football fans.
I get it, I really do. For football fans, seeing the same team win again, and again is annoying. On top of that, there is a perception of Patriots fans being smug, arrogant, and a wee bit cocky. Truthfully I probably don’t help combat that perception!
Remember talking about perception?
So many people have a bad perception of Christians and churches. It’s not always our fault either. Sometimes there is a bad egg that makes all of us look bad, or someone takes a story out of context. Either way, there is a growing negative perception of churches.
In the face of this, it can become easy for us to gather with people who think and act like us, to shield ourselves from the awkwardness of interacting with people who think/act differently or don’t like what we stand for. It is much safer to be friends with people that agree with us – that way when we talk about God we don’t get judged or a sideways glance.
Plus there is that angst within our bellies anytime religion or God is brought up. Probably because we really want people to like us – but if they knew we believed in God maybe they wouldn’t like us anymore.
This isn’t just a Christian thing. This is how most groups of people act. We gather and spend time with people who like us, and we like them back. That is fine, and that is normal.
But it doesn’t help combat any negative perceptions.
If anything it only reinforces the different ideas people have. Things like Christians are a closed group of people, you need to turn your brain off to be one, they only care about themselves, etc.
I want to take you on a trip to an alternative universe. The world looks the same, but there are some key differences to reality……
First off, the Patriots have never won a championship!
Even more shocking there is a universal truth that everyone knows…. Christians are awesome! Even if you don’t agree with them, they still love being your friend and getting to know you. They also are some of the most encouraging people to be around.
In the business world, it’s accepted that it’s okay to disagree with their beliefs, but they are some of the best people to hire because they work hard, are honest, and own up to making mistakes.
In a neighborhood, everyone knows if you have a need, big or small, the first people you contact are the Christians because they will find a way to help – even when they have to sacrifice!
Every parent regardless of belief, secretly wishes their children would date a Christian because they know their child will be treated well, with honesty, and respect!
Among friends, it’s accepted that Christians are fun to be around. They seem to always be joyful about life – even when life is hard. They own up to mistakes they make – even when no one would figure it out. And they don’t insult you for disagreeing with them!
I don’t have time to talk about all the work they do in taking care of those who are often overlooked, widows, orphans, refugees, homeless, etc.
Overall, in this universe, the common thread is, no matter what you believe Christians will treat you with love and respect.
Hopefully, you are picking up my ‘not so subtle hint.’ There are many things we (Christians) should be doing to combat negative perceptions. The biggest one of all happened to be Jesus’ final command.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
Obviously, we will never be perfect like Jesus, but there are some steps we can take to challenge people’s growing negative perceptions.
So here is my list of Top 5 ways to love people who are different from us…
- Try hanging out with non-Christians and not talking about God
- Obviously, God is important and obviously, you should want to share the good news with people around you; BUT try building a relationship first. If your relationship is built on a foundation of trust, you will have way more opportunities to tell them the good news of Jesus.
- It is of utmost importance you actually love this person, though. If you view people as projects to boost your Heaven credits – it will come through in how you treat them. Love them like you love …. yourself.
- Serve serve serve
- If you can find ways to help people and expect nothing in return. That is going to speak way louder than any Bible story you could tell someone. If you humbly approach serving with the attitude of “I’m so excited I have an opportunity to help someone.” People will notice.
- Validate people
- Jesus was a master of this! Isn’t it amazing he could walk up to some of the scummiest people on the earth (tax collectors and sinners), and they loved him! Matthew even became one of his disciples! Have you ever wondered why people who were nothing like Jesus seemed to really like him?
- He always validated their worth as humans and good things they did. This more than anything communicates love and care.
- Ask more questions than giving answers
- Jesus was also great at this…. The gospels are filled with stories of people asking Jesus a question, and he would answer with a question. What this does is challenges the person to arrive at answers on their own – which is way more real to them – than an answer you give.
- Love is a Verb
- This one seems obvious, and honestly, it’s a catch-all for everything else. Andy Stanley has a great sermon where he challenges everyone to always ask the question “What does love require of me?”. When we ask this question in our lives, it becomes obvious how we should treat people and what we should say and do.
I hope that it breaks our hearts when we see people online or in real life, have a bad taste of Christianity. I hope that we love them well and that we all work on these 5 ways to love.