How do you answer people who ask you what you believe? How do you talk to people in general? It’s something worth thinking about because we communicate so much through tone and body language. Maybe I’m just overly sensitive to it, but I think non-verbal communication makes up more than half of how people actually talk to each other.
I read body language before I listen to what people say. Body language often will tell you far more about a person than what is coming out of their mouth. So if a person is communicating anger or unpleasantness with their body language, even if they’re saying nice things, I’m not going to believe they really mean it. And since our culture has devolved into one big chat room, it’s no wonder we are overwhelmed with miscommunications.
We live in an offensive world and an offensive culture. It seems that just about everyone wants to make everybody else angry about something, whether it’s their past mistakes or their current beliefs, religious or political. And it’s tempting to feel like we need to offend others in self-defense. But is that the way to communicate with people? Is that really the way we’re supposed to handle our relationships?
Today’s verses are 1 Peter 3:15-16.
Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.
As Christians, we have a responsibility to know what we believe. So when people ask us, we can explain. It’s no less than knowing the policies of your workplace or the rules of your house. But there’s something about following Jesus that really makes people angry.
I attended a writing workshop in June, which is actually where I got a lot of the photography I use on this blog. It’s a place called Glen Eyrie, located in Colorado Springs. One of the speakers made a point to talk about the different eras of how the world has reacted to Christ.
Forty years ago, we were still something of a Christian nation, where even if people didn’t agree with those of us who follow Christ, we were still treated with some amount of respect. But that era changed into an era of Post-Christian thought, where everyone was okay. It was the whole “I’m okay; you’re okay” sort of concept, where everyone has a truth and that truth is okay. Whether that concept is true or not is a different discussion, but that era has slowly come and gone, now replaced with the era we live in today. Anti-Christian. The world we live in is anti-Christ. People are more hostile and more virulently opposed to believers than ever before, and I have never experienced the outpouring of hatred against believers like I have seen in the last year or so.
Yes, it’s a sign of the times, but part of me is curious as to how we got here. And I can’t help but ask, how much of it is our own faults? How much of the treatment Christians now endure has come about because of our reaction to the world? I’m not saying hatred against Christians (or hatred against anyone for that matter) is justified, but I have known many believers who treated non-believers with disdain and contempt. And there’s only so much disdain and contempt anyone can take before they snap.
I’m thinking of a particular church in Topeka, KS, where the congregation protests at soldier funerals with signs that say terrible and untrue things. And if that is the standard by which all Christians are judged, then it’s no wonder the world hates us.
Please understand. I’m really addressing Christians in America at this point. Christians in other nations are a different story. Christians in other nations are truly suffering without cause, truly being persecuted for their faith. American Christians don’t know the meaning of persecution. We sure think we do, but we don’t.
Even if we are treated harshly, even if people say horrible things about us and disrespect us, does that give us a reason to treat them the same way? Absolutely not. No matter what people do to us, we need to love them. We are commanded to love them, commanded to forgive them. Stooping to the level of name calling and back biting only puts us on their level, and if you do that, how can you be different?
Yes, Scripture says that the world will hate us. They hated Christ, so it shouldn’t surprise us that the world would hate us too. I get that. I know that. But we don’t have to give them a reason. We need to live a life that is above reproach. We need to have relationships that are encouraging and uplifting. We need to say things that are good and kind and true, no matter what people say to us. We need to keep our pride and our tempers in check, and we need to remember what’s important: it’s not about us.
So if somebody asks you what you believe, be able to tell them. And when they get angry at you, speak kindly to them. Don’t give them any ammunition to fight you with. Don’t give them a reason to hate you. And if they’re the sort of person who will hate you in spite of the fact that you have truly done nothing wrong, in spite of logic and reason and kindness, then you can address them and yourself with a clear conscience.
But be real. Most people aren’t like that. And if they are, they’re that way for a reason. Probably because a Christian mistreated them in their past. Maybe you can be the bridge. Maybe you can be the one who stands in the gap. Maybe you can be the Christian who changes their mind. Maybe you can be the one who introduces them to the real Jesus, not just the label of a religious system.
Be real. Be kind. Be true. And love people no matter what they do to you. That will make you different. And even as people try to hate you, they’ll run out of reasons.