“Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?”
Matthew 16:24-26 (The Message)
Take any random person off the street and ask them this question: What is a Christian? Then be prepared for the firestorm that will most likely follow. If you spend any amount of time in front of the television or reading the papers, sooner or later you're bound to see something about "fundamentalist Christians," or my personal favorite, "biblical right-wingers." In fact, I have a theory that all the major networks are competing against one another to see who can find the most "unchristian" Christian to represent our faith. In his book “unchristian,” David Kinnaman states the following, with regard to a common, modern-day perception of western Christians: “Entrenched-thinking, antigay, antichoice, angry, violent, illogical, empire building, convert-focused people who cannot live peacefully with others. We are known for having an us-versus-them mentality. Outsiders believe Christians do not like them because of what they do, how they look, or what they believe. They feel minimized - or worse, demonized - by those who love Jesus.” (p. 25)
The “simple” truth of the matter is this: for a multitude of reasons, the term Christianity has become polarizing. We have become known for what we are against, rather than what we are for. Those few that speak of hate and violence have misrepresented all of us… and they have misrepresented Jesus. Up until recently, the majority of us have quietly been sitting back, minding our own personal business. When asked, we acknowledge the few, but adamantly deny any association. However, this borderline complacency has cost us dearly.
A recent study from the Barna Group showed that Christianity is facing a public relations nightmare. In 1996, they found that “Americans… possessed a widespread respect for Christians.” In fact, 85 percent of those questioned, including atheists and agnostics, were found to have a favorable opinion of Christianity’s role in society. However, 10 years later, it’s a completely different story. Only 16 percent now have a favorable opinion of Christianity. (unchristian, page 22-23). What happened?
First Peter 4:16 states the following: “But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his name!” (NLT) These words call us to stand firm in acknowledging our identity in Christ… our identity as Christians. We must collectively live out our faith in Jesus so that our actions speak louder than the deceits of others. We must not run away, or simply tend to our own business, while others defile the name of our Savior. Because we live in a culture where one bad deed outshines 100 great ones, we cannot afford to sit back and do nothing! British statesman Edmund Burke said it best: “Evil flourishes when good men do nothing.”
Think about the perception of Christianity in our culture. If you find there to be a negative perception, come up with some reasons why. Ask God to reveal ways that you can INTENTIONALLY live out your faith in such a way that could combat those perceptions. Use the bracelets as a reminder!