The Bible repeatedly tells followers of Jesus to expect suffering, to endure patiently, and to never be ashamed of Jesus of the good news of his salvation (see Romans 1:16). This obviously means different things depending on where you live. In some countries you may be in danger of imprisonment and death, however in America much more a matter of social and cultural dismissal.
On one hand, I have no issue with people writing me off as a Christian. I live to please God. That’s just how it is.
But there’s something that really does bother me, that I even fear, and that is being dismissed for the wrong reasons. This usually happens when people associate all Christians with a particular Christian leader or someone they know personally who has failed to model the love of Christ, lived as a hypocrite or worse. While suffering as a Christian is a very good thing, I’m a bit concerned about being dismissed because of the failings of other Christians or misunderstandings of what it means to be a Christian. Perhaps some people have a false impression of Christ by observing me…
Like any other group, Christians want to be understood and represented fairly. I recognize that I can’t control this, that sometimes I just need to take it on the chin. However, I do believe it is very important for Christians to clearly distinguish themselves from the negative associations that detract from the core Gospel message, and to then let that message be the source of offense. In other words, we need to work on undoing some of the damage we ourselves have caused in order to clear the air and let the gospel do its work.
For example, I find it very important in conversations with people I don’t know and in public settings to quickly follow up an ID of myself as a Christian with a denunciation of the Iraq War (specifically Bush’s reasons for attacking). For the record, I never thought it was a good idea–I remember listening to the radio in 2003 and dreading what our president had just unleashed, but more importantly I want to make sure people know that even if Christians did vote for George Bush, that does not constitute a rubber stamp on all of his policies. In other words, I don’t want people to write me off because they think all Christians support the Iraq war. There are Christians who supported it and those who did not.
Maybe I’m overreacting here, but it really chews me up sometimes to hear the negative associations people have with Christians that really have little to do with the message the God has come to free us from sin and to give us new life, life the way it was meant to be. If you hear me out and understand what I’m saying and then write me off as a deluded, religious nut, that works for me. So long as you heard what I had to say.