The other day my son shared with me a picture taken at his workplace. It showed two publicly posted pieces of Jehovah’s Witness literature which someone had defaced with a sharpie, marred with images and words ridiculing the content of the postings and those who posted them.
We seem to live in a day when no one group is immune from hate, nor one group alone capable of perpetrating it. Christians have shown themselves more than capable of defacing and ridiculing the positions of others and Christians receive ridicule in return. And in both directions, it is tiresome. It’s why I so long for recovering the virtue of decency as a fundamental Christian, if not human, virtue. If we are to be attacked, let it be for our righteousness. And if we are to attack, let it be with kindness.
In expressing that longing, though, I reveal that I have bought into the public perception that Christians are in fact “Hate Filled Hypocrites“, to borrow the ironic title of one provocative book. That Christians are not decent is such a prevalent image of Christians that we all come to accept and believe it.
Stephen King is a wonderful writer with often marvelous characters. His Christian characters, however, such as those in Under the Dome or Needful Things are cardboard cutout stereotypes of fanaticism and bluster. I’m currently reading Brandon Sanderson’s fantasy novel, Elantris. Sanderson’s gift is in world building not character development, but in his world the really obnoxious, plotting, cynical characters are the religiously fundamental. We assume that commitment to a religious faith by definition means annoying.
Current controversy does not quell that supposition, especially when news outlets would rather quote the provocative outbursts of a Franklin Graham rather than the thoughtful expressions of a Tim Keller.
Public representations of Christians as extreme and hateful will never go away, especially as we Christians play to type. But I wish I could introduce to the world the large numbers of Christians known to me who have been and are decent men and women, though unknown apart from the few people around them. These are those who face struggles and cares, and yet find joy in the midst of them. They look for ways to serve, and they stoop to pick up others when they fall. None are perfect and all fail in particular ways. But they are genuinely decent people. I have been blessed by such people. I wish more people could know them.
These are not those who are measured and calculating in their religious life and expression. They just live pouring out love for God and for one another. These are those spoken of by the prophet Malachi.
Then those who feared the LORD spoke with one another. The LORD paid attention and heard them, and a book of remembrance was written before him of those who feared the LORD and esteemed his name. (Malachi 3:16)
These are the quiet ones walking humbly with their God and, it follows, loving mercy. They are the decent ones, the truly religious, of whom God says,
They shall be mine…in the day when I make up my treasured possession. (Malachi 3:17)
They are the apple of God’s eye. I wish you could meet them. I think you’d like them.
It is very sad that we live in a world where harshness and hatefulness are common place. There is something proufound and very beautiful about your words in your 2nd paragraph. A challenge for each of us.
“If we are to be attacked, let it be for our righteousness. And if we are to attack, let it be with kindness.”
I love this! One of my favorite quotes from lyrics is, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”
As for the ‘decent’ unknown Christians you’d like the world to meet, perhaps you can introduce them to us. 😊
Introduce you? Why, first off, take a look in the mirror…
Oh wow. 😪 I am touched, but looking in the mirror I see far too many imperfections. I pray that can I can be one of those mentioned in Malachi, but I feel I am far from the apple of Gods eye. My deepest longing is to have that assurance.
Natacha C Etienne
A Very well written piece! I thank God for inspiring you to help us bringing balance in today’s challenges that we’ll be forced to face daily as Christians. May He equips us to do nothing less than His Will.