Good Christians shouldn’t be out criticizing Christians, I’ve had fellow believers tell me. The conversation generally doesn’t go well from there.
One of the things I’ve never been that interested in doing here on this little blog is trying to convince non-believers to convert.
There are people far more talented than I am in communicating that kind of message, and I leave something so important to them.
I have always believed, based on my own experience, that one’s relationship with God is a deeply personal relationship. I can tell anyone I choose what I get out of the relationship I have with God, but the way that is received is completely dependent on their point of view, not mine.
Non-believers, after all, will dismiss my perspective as non-sensical because that’s all they choose to see. Believers will nod in agreement, even if their relationship with God doesn’t seem to be exactly like mine; they will still agree, I’m convinced, mostly out of fear of seeming like there’s something wrong with them.
I happen to believe that no two people have an identical relationship with God. Just like no two people have an identical relationship with their parents, their friends, their mates or their children.
Each individual is different, after all.
Each individual relationship, therefore, must differ as well.
Over at the My Utmost for His Highest website, I found this on judging others:
Every wrong thing that I see in you, God finds in me. Every time I judge, I condemn myself.
But all criticism is not created equal.
From a certain point of view, it could be said pastors “judge” every Sunday by preaching a message of how believers should or shouldn’t behave. It could be said they are using a yardstick they feel God has given them and are applying it to others.
If this were against the rules of God, God wouldn’t have allowed churches.
I’ve had Christians tell me that it’s wrong to criticize the church because it’s Christ’s “bride,” and therefore should be off-limits. To my way of thinking, however, if Christ regards the church as that important, those of us who are Christians have not only the right but the obligation to make sure the humans who are running churches today are remaining in line with what Christ would do.
That, to an extent, is subjective. We all have our own view of Christ. We have the Bible, but if we have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, surely that must take precedence.
That’s why different Christians can have so many disagreements on the “rules” of how Christians should believe. There are issues Christ did not directly address — at least not according to Scripture. We have to apply what we can from the Bible with our personal time with God.
I’ve also had Christians tell me that it is wrong to question the motives of other Christians. I’m sure you wouldn’t be surprised if I were to then tell you that some of these particular Christians then turn around and judge their fellow Christians left and right. If you don’t measure up to their own personal yardstick, whether you’re a believer or not, they’ll have plenty to say about you.
If judging is wrong, it sounds like they don’t want to be right.
I don’t have all the answers. But contrary to what they might indicate, they don’t either.
So where am I going with all of this? Well, it comes down to this: I don’t write about faith issues here to try to convince non-believers to believe. I don’t think that’s something that can be done effectively on a blog. That’s a face-to-face conversation. It’s a long, deeply personal conversation.
But beyond that, there has to be a genuine willingness on the part of the non-believer to want to pursue it. I’ve had online debates with non-believers who are adamant about not believing. As I’m sure you can imagine, it never goes anywhere. Both sides just throw talking points at each other and no one changes their viewpoint. It’s a useless exercise.
Think about it this way: suppose you’re trying to set up a friend on a blind date with someone you genuinely believe is a great match for them. You can talk and talk and talk about how great this mystery person might be. You might even convince your friend to give the date a try.
But then the friend has to do the rest and actually make contact with this person. Even if you arrange for the “match” to go to your friend’s home and pick them up, the friend still has to be willing to actually go.
You could even go so far as to pick up the two yourself then drive them to a fine restaurant where they’ll have the blind date.
But at some point, you have to leave and let them get to know each other one-on-one. If they’re not willing to put in the effort, you’re just spinning your wheels.
On the other hand, I think it’s important for non-believers and believers alike to see that there are different points of view among Christians. Nearly all of us have been hurt in some way or another by the church; whether we’ve felt we weren’t good enough, not committed enough, not worthy enough, or just not valued at all, there have been times when the church and/or Christians have acted toward us in a way that didn’t seem to be very Christian-like.
I think it’s important for believers and non-believers alike to know that.
I think it’s healthy for everyone to see that there is more than one way to interpret things. Even Christian principles.
I think it’s critical for people who are questioning their faith — or even their lack thereof — to know that not all Christians are ready to judge others in the mean-spirited way Jesus spoke against.
Maybe this type of conversation once in a while might spur someone who has felt hurt or belittled by a believer to stop for a moment and say, “So ‘they’ don’t all think that way. That person who spoke out against me didn’t speak for all Christians.”
One of the most tragic outcomes I can imagine is someone’s negative experience with a church or a Christian to push them away from God.
Maybe a conversation about Christianity itself once in a while and learning that there are believers out there that don’t necessarily agree with some of the very things you have questions about might help keep that from happening.