Four Thoughts from Non-Christians about Christians

July 31, 2013
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UPDATE: Listen to the podcast on this topic.

Several weeks ago, I wrote a post about how non-Christians perceive Christians. The article was based on an interchange with one non-Christian lady on this blog. I was surprised at the number of responses, including those from a number of non-Christians. I am grateful for all who responded.

A few Christians were concerned that I might be compromising my beliefs and convictions by writing the post. To the contrary, I still hold firmly to the exclusivity of the gospel and the mandate to evangelize. But, while I am convicted about the never-changing message of the gospel, I am concerned how we messengers sometimes treat others who don’t believe as we do.

For now, I have provided four examples of what non-Christians are asking of Christians. They were all comments at different points on my blog. Each section represents a different non-Christian.

Demonstrate Respect and the Interest of Others

I can certainly understand that it might be very uncomfortable for you to witness – as a technique for attracting potential followers, it seems very forced and artificial, and it renders any attempt to express real friendship towards the recipient seem insincere and not a little sinister.

I’m an atheist, so you may be tempted to disregard my views. However, I’ve been on the receiving end of numerous attempts to witness, and I’ve never felt that any of the people who made these attempts had my interests at heart, or would offer me the basic respect of considering the possibility, however faint, that I’d put genuine thought into my position; that I might be sincere in my lack of belief.

Try to put yourself in the shoes of your prey – I suspect that you’ll become better people for making the effort.

Don’t Condescend and Discriminate

First I want to thank you for posting this, for being forthcoming and for all the encouraging comments.

I use the moniker darb because I live in the heart of the Bible belt and am concerned about repercussions of being a public atheist. We are, after all, the most reviled groups in America, even behind Muslims. I am concerned about hiring bias. I am concerned about downsizing bias. I am concerned about my children being ostracized or bullied. I am concerned because I have seen it happen.

It is SO refreshing to hear the accepting attitudes I hear in these comments. I only wish I could be assured that these were majority attitudes amongst Christians. I wish that good folks like you would speak out against those who would discriminate against me. I wish I could be myself without fearing proselytizing, condescension or worse. After all, we are all just humans trying to make our way in this uncertain world.

Really Care about the Non-Christian and Show It

This is very much how I tend to perceive approaches from would-be witnesses. I’ve read several posts in which people (believers) have expressed the desire to witness through ‘show’ rather than ‘tell’ and I’d personally have a lot more respect for someone whose life expressed the spirit of their religious belief as opposed to attempting to fill that quota. The Christians I’ve remembered with fondness were those who actually cared about other people; the ones who appeared to express the legalistic, judgmental and relentless and cultish urge to convert were, honestly, kind of a pain in the —. Not people I respected or would want know.

As a non-Christian, I have to say that 90% of these comments continue to back up the point from the article. Most of them talk about “waiting to develop a relationship before witnessing” or something of the sort. There are over 20 major religions in the world, never mind the number of smaller subsets. Has it ever just occurred to Christians that we just don’t believe the same thing you do? That we don’t think you’re right? That we don’t, at any point, want your prayers or your opinions on how we should think? If Christians are going to be so narrow minded that they are only going to have relationships with people that think the same thing they do, or think that they are better than people that don’t agree with them, why would we want to have a relationship? If you can’t look past my religious preferences (or lack thereof) and see me as a PERSON, I’ll just hang out with my open minded, non-preachy friends.

Demonstrate Compassion and Respect

Here’s a bright idea: STOP PRESSURING OTHERS TO JOIN YOUR RELIGION. If someone doesn’t want to join your church, that doesn’t make them a jerk. They’re entitled to their own beliefs, just like you’re entitled to yours. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, but if you really want the rest of the world to accept you, then you need to accept the rest of the world. Stop focusing on how many souls you can save and start focusing on being a good person. And by ‘good person’, I mean being compassionate and generous, not paraphrasing a book written three thousand years ago on a street corner.

I don’t hate Christians, but because of the way I’ve been treated in the past, I’m wary of them. If you want to be respected, then do some respecting in return.

What Do You Think?

What do you Christians think about these admonitions from non-Christians? What do you who aren’t Christians want to say to the Christian community?

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100 Comments

  • Rachel (Hepler) says on

    When a person very close to us took a job in a country who forbade Christian evangelism, people would ask what does she do. I replied with Jesus statement in Matthew 5 when He declared we were to be salt and light to those about us. His final comment on that particular subject was: “In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” I followed this with my statement: ‘She is doing the same thing we are expected to do in the USA.’ This will include respect, compassion, and love which have been mentioned often in the comments above. One year when I had the privilege to teach two weeks in such a country, I was often asked my opinion about some ‘cultural’ thing in the USA. I prefaced all responses with “I am not a typical American, My comments will be my personal response.” The last day of classes I was asked: “Are you a Christian?” With gratitude that they had seen the ‘difference’, I simply said, “Yes, I am.”

    • Jacob Eagleshield says on

      When someone asks me,”Are you a Christian” My first response is “why does it matter to you?” and then,it is “none of your business” I think it is rude to even ask such a question of total strangers. My beliefs are just that MINE and are between me and my Creator. I do not wear my beliefs on my sleeve,I do not identify who I am by them,I do not try to shove them down someone else’s throat,and I certainly do not play God,and point the finger of condemnation at them because they don’t share my beliefs. So,the real answer from me,when I am asked “are you Christian’ is this. If by Christian you mean the very narrow way it is defined today,if you mean a distorter of scripture to fit a political agenda,if you mean hard hearted,mean spirited,and narrow minded,if you mean lionizing some holier than thou preacher,who has built a personality cult and enriched himself at Gods expense Then the answer is NO NO NO and I thank God everyday that I am not.

  • with all the due love care, compassion to all;

    God Loved you so much, that He sent His only son Jesus Christ , that who ever believes in Him should not perish but live for ever. Is there any lack of love.
    Focus on God who created you and loved you. Do not please focus on any human for that matter.

    Blessings with love

  • It appears to me Mr. Rainer is jumping on the unbelievers’ “let’s make Christians look like the bad guy because we don’t like them” bandwagon. We are told in God’s Word unbelievers love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil. What the author fails to point-out are the inconsistencies and hypocrisy of those claiming to be victims of Christian proselytizers. Like the one who presumptuously claims all Christians ought-not to think they are better than people who don’t agree with them, while they simultaneously label Christians as narrow-minded, and states they prefer the company of their superior, open-minded, non-Christian friends.

  • I totally agree with Fred12–the Bible says that there is no one who is righteous, no one who seeks God. They have all turned aside, each to his own way. And unbelievers who don’t want to hear what we have to say understandably prefer being with people who are following that same way. I don’t think being a nice girl like I’ve been for over 40 years is getting the job done, and I struggle all the time with what I should do in the way of evangelism.

  • I must say that i disagree with almost everything here. I hope that you won’t think that because I disagree with most of the opinions above that I must be a jerk, I certainly am not. I love all people and want the best for this world. What I disagree with is the underlying assumptions that underpin this entire discussion. For example, many of the non-Christians are communicating that all they want is “to be respected and loved” and yet I don’t believe that they are properly able to identify what love and respect is.

    In one of many examples that I could cite, one of the non-Christians said, “If you can’t look past my religious preferences (or lack thereof) and see me as a PERSON, I’ll just hang out with my open minded, non-preachy friends.”

    Why should a Christian “look past” his religious preferences? Why should a Christian not love him enough to continually remind him of the truth of the gospel?

    What’s happening is that the Christians are loving their neighbors by telling them the truth of the gospel and the non-christians are interpreting this love shown to them as being a lack of love and respect for their choices. Just as an analogy, when a parent does not allow a child to attend a party for his/her own safety, the child feels like the parent is being unloving, while the truth of the matter is that the parent is being loving but the child just can’t see it.

    I am aware that Christians can sometimes be jerks and can be unloving to non-Christians but I also think that the majority of what non-Christians view as “unloving” is actually love, the love of sharing the gospel, reminding them of their sinfulness before God, the reality of a day of judgment when they will be held accountable before God, and their need to humble themselves confess their sinfulness and the wickedness of their hearts, seeking to be made right before the Creator. I think that these reminders are interpreted as “Christians being unloving and not letting me just live my life and make my own choices” much like the child who wants to go to the party but the parent tells them that they can’t.

    I think that the incidences of Christians actually being unloving is very rare, while the instances of Christian love being seen by the non-Christian as unloving is very common.

    *One must also consider the fact that in all likely-hood, over half of “Christians” in America have never actually been regenerated and so much of the true “unloving and disrespectful attitudes” are not coming from actual Christians but are coming from non-Christians who have been told that they are Christians because they “asked Jesus into their heart”.

    • I couldn’t agree more. I was told that witnessing and telling the truth about God and judgment and sin to someone I love with all my heart made her feel “invaded,” and that it took her a while to get over it. People who don’t want to hear the truth have so many ways to stop their own ears.

    • Travis Grant says on

      Agreed Louis!!!

  • Four thoughts for nonChristians from Christians:
    1. Stop being so intolerant
    2. Trust in God not in man
    3. Examine your own conscience and you will realize that you need to hear what we have to say.
    4. The God of the universe has declared these truths to us, so that we can communicate them to you. It is not by our authority that we speak and so therefore, we do not say them in condescension, but in a reliance on His word.
    P.S. Repent and be saved

    • Bruce Garner says on

      Wow! Number 1 and number 2 sound like Jesus. The rest actually rings of the arrogant attitudes that drive people away from us. The reality is that we operate on faith and faith alone. None of us can really know if we are right or wrong. We will not know until we stand before our Creator and seek the divine Grace we know is there. We walk by faith, not by sight. Faith….of that I am certain. Of all else, when I stand before God I will truly know.

  • Joe Rhoads says on

    I know the desire is to get into the mindset of the lost, so that we can approach them with gospel with ways that will seem less offensive to them, but we need to be Biblical. Should we be listening to the lost on how we are to share the gospel with them? Or should we be listening to the immutable Word of God?
    Quite frankly, I distrust the statements made by the lost in this article. Let give examples from my own personal life. I’ve been called anti-Semitic (by non-Jews, no less) simple because I quoted John 14:6. I have been told that I hate gay people, simply because I said, “God’s Word says homosexuality is a sin.” I have been told that I’m a intolerant bigot because I said I believe in moral absolutes. And so and so forth. I have never said anything in anger or pushy, but uncompromisingly stated my beliefs. And I’ve been hated by the lost for it. So, you’ll forgive me if I don’t trust the perception of the lost about how I or other Christians state their beliefs.

  • Mark Gagnon says on

    1. Any human being of any stripe can be cold and self centered or unfriendly and this may even be typical of a large part of that group and yet if we hold on to that and use it to label we are considered bigots. But not when it comes to christians.
    2. The same standards are not used for other groups.
    3. If the bible is understood properly it will be know that there are believers and unbelievers who are within the church. The wheat and the chaff, the sheep and the goats, Mature believers, new believers, immature believers, there are also false brethren, and wolves in sheep clothing. Is it really a loving thing to label all christians when there is such a diversity of maturity level and spiritual conditions?
    4. I agree with the point of the article and comments, I have experienced much of the same from christians and I am a christian. But there is alot more to the phenomena than this. Even when you calmly, nicely state your belief when asked if a certain thing is sinful, often you will from then on out be avoided. what are we to make of that?

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