Raising Politically Incorrect Christians - Changing the Perception I
- Friday, June 01, 2007
We Christians do tend to stand out in a crowd. We should. We are different and different is what God wants us to be. However, we need to make sure we are different in an inviting way. Often it isn't what we stand for that bothers folks, it's the way we stand. It's the way we carry ourselves, the impression we give off, the distance we put between ourselves and nonbelievers, our eye contact and body language and even the terms we use. We need to present our case in a way that is going to speak to the other person where they are. Consider the following two exchanges:
There's Mary, standing at the mall in San Francisco, handing out flyers against abortion. She shoves a flyer in the faces of passersby, yelling Scriptures as they hurry past grasping their children close. Someone approaches to voice her opposition, explaining that women should have the right to choose. Mary says, "The right to choose murder?!" Argument erupts and neither is listening to the other. A young teen runs up to tell her that she has had an abortion and is glad she had the choice not to "ruin her life" by becoming a mother so early. Mary yells back: "Murderer!" The crowd that has gathered around has now blossomed into a mob. Mary is asked to leave for inciting a riot.
Does Mary have the right to be there, voicing her Christian worldview? Certainly! Should she have been asked to leave? Possibly. Was she being an effective witness against abortion? Absolutely not!
Being right or having freedom of speech doesn't have anything to do with being effective. As Hubert H. Humphrey said, "The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously."
Consider another scenario. Bob, a Christian, and Cynthia, an atheist, are co-workers. They are discussing politics when the subject of abortion pops up. Cynthia mentions that she has had an abortion. She says that she is upset by Christians who try to tell her what she can do with her own body. Bob is upset that Cynthia doesn't consider the child she carried a human being but rather a lump of tissue. He tries to win her over by quoting Scripture. Cynthia isn't moved by Scriptures from a God she doesn't believe exists, so she continues to argue the merits of choice. Bob and Cynthia both remain relatively calm, but each approaches the issue from their own perspective, never taking into account what might sway the other. They leave each other significantly annoyed and rather reluctant to discuss this issue again. "But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; If God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will."- 2 Timothy 2:23-26
We can make a few slight changes in how we present ourselves that will not compromise our principles and yet allow us to be seen in a much more positive light. I have identified eight things Christians do that cause us to be seen in a negative way.
If you have ever been in a situation where people were speaking a language you didn't understand, you know how frustrating it can be. You also know how it can alienate you from the others who seem to be quite comfortable and carefree. You can't help but feel separated from them and a little put off. The longer this goes on, the less inclined you are even to try to become part of the group. This is exactly what happens when you use words and phrases with which non-Christians are not familiar or comfortable.
Non-Christians don't understand phrases like "born again" and many aren't comfortable when we say things like "Praise God!" Their body language gives them away. They may look away or squirm just a bit.
Christians are quite comfortable with these terms because they have special meaning to us. These same words, however, can distance us from those who might otherwise listen to what we have to say. Although we are not to be of this world and there should be something different about us, our manner should be inviting and comforting.
While it is vital for Christians to know and understand the Bible, we must understand that it doesn't mean anything to nonbelievers. If you don't believe God exists, why would you hold His Word in such esteem? Quoting scripture isn't always an effective way to prove your point, and can actually cause non-Christians to think of your argument as even less valid. It appears more like circular thinking to try to prove there is a God or that His words should be followed simply by quoting what He said.
This is one area we need to be particularly careful in and be sensitive to the unique dynamics of the situation. Why? Because there really isn't a one-size-fits-all solution. In some cases, quoting Scripture to a nonbeliever may be effective. For example, if the person you're talking with was raised in a Christian home, but has since turned their back on God, they may still have a certain ingrained reverence for the Bible that God could use to convict them. But, as discussed above, you may find yourself in other situations where quoting from the Bible may not be your most effective approach.
I think it is instructive to notice the different approaches that the Apostles used. Although they freely quoted Scripture in some circumstances, they didn't always. When Paul was addressing the philosophers in Athens on Mars Hill, for example, he didn't once say, "as it is written," or "thus saith the Scriptures." Instead, he shared the truth in a way that would be far more compelling to the audience he was addressing.
In some cases then, it is better to use logic and words nonbelievers would relate to, rather than Scripture, leaving the convicting nature of the Bible to those who understand its value: fellow Christians.
Many times Christians are so excited about what the Lord has done for them or what it means to have a personal relationship with Him that we dump all of that excitement all over unsuspecting souls. It's wonderful to be on fire for the Lord, but it's a little overwhelming for someone who is not sure about this whole "God thing." It can scare off someone who was interested in hearing about Jesus. What a shame to have someone walk away from an encounter with a believer less interested than they had been! It can also make them feel afraid to ask anyone else for fear they will run into someone even more "on fire" than you were! Acting this way can make us appear crazy or silly.
The best way to persuade someone to change his lifestyle or accept a belief is to appear natural. We are just normal average folk who believe the Lord is real and try to live our lives according to the Bible. The more we exaggerate or come across as overzealous, the less a nonbeliever will be able to identify with us. They need to be able to see themselves in us in order to accept that this might be something that they should or could accept for their own lives.
JoJo Tabares holds a degree in Speech Communication. Her Christian and humorous approach to communication skills has made her a sought-after speaker. She is the author of the Say What You Mean communication curricula, and has had articles published in various homeschool magazines and Web sites. Her newest study, Say What You Mean: Defending the Faith, is now available. JoJo and her husband live in Southern California where she homeschools their two children. For more information, please visit www.ArtofEloquence.com
This article was originally published in the May/June '07 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine, a national publication dedicated to encouraging and equipping Christian homeschoolers. For more information, visit http://HomeSchoolEnrichment.com
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