Raising Politically Incorrect Christians - Changing the Perception II
- Friday, June 08, 2007
Christians are often perceived as being weird and pushy. How can we overcome these perceptions? Check out this concluding part of "Changing the Perception" for more tips. (Did you miss Part I? Click here)
We need to be careful about coming across as if we don't think we make any mistakes. When unbelievers look at us, they tend to scrutinize us to see if we "measure up." Many of them mistakenly think that, because we speak out about bad behavior or immorality, we think we are perfect. When they see that we are not (and for most of us this is only too apparent!), they may dismiss what we say as if we don't practice what we preach. This is not only a misconception that they have about Christians, but it is a belief that is fostered by Christians! When we speak out against something someone has done yet will not acknowledge our own mistakes, we communicate that we are justified in our behavior but are not willing to tolerate the same justification for others' behavior.
We are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God, and we need to be willing to show this to our non-Christian friends. Being a Christian doesn't mean we never make mistakes. We know that. But the more we act as if we are superior, the more we are seen as hypocrites. We need to speak with grace and respect and be willing to humbly admit our shortcomings and mistakes. This brings us down to a level others can relate to and perhaps even agree with. Amen?
BEING TOO SERIOUS
One of the misconceptions about Christians is that we don't have any fun. One way we contribute to that perception is by taking things far too seriously. While some jokes are not wholesome and some are downright cruel, some are just plain fun. If we lighten up a little bit and learn to laugh at ourselves, we will find that we attract more people to us.
I am one of only two Christians in my extended family, so I take considerable ribbing when it comes to matters of religion. I sometimes receive Christian jokes in my e-mail. Some of them are funny! If I learn to laugh at myself and am not constantly on my guard, thinking that things are meant with malice, I can relax and have fun with them, which only draws me closer to people with whom I can share my faith.
Christians are perceived as the only religious group that actively, and in an organized way, seeks to convert others to their beliefs by opening a dialog. You don't normally see a Buddhist come to your door or meet a Jew who tries to get you to come to synagogue. You may not think this to be true, but let me explain two things to you.
First, most nonbelievers lump several religious groups together and call them Christians, which makes for a larger percentage of "proselytizing persons." This includes the large percentage of Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons who go door to door.
Second, you may be thinking that there is a large Muslim community whose numbers have been expanding for years. The Muslims don't tend to make their attempts at conversion in an organized way, unless you consider the terrorists who use force. These attempts are not considered by most to be acts of conversion, but rather, acts of violence.
The Lord tells Christians to go out to the four corners and share the good news, but He doesn't say for us to appear pushy. The Lord gives us free will, and we should make sure we communicate that to those with whom we are sharing His Word. If we speak with respect and don't harp on something after they have already declined an invitation to church, we are setting a better Christian example. We are also sharing in a much more effective way. If we allow them that free will, they just might take us up on our offer a few months later.
This is where a lot of non-Christians see "intolerance" in us. Should we be tolerant of bad behavior? Immoral issues? Injustice? No. Will condemning the person help him or her to see our side? Also no.
What Christians need to understand is that there is a difference between sharing our beliefs with others and condemning others for theirs. If someone admits to you that she has had an abortion, the worst thing you can do is to condemn her for having done so. Why? Condemnation immediately puts the other person on the defensive. If she was inclined to agree with you (she now believes abortion is wrong), she may not be willing to admit it to someone who is not compassionate and loving.
In order for change to take place, one needs to feel convicted. Condemning others for something they have done wrong doesn't convict them. Condemnation may only make them feel attacked, which is more of an intellectual event. Conviction is a reaction of the heart.
When something you believe in means so much to you, it can be very difficult to remain calm while others poke fun at your beliefs. It can be especially difficult when that belief is questioned and mocked over and over with the sanction of the media and your government. But let's look at what happens when we allow ourselves to get emotional.
Emotions may communicate that you are defensive, angry, out of control, sensitive, touchy or even childish. It leaves people questioning, not only your beliefs, but your well-being, your stability and your objectivity. Often people can mistake emotion for a lack of corroborating evidence. They may believe that if you had a preponderance of evidence to back up your claims, you would not have to resort to becoming emotional.
The best thing to do when discussing controversial issues is to remain calm. Avoid raising your voice or looking annoyed. Think of it as an opportunity to discuss and share rather than a confrontation. The funny thing is that if you can maintain your emotional stability in a discussion, you can often avoid having the other person get too emotional.
We Christians are different and we should stand out in a crowd, but we should stand out in a way that shines positive light on Christ Jesus. We are often seen as weird, pushy, intolerant, judgmental, silly or emotional, but by practicing these few communication tips we can change that perception.
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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