“And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love,
Yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
-- Peter Scholtes, “They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love”
What am I known by? Do people know I’m a Christian? If they do, what face of Christianity am I projecting to others? The face of Christ? Or something different? Am I known for love? If not, what am I known for?
It’s scary to think about, because when it comes down to it, we may have to take responsibility for actions (or inactions) we aren’t always proud of. Of course we can’t completely control others’ perceptions of us, but we can control our own decisions and actions that can take a role in shaping perceptions.
I am a member of “The Media”, and I grow tired of people blaming “The Media” for a litany of woes. To me it often smacks of “killing” the messenger. Sometimes we (as the public) just don’t like what’s being reported, because it brings uncomfortable situations and truths to light. By blaming those who report those situations, we avoid having to take responsibility for our own actions.
While covering a local city council meeting recently, an official chastised “The Media” for focusing on a particular point he didn’t like. I knew he was referring to something I had written; I was in fact “The Media” he was referring to. But I didn’t make the point up; I was quoting directly from something another public official had said both in a public meeting, and an open letter. He didn’t like the fact I had reported it, because it cast his agency in an unflattering light. Rather than take responsibility for the issue, he was blaming "The Media" for bringing it into the light for the public to see.
Earlier this week I listened to a podcast by a national Christian leader I respect and admire very much, but I winced when he commented that “The Media” had given Christians a bad name. While I’ll admit there are those in “The Media” who have openly criticized and been disparaging of Christians, and portrayals of Christians on television and on film are not always flattering, I think we need to confess that Christians have in fact given media organizations some fodder over the years.
One of the most egregious recent news examples include the man who claims Judgment Day is tomorrow, May 21. To many of my Facebook friends and Tweeps, he comes off as completely nutty. Another tragic example is the church from Kansas that protests at military funerals in an utterly offensive way.
More subtly, the infighting that often goes on within and between denominations also paints an unflattering picture to the public, whether we realize it or not. Instead of projecting love, we project disharmony and disunity. Not attributes people would be attracted to.
We need to ask ourselves honestly: “What are we known for?” Or better yet, we need to ask nonbelievers and listen to what they say.
Some have already asked for us, like Dan Kimball, They Like Jesus, But Not the Church, or David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, Unchristian. They report a pretty good list of some unflattering things Christians are known for.
I can’t control how our larger denomination, or other denominations act and portray themselves to the public. I can only control my own actions of sharing God’s love with others, or help my church to share God’s love with the community.
This weekend in my area there’s a community organization, spearheaded by a church, which is sharing God’s love in a big way through numerous acts of service. From a blood drive, to fixing up local schools, to electronics recycling, to helping a homeless encampment, this group is helping thousands of local residents over the next few days. They are sharing Jesus’ love, his servant’s heart, with those who are in need of that love.
It would be great if “The Media” would report on all these actions the organization is doing, but even if it doesn’t get widely broadcast, thousands of folks in this area will still be touched, and on Sunday morning (if we’re all still here) hopefully those folks will have a better idea of who the followers of Jesus are.
“We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand
We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand
And together we'll spread the news that God is in our land
And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
They will know we are Christians by our love”