September 14, 2010
People like Jesus. They don’t like Christians. Why is that?
It’s no surprise people like Jesus. He loved children, opposed legalism, stood up for outcasts, healed the sick, comforted the weak, preached the good news to the poor.
But why would so many people not like the people who follow him? Aren’t Christians supposed to be like Jesus, to be Christ-like, literally, “little Christs”? Shouldn’t Christians be known for their compassion, their wisdom, their love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?
Many are. But sadly many are not. Christians have too often followed the world’s lead toward angry polarization and confrontation on social issues, political issues and theological issues. As a result, we are often viewed as being arrogant, hypocritical, legalistic and closed-minded.
Common decency is, unfortunately, all too uncommon. How rare it is to give those we disagree with the benefit of the doubt, to seek to truly understand them, to listen respectfully and openly to them before we speak and perhaps offer criticism. As Christians we say we respect life. But too often we show little respect to people we differ with, people who have, as we say we believe, the image of God implanted in their souls.
While the harsh extremes of social discourse are well defined, calm, subtle, nuanced middle paths have been expunged from the public square. Certainly the sound-bite world of modern media has contributed to this. With a myriad of messages competing for our attention, the more extreme it is, the more easily it stands out and grabs us.
Into this tumult I welcome the new edition of Richard Mouw’s Uncommon Decency. (Full disclosure: I was Rich’s editor for this book.) He calmly explains why we need to change our basic attitudes and responses to people who don’t think exactly like us.
And Rich walks the talk. For decades he has been in open, respectful dialogue with all sorts of people conservative Christians are often known to disagree with—Muslims, Mormons, gay activists, pro-abortionists and many others. And all this he does without falling into the mushy world of relativism. Rich is a man of conviction, and he tells us and shows us how to be people of compassion while also being people of conviction.
If Christians would read and live out what’s in this book, then when others see us they wouldn’t only like Jesus, they would see Jesus.