(*Originally posted June 2013)
A couple of weeks ago I read a blog post which really struck a chord with me. Lindsay of Suburban Turmoil wrote about feeling judged and rejected by the Christian community and asked her readers if anyone else struggled with the same problem. Whoooo boy, do I ever.
I wish I could say that I don’t care what people think. But it truly does bother me that there are those, including some of my relatives, who consider me a “bad Christian” or even question whether I should call myself a Christian at all. That hurts. I’ve agonized over it. But ultimately I’ve come to realize that I simply cannot live my life according to other people’s standards and beliefs. I have to be true to myself and live in sync with my own belief system.
Of course I’m not perfect. Far from it. As someone with a hyperactive guilt complex and whose conscience works overtime, I am acutely aware of my short-comings. When I’m less than patient with others, when I jump to conclusions without all the facts, when I’m so caught up in my own life that I neglect those I care about, or when I fail to speak out against that which I find abhorrent, I feel a twinge of guilt, a prick of conscience which reminds me that I can do better.
But the thing is, I don’t feel guilty about what I’m being judged for. I’ve searched the scriptures and my heart and I don’t believe that the moderate consumption of alcohol is a sin. Neither do I believe that the occasional use of certain words makes me “bad Christian”. I absolutely do not believe that voting for politicians who support my values of equality, peace, and the care of “the least of these” makes me less of a Christian than those who have chosen a political platform with different priorities. And yet these are the very things which some would say make me a “bad Christian”.
People certainly are entitled to their beliefs and I respect those who have come to different conclusions than I. It would be nice if I were accorded the same courtesy but I realize that some don’t have the capacity to do so.
A few days ago Lindsay wrote a follow-up post about being “a bad Christian”. She addressed a comment which asked if professing to be part of the “Bad Christian Club” did anything to further “God’s Kingdom” with this reply:
Maybe—just maybe– God can use me to reach people that the traditional Christian community just isn’t appealing to these days. Maybe it’s okay for me and for you to question the direction and motivation of Christianity today- a religion that often leaves me feeling bad about myself and unworthy, even though the Bible never does. Maybe if enough Christians talk with each other about how they really feel, we’ll start to see real change in the church and the community.
Bingo! I think this is right on the money and something David and I have often discussed in recent years. We frequently encounter folks who have been hurt, judged and even spiritually abused by Christians. We try to show them love and acceptance instead. And you know what? People actually respond positively to that approach. A few have even asked to go to church with us.
All my life I’ve heard fellow-Christians say that we have to be so very careful about everything we do so that we won’t “cause someone else to stumble”. Most of the time that phrase is used to chastise others for not toeing the squeaky-clean-Christian line. But you know what? The people who seem to get their panties in a wad over these differing interpretations of what it means to be a Christian are other Christians. Are they so insecure in their own faith that seeing me enjoy a glass or two of wine is going to cause them to backslide? If I use a four-letter-word on Twitter will they quit going to church? How many no longer believe in God because I voted for Obama?
I think this world would be a better place if we each focused on being our own personal best and stopped judging the choices of others. And I’m talking to myself here, too. I catch myself thinking less than charitable thoughts at times but I’m really working on that.
Today I shared a post about happiness on Facebook. A friend summed it up thus:
It really is just as simple as doing what you want and not worrying about what other people think.
I replied that it was just that simple and just that difficult, especially the part about not caring what other people think. And that’s when he shared this perfect little nugget of wisdom:
I think everyone battles that one on some level. I think it’s more accurate to say, “Decide whose opinion is worth caring about and whose isn’t.”
I have some pretty wise friends, don’t I? The opinions of my husband, children and friends who truly care about me should be important. I should care what they think of me and my choices because I know they genuinely want what’s best for me. If one of these people expresses concern I need to listen and carefully consider their input. But when “concern” comes from those whose only participation in my life is that of disapproval and criticism I need to remind myself that their motive probably isn’t my well-being so much as a need to control or to appear more “holy” than others. Or perhaps it’s due to their own insecurities or jealousy. In any case, I have to keep working on not letting those people disrupt my personal sense of peace. I’m getting better at this but still have a way to go.
What about you? If you’re a Christian, do you ever feel judged by other Christians? And if you’re not a Christian, are there people in your life who criticize your choices? If so, how do you handle it? I’d love to hear your thoughts so leave me a comment.