I have a confession to make. When I’m filling out a medical questionnaire or some other form that asks for my religious preference, I’ll skip over the box that says “Christian” and check the “Other” box and write in the words “Jesus follower.” Why? Because so many people think being a Christian without being a jerk is impossible. If I’m honest, regardless of which box I check, sometimes I’m a jerk too.
I’ll explain. Christians are supposed to be different. By definition, different means set apart; distinct. As Christians, we’re often quick to speak up about what we don’t like. We tend to gravitate to like-minded people. We sometimes unintentionally impose our will on others because we believe with all our hearts we’ve discovered true and deep meaning in life. We can be too easily offended. We sometimes speak more than we listen, and when we do these things, we’re not acting different, we’re acting just like the rest of the world.
So how can we be better at being different? How can I be better at being a Christian? The Apostle Peter gives us three practical ways to show that we are pro-people, regardless of their life choices.
Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives. 1 Peter 2:11-12, MSG
- Live as foreigners. Remember, this is not your home! We’re guests in this broken world. We wouldn’t travel to a foreign country and insist that the entire culture adapt to our sensibilities. Why would we expect the world to act like anything other than the world? And honestly, there’s no need to act like the world’s going to blow up tomorrow. The Bible is full of stories of God working through wicked kings, corrupt regimes, and oppressed believers. God is bigger than all of it. He’s still in control.
- Live an exemplary life. Let’s face it, we as Christians haven’t made the best name for ourselves. People are just waiting for us to live up to the reputation of being a judgmental jerk. What if we were known for building relationships with people on their turf—outside of the church. What if we didn’t share our opinion until we had the relational equity built up with a person to the point where they asked us for it? What if we gave people the exact opposite of what they were expecting? Jesus wasn’t afraid to have a conversation with people who didn’t live up to the religious standards of the time. Neither should we.
- Win people over. I haven’t always been a Christian. I can remember during some of my darkest times thinking, I’ve tried it all and nothing is filling this emptiness inside of me. Maybe I really do need Jesus! The only issue was that I literally didn’t know one single Christian who would talk to me. Don’t get me wrong. I knew a handful of believers, but they had all made it pretty clear to me that I didn’t fit into their social circles. As Christians, let’s stop acting like being someone’s friend is the same thing as condoning all of their life-choices. To make disciples, we’ve got to be able to make friends.
We are called to be different. Why? Because the same isn’t working. Because the world—the same world we too easily conform to or avoid—needs us to be different. The world needs Christians who aren’t jerks, who engage, who reach out, who relate, without giving up the hope we have in Christ. Actually, it’s the hope we have in Christ, more than anything else, that should be making us different. Because of Jesus, being a Christian without being a jerk is not only possible, it’s necessary. Let’s do it.