Summary: Christians have given themselves a bad name, this sermon challenges us to bring the definition of Christianity back to its original meaning.
In 1996, The Barna Group did a poll on young adults and teens asking whether or not they had a positive image of and respect for Christianity’s role in society. The report showed that 85% of were favorable towards Christians and the part they played in the American society.
The Group did the same poll in 2006 and found that there was a growing since of hostility and resentment towards Christians. These days nearly 2 out of every 5 young persons (35%) claim to have a “bad impression of present-day Christianity.” Beyond this, one-third of young people said that Christianity represents a negative image with which they do not want to be associated with and one out of six (17%) say that they maintain hatred towards the Christian faith.
So why do these people have such negative feelings towards Christians and what makes them have these feelings? Well, there are four things that the people surveyed said they didn’t like about Christianity: the faith itself, the people who profess the faith, the Bible, and Jesus Christ. Now all four of these things are interwoven to make up Christianity, but the people surveyed don’t dislike each of these equally.
Their impressions of the Bible are mixed: most think it has good values, but only three out of ten believe that it is accurate in all the principles it teaches. And Jesus draws an interesting set of reactions. Jesus receives the most favorable feelings from those surveyed, but even the clarity of his image has eroded among young people. Most young people can’t grasp the fact that Jesus never sinned. But the one that got the most negative connotation from the people surveyed was the people who profess the faith. Why though? Why have we, as people who practice the Christian faith, given our own religion such a negative name?
One girl was asked what her image of Christians is. She replied, “Christians are narrow-minded, antigay, anti-choice, angry, violent, illogical, empire-building, convert focused people that cannot live peacefully with others.” Wow, is that really the image that people have of us or is this just one random, harsh comment about us? In a national survey, they found that the three most common perceptions of present-day Christianity are anti-homosexual, judgmental, and hypocritical. These “big 3” are followed by old-fashioned, out of touch with reality, insensitive to others, boring and that we are not accepting of others beliefs. These are the things that come to mind when people think about Christianity. This is what your friends, maybe some of your family, the people you work with and maybe even people you go to church with think about you and your religion; that you are a close minded, judgmental, hypocrite. I’m not sure how that makes you feel, but that pretty much ticks me off and I hope that it ticks you off as well. This thing that we hold so dear to our hearts, this thing that we call a relationship, other people are turned off by it because we come across as judgmental and hypocritical.
There is some good news though. The same people that have such negative thoughts about Christianity also have some positive thoughts as well. The report shows that young people like the fact that we teach “good values and principles,” and most people indicate that Christians are “friendly.” But only a few of them agree that we have “respect, trust, hope or love.” This really saddens me because when I look in the Bible and study the life of Jesus Christ, all I see from him is respect, trust, hope and love.
He came to earth and loved and respected everyone no matter their social status or sexual preference. The disciples trusted him so much that they gave up everything they owned to follow him. Then Jesus showed us ultimate love and gave us hope by dying on the cross. So why do we, as Christians, not follow his example? Why are we known as close minded, judgmental, hypocrites? Why do we spend more time arguing and gossiping about each other than reaching out and living the life Christ has called us to live? The point I am trying to make is this, God has called Christians to offer respect, trust, hope and love to the world but instead we are too prideful to go against the status quo of Christianity to do anything different. I am tired of being a status quo Christian; I want to be known for loving others, not judging others. I want to be known for being true to my word, not for being a hypocrite. Not just for my own personal gain, but because there are people dying and going to hell every minute. There are an estimated 107 people that die every minute around the world and we estimate that only 1/3 of the world’s population is of the Christian faith, so these estimates are true, every minute 72 people die and go to hell. Yet here we sit so worried about if the preacher spoke to us as we were leaving service last week. Or we sit here and argue about what style of music we are going to play at our church. I bet the last 72 people that just went to hell couldn’t care less about what song we just sang or about if the Baptists are going to get in line at Catfish Cabin before we do.