That's what I want to be. Because an awful lot of people don't really like the kind of Christian they're seeing. And that's a big deal. Because it's keeping them from Jesus.
The woman I loved since I was 19 was that different kind of Christian. You could tell by the mountain of tributes I received after she went to be with Jesus a little over two years ago. Those tributes had a common theme - "she made me feel..." They would finish the sentence with words like "loved...heard...accepted...worth something...believed in...I mattered."
Sadly, too many of us who call ourselves Christians are making people feel quite differently. Like judged. Disrespected. Labeled. Lobbied.
You can see it in social media posts. You can hear it in office conversations, family gatherings, opinions about today's headlines. Passionate about politics, about our church, about lifestyles. Seemingly more concerned about changing behavior than changing a heart. Coming across as being more about winning an argument than winning a heart. More about "earth stuff" than eternal stuff. More about religion than Jesus.
Recent research finds that a large percentage of young, unchurched Americans see us as judgmental, hypocritical, anti-people's lifestyles and choices, too political, insensitive - and boring. Not exactly "light of the world" or "salt of the earth" (Matthew 5:13-16).
Since we are "Christ's ambassadors" (2 Corinthians 5:20), He has risked His reputation on us. And it's a fact that most people who decide to follow Jesus do it because of a Christian they know. And that most people who reject Jesus do it for the same reason - a Christian they know. We're either making them want our Jesus or disregard our Jesus. With eternal consequences.
I have to ask, "If my tone, my agenda is keeping them from my Jesus, is it really that important?" God's great ambassador Paul sorted it out this way: "We would rather put up with anything than be an obstacle to the Good News about Christ" (1 Corinthians 9:12). When we encumber the Gospel with anything more than
Christ's dying for our sin and His conquering death, we suggest they must accept the baggage in order to accept Jesus. And that could keep them from Jesus. And heaven.
And we can't delete sin from our message - it's why Jesus died. Sin is simply choosing our own way, instead of God's way. The middle letter says it all - s-I-n. "I." Me. My way. But we can share about it lovingly, talking about our own personal story, as one sinner needing forgiveness to another.
We really need to be all about Jesus. Because they're hung up on Christians, on Christianity, on religion - and the harm they have sometimes done. But that's not Jesus. And eternities come down to what you do with Jesus. Just Jesus.
I've watched my friend Greg be that "different kind of Christian" who changes lives and eternities. He and his wife have prayed relentlessly for their friend Brian for 20 years! Sometimes Brian's been a pain spiritually - throwing up all kinds of roadblocks any time Greg started to bring up Jesus.
But Greg just kept coming back with stubborn - and unconditional - love. When Brian had a life-threatening health crisis, Greg was there by his bed, praying fervently with him and for him. God heard and answered those prayers. Brian got to feel Greg's closeness to God as he listened to how he talked with God on his behalf.
Recently, deaths in Brian's family have started him thinking about his mortality. And the peace he saw in Greg. His Christian friend's 20-year respect and acceptance had proven he was safe with him. So he opened up about the fears, the regrets, the emptiness. And a few days ago, he opened his heart to Christ.
Whatever negative vibe there is about Christians in our culture, the Christian Brian knew was different.
I hope I'm that kind of different. I hope you are, too.
In a world where every place from school to work to the Web to home seems like a battlefield, we need to be "like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm" (Isaiah 32:2). And not just another battlefield.
They will see our Jesus when we're transparent, not "perfect." When our tone in sharing Jesus is the "gentleness and respect" the Bible calls for (1 Peter 3:15). They will trust the one who remembers their birthday, their kids, their favorite things. Who's at the wedding, the hospital, the funeral.
And who treats them like a person, not a category - political or religious or racial or sexual or social. Who sees what God sees. A person made in His image, paid for with the life of His Son.
That different kind of Christian simply sees people, loves people, treats people like Jesus would.
And when will they see our love? When they're hardest to love. When will they see our hope? When it seems all hope is gone. Like the stars, the light shows most when it's darkest.
I really need to be like Jesus. Because someone's watching me today and deciding what they're going to do with Him.