Why Don’t Christians Like Unbelievers?

Mar 26

Why Don’t Christians Like Unbelievers?

After contemplating it a little more, I think I know part of the reason why the movie “God’s Not Dead” bothered me so much. Our men’s group at church is currently going through a study entitled, “They like Jesus, But Not The Church,” or something to that effect. The study is about how Christians so often present themselves in awful ways to unbelievers without even realizing it. “God’s Not Dead” fit the bill for me, which is why I wrote my review of the movie a few days ago.

In tonight’s session of our men’s Bible study, we talked about how Christians have a hard time relating to people of other faiths. We use the Bible as an automatic weapon to gun down people of other belief systems. We are quick to try to proselytize, but slow to listen and understand. We Christians bemoan the fact that this used to be a Christian nation, but now our nation is so pluralistic, and Christianity is now just one option among many others, and the Bible is now on the same level as the Koran or any other sacred text from any other religion. After all, we lament, no one views the Bible as authoritative anymore, and Christian holidays are no longer being celebrated, etc etc etc.

As we went through the Bible study tonight at church, I believe a “God-thought” came to me. The Great Commission says, “Go into all the world…and make disciples…” I’ve heard all my life that we American Christians are not carrying out this mission: most of us do not go into all the world, but instead appreciate the comforts of America too much to obey these words of Jesus. As an alternative, we send a check to missionaries and have them do the work in our place. I think this is a legitimate critique of us American Christians. Back in the day, Keith Green said that we tell God, “I’ll go to another country as a missionary, but only if you are calling me to go.” Keith Green said, “God has already told you to go in the Great Commission. What we should be telling God is, ‘I’ll only stay in America if you call me to stay; otherwise, I’m going like you’ve already told me to do in your Word.'”

So our problem has been that we’ve been unwilling to go because we love our comforts so much, right? Perhaps. Or maybe it’s another problem as well.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying before, “If Muhammad won’t go to the mountain, then the mountain must come to Muhammad.” I believe God may have spoken to me tonight, saying, “Since American Christians won’t go into the world, I have brought the world to American Christians.”

So now the religions of the world are becoming more and more present in our own context. And here’s the rub: we don’t like it one bit. Why not? After all, we no longer have to give up our comforts to reach Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists–they are now our next-door neighbors, co-workers, and casual acquaintances like the waitress, checkout lady, or bus passenger. Who knows…even our President might secretly be a Muslim…. AHHHHHHH!!!!! And how are we treating them? Are we treating Muslims in our towns as we would if we were a missionary in Iran to the Muslims? No, we are arguing with them, fighting against them, fearing them, avoiding them, becoming suspicious of them and their motivations, caticaturizing them. We feel threatened by them. Let’s face it: we American Christians don’t like people of other faiths or people of mixed faiths or people of little-to-no faith, and we don’t want them around, messing up this great country of ours.

That’s what hit me: we don’t like unbelievers. I am questioning if the real reason why we won’t go into all the world isn’t just because we don’t want to lose our comforts, but also that we don’t like people who believe differently than us. We don’t want to build relationship with them. We see them as a threat that must be eliminated.

Our desire to see them converted is not based on goodwill toward them.

What if the first step to seeing people of other faiths come to know Jesus is us simply starting to like people of other faiths. I mean REALLY like them? I choose not to use the word “love,” because Christians already think we “love the sinner, hate the sin.” I’m asking us instead to like them. To want to hang out with them and be their friends. Even if they end up not liking us back, or if some of them end up being truly awful people. To still like them in spite of those things. Why not try it?

I think God is bringing the religions of the world to our doorstep to show us that our refusal to personally obey the Great Commission is more than a refusal to leave our comforts, but even worse, is the result of a bad heart toward them.

I think God is bringing the religions of the world to our doorstep to show us that our refusal to personally obey the Great Commission is more than a refusal to leave our comforts, but even worse, is the result of a bad heart toward them.

Just like Jonah.

Could it be that the reason why “They Like Jesus, But Not The Church,” is actually because the church doesn’t like them first? Could we see people come to know Christ, if we just began to spend time with them, get to know them, and genuinely care for them? Might they then see a different side of us than the side they see when we put out movies like “God’s Not Dead”? Might actually liking unbelievers be just a little more effective at winning people over to Jesus than trying to prove to them just how wrong they are?

Can we ask ourselves, “If I were a non-believer, and a Christian came into my life, how would I want that Christian to treat me, speak to me, care for me?” Does that line up with how you are interacting with people of other faiths? Are you even interacting with them at all? Do you like them?

9 comments

  1. Brian Burkhardt /

    The problem I think you’re not addressing is the assumption that yours is the only way. When that attitude is informing the situation, its difficult to hear people when they say that their religion is working just fine for them. I’ve definitely been on the opposite end of this spectrum when dealing with Christians, in that I had a hard time accepting that anyone in their right mind would eschew responsibility by passing the buck to a disincarnate entity. As opposed to just addressing the problem as directly as possible.

    While I detest some of the ancient and outdated ideas that piggyback themselves on the Abrahamic religions, I defend to the death your right to believe and celebrate whatever you like.

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    • You’re right, Brian. In that situation, I think a Christian like myself owes it to the other person to try to understand where that person is coming from, and regardless of what they end up choosing to believe, remain a true friend to the end, even if I do believe that the only way to God is through Jesus.

      I believe this is possible–and even essential. It is my responsibility, no matter how difficult I may think it is. Since when is being a Christian (or a human, for that matter) supposed to be easy??

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  2. My main concern here is that it’s difficult to make sweeping statements that are true across the board.

    One explanation could be culture. Just about everyone is more comfortable within their own social and cultural context, and a lot of people in a specific church are happy with the culture there and are uncomfortable with changes to that culture. Everything from inside jokes to social mores keeps a subculture tight, but difficult for someone on the outside to feel comfortable around. The church isn’t the only place where those cultural issues exist, but it’s a significant one.

    Also, people tend to like to be around people who agree with them, and a large number of people (no matter their beliefs) are genuinely bothered by people who disagree on issues of value.

    You’re probably also largely right about evangelical laziness. I need to give that some more thought.

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    • Drew, yes our Bible study started off 5 weeks ago talking about the “Christian bubble.” I agree that this isn’t just a problem for Christians, but for every subculture. However, I do believe that Christians have supposedly received the Holy Spirit–an agent that is supposed to counteract and overcome that human tendency to isolate ourselves from those who are different from us.

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      • These last two posts have been interesting. I have a couple questions for you…

        1. What about you personally? How do you feel about unbelievers or even people who believe differently in matters of faith than you do? We can all point to the worst examples with embarrassment, but it’s more interesting to me to know what is going on with the people I actually know. And you know, since you brought it up…

        2. In your above comment, can you tell me why you say “Christians have supposedly received the Holy Spirit…”? Isn’t it part of your creed that they have?

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        • Nanda,

          1. My experience with unbelievers has largely been with atheists/agnostics, and I enjoy their company–oftentimes more than Christians–for several reasons that would take too long to explain here. I don’t feel threatened by them, I actually think they have valid points for Christians to consider. They have never acted toward me like the characters in that movie, although they definitely have challenged my beliefs forcibly, which I have no problem with. I have little experience with people of other faiths. Probably because most of my adult life up to this point has been in the South. As for differences between believers, I am totally cool with differences among believers (women in ministry, mode of baptism, spiritual gifts, how God created the world, Calvinism/Arminianism, eschatology, etc.) who hold the Bible as true and as their authority (i.e. evangelicals). I find it harder to associate with “believers” who no longer accept the credibility of Scripture. …And then there are Catholics–those Roman fiends–I mean friends, HAHA. 🙂 I hope you consider me a friend, even though I vehemently disagree with most Catholic distinctives.

          2. I’m questioning whether the Holy Spirit is really at work within the majority of “Christians.”

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          • I consider you a friend 🙂

            I have to admit now you have me curious. Maybe you can write a post about why you enjoy the company of atheists and agnostics oftentimes more than Christians.

            On your second point that’s always a hard call to make.

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  3. Blake Mauldin /

    I think one reason for our laziness towards sharing the gospel with other religions, is all the stories you hear about Christians being tortured and imprisoned in other countries. I personally think that if I were imprisoned because I am a Christian, it is for a hidden reason (almost like Paul being imprisoned).

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    • Hey Blake, good to hear from you! Hope you’re enjoying high school… Yeah, you’re right, it is amazing to hear what Christians endure in other parts of the world. We need their courage!

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