I found myself welling up with hatred. Strange thing to hear from a pastor, but it’s true. As I was watching a basketball game, the team I was cheering for (my college team) was struggling to stay in the game. Playing in their conference tournament in what was supposed to be a neutral venue, the fans started turning on “my” team with incredible intensity. Most of the loud crowd showed up at the end of the game preparing for the next matchup that featured their college team, which happened to be, located only 30 miles away. So much for a neutral venue! You see, they wanted my college team, the favorite and number one seed, to lose so that their team would have an easier road to the Big Dance.
Even watching on TV, I saw how mean these fans were. They were against the better team winning and I took it personally. I felt like they thought they were so against us and that really really peeved me. It even seemed like the officiating was biased. After all, these were probably some of the same referees that worked the games of the team only 30 miles away from this “neutral” venue.
These are people I don’t know and that made it easier to not like them. I found myself justifying it in my heart and I became a hater of the entire state where this game was being played. “I’ll never step foot in that state,” was one of my thoughts.
As I began to reflect on this, I was convicted and I began to realize something. What I was feeling was no different from how many people outside the church feel about some of us who call ourselves Christians. It could be because we often look at ourselves as competitors…and as better than the other team. It’s the church vs. the world. I’ve heard from non-believers that they feel like Christians are opposed to them and are “cheering against them.” Some of this may be because we hold up a standard consistent to God’s Word that causes offense, but some of it may be purely out of our preference. It’s one thing for me to believe that abortion is biblically wrong, it’s another thing for me to show unbiblical anger toward anyone involved in the pro-choice movement. Another less extreme example would be the debate over climate change. Somehow the church has been portrayed as anti-environmental and uncaring toward the earth.
The result…the folks in the grandstands that are not in the church look at all of us who are in the church as enemies. Many hate us. The people we are called to love and reach to and bridge the gap for, see us as opponents in the arena of life. I’ve heard that in Israel there are two words that Jewish followers of Jesus avoid using because they have a negative connotation there. These words are Christian and church. I wonder if the same is true where we live, and if it’s part of our mission to help people see us not as enemies but as friends.
Have you ever had someone say that “you’re one of those Christians” meaning that you are against them? What have you done to change that? Let’s put ourselves in others shoes and see whether or not they feel loved, accepted and forgiven…or if they feel like we are opposing them and rooting for their defeat.