Let’s face it…Christians have a serious image problem these days. Various people and sources have consistently portrayed Christians as bigoted, hypocritical, judgmental, and joyless. Unfortunately, some people who identify themselves as believers have provided plenty of real-life examples to reinforce that stereotype. As a result, the average young adult who has been saturated for years with that undesirable image wants nothing to do with the church.
I recently read an article on CNN entitled “Where are the Good Christians?” It states that Christianity in America is being hijacked and redefined by some as the hate religion. That more and more Christians and Christian leaders range from intolerant to truly hateful. Criticism is nothing new. Christianity has had more than its share of critics over the centuries. And that continues today.
The saddest thing about all of this—and I believe it follows a predictable and standard pattern— is that most people who either explicitly reject Christianity or refuse to treat it with the utmost seriousness that it warrants and then writes or talks about it, do not really know what it is. Or, what most Christians are actually like. In other words, people are not attacking Christianity, but their one-dimensional, straw man image of it. And, usually you can smell the bias several states away.
There are legitimate objections against Christianity. But they come largely from Christians themselves. To me that makes sense. Only those who are thoroughly immersed in a practice or tradition can at once identify the challenges that their religion faces and meet those challenges. It would be similar to me coaching people on marriage if I had never been married and thus didn’t know the nuances of the subject.
If you want an example of the unwarranted, over the top criticism that Christians sometimes receive, look no further than Tim Tebow.
I can think of no one that has received more criticism or been more late night comedian fodder than Tim Tebow. There is no balance. There is no perspective. Yet Tim has handled the criticism with grace, class and respect. He’s a poster child and a role model for handling those who criticize. Critics have criticized him for his throwing motion, his lack of ability, his faith and how he expresses it, referred to as “Tebowing.” When criticized, Tim refuses to lash out, defend himself, attack the accuser, or make excuses.
When Jake Plummer (a former Denver Bronco quarterback) called Tebow a winner but added, “I wish he’d just shut up and that they’d tell him to take his ‘holier than thou’ faith off the field,” Tebow responded by thanking Plummer for the compliment, saying he respected Jake’s opinion and then explaining why it’s important for him to express his faith – because of his relationship with Jesus Christ and for what Christ has done for him.
When people praise him he diverts the praise to God, his teammates and his coaches. He is a leader who leads by example and inspires many. Any leader gets his/her fair share of criticism. It comes with the territory. And for that he is maligned by an endless string of pundits.
Tim is a Christian. He has decided to live his life for God and not for the praise of men. He lives for an audience of one. His mission is to encourage others by sharing his faith, hope and love with them. He wants to make a difference and help make this world a better place. Tebow realizes that at the end of the day, life is so much more than just x’s and o’s and football.
Tim is just a guy with the good sense to say thanks and to serve his Lord and Savior to the best of his ability. Instead of taking his cue, people mock his faith. And that says more about them than Tim.
Jesus was an expert at dealing with His critics. In Matthew 22:15-46, Jesus outwitted the Herodians, Sadducees, and Pharisees – all in the same day. He was never afraid of His critics, nor did He overreact in dealing with them. He was so confident of the truth of His position that He never degenerated into petty squabbles with His critics. Instead He stood for the truth with grace and dignity that gave insight to even His harshest opponents.
The Bible needs to shape our worldview. So if someone says something negative about Christians—no matter how constructive they may try to be—we cannot be thin skinned or love them any less. Christians should not be easily offended or easily provoked. That is because we are different. We are chosen by God, loved by God, forgiven by God, accepted by God, guided by God, protected by God, strengthened by God—and God is more important than anyone else in the universe. We do not have to feel vulnerable or insecure. Or defensive. We can be like Paul who said, “When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly.” – 1 Corinthians 4: 12-13.
I believe there is an irrefutable answer to those who disbelieve and criticize Christianity. That answer is a genuine Christian.