If someone has never really been friends with a Christian before, it is perfectly understandable that they might get the wrong idea. Christian characters in TV shows are usually boring and laughed at by the cool people, and reading the newspaper won’t actually help you work out who these people are. There are lots of misconceptions people have about Christians. This blog aims to deal with 4 of these misunderstandings briefly as we try to get to a more helpful description of who Christians are.
Misunderstanding #1 Christians are good people
Christians are generally polite and friendly, so this is one is pretty common. Christians do tend to care for others and do good things. Some might just be the kind of people who would help you move house or have a chat; others might do things like volunteering for a charity or a church in some way.
But really, if you ask any Christian, they will tell you that they are not good people at all. We can all look kind of nice on the outside, but that’s a poor way to measure goodness. If you go down to considering what we think about, what we say to others, and what we do when no-one is looking, all of us are actually pretty rotten. Christians believe that God made the world and therefore gets to decide what is right and wrong, and by God’s measure the best person in the world is ‘bad’, not ‘good’.
Although sometimes people think of Christians as holier-than-thou types who look down on others, that’s not how things should be. Christians don’t think they are better than those who are not Christian. They just trust in Jesus and therefore are forgiven, and try to live good lives in response.
Christians don’t try to be good to make God impressed with them and let them into heaven; it is not a competition. No, Christians are sure of heaven and therefore do good things to say thank you to God. Goodness is an outcome of being a Christian, not an entry requirement.
Misunderstanding #2 Christians are religious people
Again, it seems that this one must be right. Christians do certain religious things, well, religiously. Most Christians would go to a church meeting regularly, and maybe a Bible study group. They would read their Bibles and pray in private and with their family.
But it’s not about doing the right religious things at all at the heart of Christianity. God is not impressed by the way we show commitment to things. No, once more, it is about what has been done for us rather than what we do. Jesus has died on the cross to save his people; none of us can do this.
Again, from the outside you might draw the conclusion that it is about religion and think that that’s not the kind of thing you’re really into. By nature, it’s not what Christians are into either. But once someone has understood how wonderful Jesus is and God’s plan for the world, they will then want to do these kinds of things. They will want to meet with others who love Jesus, they will look for opportunities to find out more from the Bible alone or with others, and they will love to talk to their Father in prayer. It’s about what motivates this religious behaviour that is important.
Misunderstanding #3 ‘Christian’ describes your ethnic background
In some parts of the world the word ‘Christian’ just says something about the ethnic group you come from. Maybe your village is identified as Christian as opposed to the one down the word that is identified as Hindu. Maybe ‘Christian’ just describes everyone not Muslim in an area. Maybe just being Spanish or Italian means you would identify as ‘Catholic’ even if you’ve never been to church in your life.
But in reality it’s deeper than that. You don’t inherit Christianity, though it is true that it is common for the children of Christians to grow up and have their own faith in Jesus. Christianity crosses all kinds of cultural lines and is found in all kinds of people groups and languages.
Christians are people who trust in Jesus to save them. It’s really that simple. That might flow into good or religious behaviour as a result, as we have seen. But you don’t become a Christian simply through belonging to a certain tribe or village or ethnic group. It’s deeper than that. It’s about God changing your heart so you come to love Jesus and appreciate what has been done on the cross.
Misunderstanding #4 Christianity is just like all other religions; they’re all pretty much the same
Again, anyone could be forgiven for thinking this is true just by looking from the outside. After all, most religions encourage people to be good and religious, right? Things like loving people and not lying and stealing can be found in all kinds of religions. And in our modern multicultural age, the safest way of thinking is that all religions are just part of culture, and who are we to say one culture is better than another culture?
If you’re more supernaturally inclined, maybe you would say that all religions end up in the same place instead. As God is so big and above us, maybe all these different attempts to reach God all kind of work? And in the end, they all get to the same heaven.
It is not politically correct to say this, but it’s not true. Yes, some of the morality codes in different religions are similar. But it’s deeper than that. As we’ve seen before, it’s about motivation. All other religions do something to reach a reward at the end, whether that is a higher level of consciousness reaching nirvana or a weighing on the scales from Allah. But Christianity works upside down compared to that. In Christianity, believers are saved the moment they believe in Jesus. So they are not working for some future reward; no, they have it all now. They are living good lives now as a response, as a thank you, to being saved undeservingly. And that makes a massive difference on two fronts. Firstly, it means that the only way to get to heaven is through Jesus; there is no ‘option B’. And secondly, it means Christians are not acting out of fear, or competition with others for a place, but out of love and thankfulness. That leads to more joy, more peace, and contentment.
Christians are weird people in our world. And there are good reasons for that. Don’t be too quick to assume that we’re just good people, or just religious people, or just like everyone else. We are changed people because of Jesus. Now and forever.