Thursday, September 10, 2009

Living in the Shadow of a Stereotype

I've always been fascinated by how Christians can be perceived by the world sometimes. We are often judged by others before we even open our mouths to say anything. Once some people find out what we believe, they already make up their minds that they are not going to like us and it doesn't matter what we say or do, there's no changing their minds.

I've thought about this a lot because true, biblical Christianity is very loving, genuine, and forgiving. Why wouldn't people want to be around people who are promoting these values? Sure, we don't like sin (although we still do it and hate that we do it) but we are told to love those who sin, regardless, remembering that we, too, are sinners. We are able to do that because we are not the Judge, God is. We have been forgiven of our sin not because we've earned it or impressed God with our own "righteousness" but because we put our faith completely Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for our sins.

Followers of Jesus have a strong desire to share their faith only because they want others to understand the freedom and life-giving truth they have been shown, not because they are trying to push an agenda or get some spiritual commission. We are motivated by our love for people. Our beliefs are based on Scripture, not our own opinions. Our opinions are worthless unless they line up with Scripture. True Christianity is serving and loving, not judging and yelling! But the stereotype is out there - and the loud-mouthed, opinionated, angry ones are usually the ones who get the media attention.

I got a glimpse into a possible reason why people judge Christians when I was reading the book Survivor written by Mark Burnett, the producer of the series. He was talking about Dirk Been, the Christian guy on season one of the series. I'm not sure where Mr. Burnett stands with his faith (I'm certainly not qualified to judge his heart!) but he sure does offer some pretty intense insight to this subject in this paragraph from page 59....

Dirk's demise was probably a few Tribal Councils off. But it was sure to come for he was beginning to annoy Tagi. The reason was his Christianity. There seems to be something threatening about a devout person of any faith to non-believers. It's as though a mirror is being held up to their faults. They feel judged. Whenever an individual closer to life's idea state comes in contact with those drifting farther away - a physically fit person in a room of smokers, a mentally balanced person speaking with someone fragmented and dysfunctional - that person is quietly scorned as a reminder of imperfection. Thus the universal dislike for those seeking a higher plane. Mankind, by its very nature, is an imperfect animal. It's easier to revel in imperfection and mock those taking the bold step towards improvement than to actually attempt the step. On an island that mockery can translate into an easy vote.

I remember reading this before I was ever cast on the show Survivor China. I highlighted it because I thought it was pretty clear that if I were to compete on the show and live my faith out loud, I would not last long according to this insight. That's why when I started the show, my plan was to not talk about my faith initially unless asked. If you watched the show, you know my plan to be stealth-like in my faith didn't work out so well (haha) but I have no regrets. I knew once my faith was made public that I had an opportunity to prove the stereotype wrong. That became my biggest challenge on the show.

If you are being judged, scorned or persecuted for being a Christian, you are not alone. You will probably be made fun of. You will more than likely have to live in the shadow of a stereotype. In a sense, you may even be voted out! Try not to take this personally. We can fight against the stereotype by living the way Jesus told us to - by loving and serving others, no matter what. Persecution seems to be something that happens to anyone who takes a stand for something. However, I've found that if we don't stand for something, we will fall for anything. Anything worth believing in is worth the risk!

I'll leave you with this encouragement from 1 Peter 2:19-20...

God is pleased with you when you do what you know is right and patiently endure unfair treatment. Of course, you get no credit for being patient if you are beaten for doing wrong. But if you suffer for doing good and endure it patiently, God is pleased with you.

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