Be Kind, Be Compassionate, Be the Light
As Christians we sometimes get so caught up in saying Christian things that we fail to be real. We have our own language that few outside our church walls understand. We say things like, "It's under the cross," and "But God," but the truth is these words don't help as much as we think they should. We utter, "I'll pray for you," as we hurry off of the phone or away from a hurting person at the grocery store. What if, instead, we lingered? What if we turned off the Christianese and just allowed our presence to talk? Sometimes our words lend more confusion than the victory we think they have.
When we first moved to the Saint Louis area in the winter of 2004, we did what newcomers do - we drove around getting to know the small towns that stretched along the Mississippi River. I kept noticing a sign at McDonald's that read, "Get Your Cards Cards Here." To be honest, it bothered me a lot. Cards Cards? Was someone having a hard time with their grammar? Was this a new Happy Meal toy I hadn't heard about? I put it in the back of my mind but wondered about it for months until I realized I was in Saint Louis Cardinals territory and Cards is what the locals called their favorite baseball team. I wasn't from the area so I didn't know the lingo. People who are unchurched are the same way, they don't know our lingo. There are words and phrases we use that are only understandable to us. When we use this terminology in conversation with the unchurched we aren't causing them to crave what we have. Our lives, our words, and our actions should be different from those of the world, but should also draw others to us and not push them away or confuse them. We need to be mindful of this when interacting with the unchurched both in person and via social media. If your conversations or Facebook posts are condemning or full of phrases they can't understand (and some phrases appear gruesome unless you've been schooled in them!) you will likely have the opposite reaction you're attempting.
A friend recently shared her thoughts with me after her father passed away. The support she received during his illness and shortly after his death from Christian friends and those who don't believe was vastly different. Her Christian friend told her to lay hands on her father and pray for him and all would be well. It wasn't, and it wasn't what she needed to hear at the time. Sometimes our words betray us. The biggest comfort she received was from someone she'd recently met at the nursing home where her father received care in his final days. A recent widow and a non-believer, Ashley simply stood in my friend's room until she was noticed and then embraced my friend in a wordless hug. No suggestions, no advice, just compassion through touch. "If the church offered more of that it might be bulging at the seams. Sometimes people are overwhelmed and exhausted, beaten up by life. Coming into a place where they are given more to do or made to feel like they haven't measured up can be what makes them never want to come back," she told me in a recent conversation. I've found this to be true as I observe life from the front pew. It's not about what we think church ought to be or how we think the preacher should preach. It's about being like Christ.
The best way to be like Him is to be kind and show compassion without condemning. To shine His light so brightly that people crave what we have.