Would the non-Christians you know label you as "judgmental"? How do we walk in the tension between maintaining our standards while wooing people to Jesus? How did Jesus do that? These are critical questions that we must wrestle with if we want to be Christ-followers in our post-Christian world.
In a series of interviews with sixteen to twenty-nine-year-old outsiders, 87 percent of them labeled Christians as judgmental (UnChristian, What A New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity And Why It Matters, Baker Books). They described most Christians as people who looked down their noses at anyone different from them. They said that most Christians they knew reflected a "holier than thou" posture–if you smoke, drink, cuss, sport a tattoo or eyebrow ring, use food stamps, put your kids in day care, cut your grass on Sunday, flirt with your married boss–you couldn't possibly be a good person or be worthy of a relationship with God.
Adjusting to a post Christian culture is challenging!! Some of us run for cover. We knuckle down into a protective mode. We try to live in a bubble, blocking out anything that might soil us. Everyone we know thinks, talks, and acts pretty much like we do. Others of us try to blend in. Outsiders have no idea that we are Believers. After all, who wants to be identified with those judgmental people? Living in a post Christine culture is complicated.
How should we think about outsiders? They are captives of the enemy. Because they are captives, they are not as free as we are. Expecting them to think, talk, and live like a Christian is ridiculous. We need to toughen up and stop spending our lives shocked and offended. Our call is to go into the world and love people. That's what Jesus did.
What was Jesus' attitude toward captives of the enemy? He went where they were and started conversations that caused sinners to flock to him. His demeanor, His words, and His actions drew sinners like a magnet. He called them out of trees and invited Himself to dinner at their houses. He stood in the way of their stoning when they'd been caught in the act. He interacted with them at wells when it was socially unacceptable. He called them to be His closest confidantes. He allowed them to wash His feet with their tears, even when others scoffed and demeaned. He didn't care what others said or thought. He never compromised His standards but somehow people knew He was their true "friend". No one ever accused Jesus of being judgmental. They seemed to know that He had their best interest at heart.
To live the Jesus way, we must be grounded in our faith–tight with Jesus, deep into His Love Letters, serious about our purpose, courageously sold out to a lifestyle that differs from those around us, and supported by an authentic community of Believers. These are bare essentials. Get those essentials in place and get going. As courageous grounded Christ-followers, we must not be overcome by bad language, bad behavior, or bad people. They are captives of the enemy and we should expect them to reflect that truth. But every captive deep down yearns to be set free. God's love flowing through us can break the bonds that shackle them. Whatever inhibits you from this call, overcome it. They wait.