About a week ago, the hashtag #ChristianPrivilege was trending on Twitter. Among the numerous tweets decrying the so-called "privilege" enjoyed by Christians in the United States, one in particular perfectly captured the rage-filled and callow nature that the hashtag represented:
#ChristianPriviledge is looking someone in the eye and telling them that they are a mistake and going to hell, but still expecting that person to like you, and want to be your friend.
[Note – as can be seen in the tweet above, the hashtag was actually the misspelled #ChristianPriviledge, but that’s not the point of this piece]
In one sentence, this twitter user expertly expressed the way in which aggrieved and uneducated non-believers think of Christianity.
Non-believers often view Christianity as an outmoded and mistranslated set of arbitrary rules dictated by men, and they think of those who practice the faith as smug, contemptuous peacocks who take every opportunity to tell those outside the faith that they are damned to hell in order to make themselves feel morally valuable.
Now, let's be clear — there are those who call themselves "Christian," but act in a manner that is clearly not in keeping with biblical values. These people are not, in fact, Christians, even if they claim to be. Additionally, every single Christian on the planet is a human being, and all human beings are fallible. We live in a world that was fractured by the fall of man, which came at the hands of Satan. In short, Christians sin. What makes a Christian different from a non-Christian (aside from baptism) is that when a Christian sins, they acknowledge their error, ask for forgiveness, and strive to maintain their step on the narrow path of righteousness.
It is, unfortunately, the Christian-in-name-only that many non-believers associate with Christianity at large. Further, some non-believers erroneously conflate Christian ministry and evangelizing with the very non-Christian behavior of holier-than-thou incrimination.
Hollywood has not helped Christians in this regard, portraying them either as shrill whack-jobs trying to throw a wet blanket on everyone's fun, or as vicious monsters who want to control your world.
Despite the misconceptions, Christian evangelizing is one of the most compassionate activities in which a human being can engage. It is understood among Christians that non-believers (those who have not committed to Christ and been baptized) will not join the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the new heaven and earth after the final judgment is rendered. Rather, according to scripture, non-believers will be damned to hell, where they will suffer for eternity.
If you knew that your friend of family member was about to be killed, would you not do everything in your power to stop that from happening? Even if the actions in which you needed to engage in order to save them from death would make your friend or family member uncomfortable, upset, or angry with you, would you not engage in them anyway knowing the alternative?
This is the way Christians see the world. There is a lifeboat; they, by the grace of God, have gotten in; you are drowning mere feet away. Though you may interpret it differently, the reaching of their hand in your direction is not a gesture of animosity, but one of love and good will.
Magician Penn Jillette shared a story several years ago on his YouTube channel that accurately encapsulates the incredible importance of evangelizing in the eyes of Christians.
After one of his shows, a man approached him, and handed him a Bible. Regarding this experience, Jillette, a self-described atheist, noted:
I've always said, I don’t respect people who don't proselytize. I don't respect that at all. If you believe there is a heaven and hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward. How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate someone to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?
It is a scriptural command that Christians must evangelize, and do so with "gentleness and respect."
Mark 16: 15-16 states: "He said to them, 'Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.'"
1 Peter 3: 15-17 states: "But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander."
2 Timothy 2: 15 states: "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth."
Although the "Christian Privilege" hashtag dealt with much more than just the tweet quoted above, the sentiment expressed by the author of the tweet is pervasive, and needed to be addressed.