"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." -John 3:17
"The #1 barrier that keeps unbelievers from trusting Jesus is not the Good News but the sinful attitudes of believers." - Rick Warren
Frequently I meet Christians who are caught up in the legalism of their beliefs. The stark contrast between right and wrong is their fuel. Grace in grey areas is difficult for them to grasp. For them, the pursuit of righteousness is so important that their religious views seem to overshadow the importance of building relationships. Religion has become their god.
How does this fit into the model of Christianity? We are called to love others, no matter how different or difficult they may seem. Jesus said this of a prostitute He once met: "Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven — as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little." Luke 7:47 When we realize how much we've been forgiven, we love more, and are able to forgive more.
Christianity has a P.R. problem today. Many people outside of the Christian faith call us hypocritical, stern, and unloving —mainly a political action group. They see us as hostile and condemning, versus loving and full of joy.*
How are we ever going to change this perception? This is clearly a far cry from the life God has called us to. Jesus said they would know us by the love we have for one another — that includes non-believers too! "For God so loved the world..."
In order to change this, each of us needs to make a commitment to be open to God's Spirit, at all times. Once we're saved, the journey has not ended — it is just beginning. We need to be open to being continuously renewed — to becoming more like Jesus.
We need to grow the spiritual fruits of hope, faith, joy, graciousness, and love in our lives. (Galatians 5:22, 23) By the evidence of these things in our lives that the world cannot explain, we will be known as "happy" Christians, versus "angry" Christians.
*See the book UnChristian