Tuesday, August 20, 2013

An Open Letter to my Traditional/ Evangelical/Conservative Christian Friends

Dear Christians who are more traditional, evangelical, and generally less flaky than me,

After I wrote my last letter, I thought a lot about you. While you were applauding me for sticking it to those other guys, I hope you don't think I just wrote it for them.  Even though I have a strong respect for you and your beliefs, some of the things you do and say really worry me.  I want to share a few things with you as well, some friendly advice to help us get along better as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Stop making me feel uncomfortable to disagree with you about stuff.  I often feel uncomfortable around you, and I agree with you about a lot of things. Imagine how uncomfortable the average unbeliever would feel when you start talking. You are not winning anyone to Christ by ridiculing the politicians, or airing your opinions about immigration or healthcare. What do these have to do with the Gospel? You are creating barriers. Learn what is important in life (knowing Jesus, loving God and others) and spend your time and effort on that. Also work to create an environment where people feel free to ask difficult questions and share unorthodox views without being ostracized (see the next point). It is also helpful to keep some of your opinions to yourself, especially around people you don't know very well.

You don't understand everything about the Bible. Quit pretending you do. It makes you come off as arrogant. You may, to some degree, understand your system of interpreting the Bible. You may even be right about several things. More than likely you are wrong about some things too. It's OK if your interpretation is  wrong, because your interpretation is not God's Word. Don't say things like, "The Bible says 'Christians are going to be raptured before/after/in the middle of the great tribulation.'" Say, "this is what I think the Bible is saying about this topic." Realize that just because other people disagree with your interpretation, does not mean they do not respect the Bible, or that they hate God.

Learn to Learn. A lot of people accuse you of being uneducated masses, that only a simpleton could believe and follow the Bible, that you only hold your beliefs because you have never been exposed to anything else. This, of course, is not true. I have known many very intelligent people who believe as you do. But you kind of have a reputation for saying things like "everything I need to know is in the Bible," even though the Bible does not say that (Psalm 143:5, Prov 18:15, 1 Thess 5:21). So read more, and not just pop-evangelical authors, like Max Lucado or John Piper. Read classics. Read contemporary works. Read fiction. You can learn a lot about people from the stories they tell. Read poetry. Listen to music. Learn about other cultures. Accept that you do not know everything about everything. Realize you can even learn things from people who disagree with you.

Stick to your guns. That is, if you have picked the right guns. "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world." (2 Corinthians 10:4). At the end of the day you can read and listen to a host of voices. It will make you a more rounded person. It will make you an effective communicator. It may even change your mind about some of your deeply held opinions. But it does not change what is True. If you believe people who don't know Jesus will go to hell, then don't stop talking about it just because it's unpopular. That just makes you a jerk who cares more about what people think of you than saving someone's life. Sift out the bad, but hold on to the Good. Your job is not to become more like the trendy, open-minded, progressive Christians. It is to become more like Jesus. Make that your aim and you will do well.

Your bro,

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