A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:34-35 ESV)
According to David Kinnaman, from the Barna Group, 16-29 year olds have a very poor perception of the church. During a recent conference, Kinnaman presented some information that will be released in an upcoming book: unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity and Why It Matters. (HT: Marty Duren) So, how do 16-29 years olds perceive Christians and the church?
too involved in politics-75%
out of touch with reality-72%
insensitive to others-70%
Now, I have heard many people explain away these perceptions. Some say that we should not expect unbelievers to understand Christians or the church. Others suggest that the church and the world have different priorities and concerns. There are probably many other explanations as to why the world would see Christians and the church as judgmental, hypocritical, and insensitive to others.
Regardless of how we try to explain away these perceptions, the fact remains that Jesus seemed to indicate that the world would be able to recognize Christians as disciples of Christ by their love for one another. Granted, this verse does not talk about our interaction with those who are not Christians, but I think the case could be made that believers are also called to serve and love and care for those who are unbelievers. If those who are unbelievers are supposed to be able to recognize us by our love, why is “love” not mentioned as one of their perceptions?< Why do those in this generation see Christians and the church as judgmental, hypocritical, and insensitive to others? Could it be that they hear our talk, but they do not see our walk? Could it be that our sermons condemn their actions, but our actions do not demonstrate the love of Christ? Do you think that they hear the Christian celebrities denouncing culture on CNN, but they do not see Christ's love from their neighbor? As I think through these questions, another verse keeps going through my mind: But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 ESV)
Could this be the same kind of love that God expects us to show to unbelievers? Does God expect us to love unbelievers (and demonstrate that love to them) even while they are sinners? From the perceptions listed above, it seems that unbelievers are not experiencing that kind of love from believers.