“And so they’ll know we’re Christians by our love, by our love, sure, they’ll know we’re Christians by our love.”

However do they? Nicely, it depends upon who “they” are.

With the hymn “They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love,” congregations sing concerning the unity discovered via Christian love. The straightforward lyrics reference restoration, as Christians stroll and work collectively to unfold the excellent news and save others. The final line of the hymn sings, “And all reward to the Spirit who makes us one.”

The lyrics are emblematic of how Christians aspire to like each other, turning into unified inside their id as kids of God. They share their religious journeys and stroll alongside one another as they search a relationship with God. They work collectively for the widespread function of guarding “every man’s dignity” and saving “every man’s delight.”

This love by which “they” are to know “we” are Christians is outlined by collective belief in God and each other. It is also outlined by the methods wherein Christians come collectively in widespread beliefs, for widespread items.

However what does this Christian love appear to be for individuals who don’t share Christian beliefs and ambitions?

A 2019 research carried out by Lauren Sierra at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary titled “Secular College students’ Perceptions of Christian Rhetoric: A Phenomenological Examine” examined this query. Researchers interviewed 10 college students from Secular Scholar Alliances throughout 5 universities in Texas on their ideas, emotions and experiences about Christianity.

These researchers recognized alternative ways Christian rhetoric creates obstacles to communication between Christians and non-Christians. Sierra recognized three meta-themes throughout responses:

  • Christianity doesn’t make sense and Christians aren’t well-versed sufficient within the Bible or related arguments to make convincing or significant conversations.
  • Christians don’t know easy methods to discuss to individuals who disagree with them, turn into aggressive, and make detrimental assumptions about atheists and different non-Christians.
  • Christians have to pay attention and talk higher total. Individuals are afraid to speak about being secular with Christian members of the family for worry of being judged.

When requested about Christian beliefs and doctrines, interviewees famous that, normally, Christianity is illogical. Particularly, the research’s individuals mentioned two issues — Christ’s substitutionary demise, and the existence of hell — had been probably the most illogical points of Christianity.

“When requested about Christian beliefs and doctrines, interviewees famous that, normally, Christianity is illogical.”

One participant described the Christian God as a “God who sacrificed himself to himself, to account for guidelines that he made.” The participant defined: “That doesn’t make sense to me. If God is setting that the wages of sin is demise — and he’s — both he’s all-powerful, and he can change these wages to make sure that extra individuals can get into heaven or he can’t, wherein case, he’s not all-powerful.”

One other participant critiqued the notion {that a} God who created all individuals may very well be loving, whereas nonetheless permitting individuals to go to hell: “The thought of ‘God created us to be the way in which that we’re.’ God created me to be homosexual,” the participant defined. “And if God created me that means after which punishes me for being that means. That’s a fairly s****y God.”

The respondents concluded: “The picture of God that has been painted for me, each by the Bible and by Christians and by widespread understanding of God, is of a fairly heinous being, of somebody who does some fairly horrible issues.”

Interviewees additionally mentioned discovering Christian rhetoric unable to totally encapsulate the complexities of those large points. They usually might discover explanations for the issues non-Christians introduced up surrounding their beliefs. There was a want amongst individuals to interact in dialog with Christians, however they felt such conversations lacked the depth required to fulfill their questions.

In response to Sierra, “Quite a few individuals urged Christians to only ‘suppose.’”

On speaking with secular of us, one participant suggested Christians: “Be capable of specific your beliefs and why. Don’t simply spit out no matter your pastor tells you.” This particular person added it is very important “suppose for your self and work out why you imagine” quite than simply asserting blindly what has been taught in church.

“Be capable of specific your beliefs and why. Don’t simply spit out no matter your pastor tells you.”

This isn’t to say non-Christians don’t wish to have conversations about religion. Interviewees famous they’d be open to conversations about religion if Christians spent extra time listening to them, made extra significant efforts to ask and reply questions, and spent much less time attempting to scold or disgrace them into repentance.

The truth is, three respondents famous they loved taking part in faith-based dialogue teams that facilitated philosophical conversations about God on campus.

One participant recalled: “I used to be repeatedly going to this Methodist group … as a result of they’d actually good teams that had been really enthusiastic about real dialogue as a result of that’s what I needed. I didn’t wish to simply go there to be preached at.”

They described the group this fashion: “It was like they’ve a gaggle referred to as ‘Who created God?’ which is form of a philosophical view of why — they’re a Christian group in fact — they imagine that God exists. However they’re a small group of simply philosophically talking, is there good cause to imagine that any God exists? After which we’ll fear concerning the theology.”

Different interviewees, nonetheless, felt remoted by their Christian friends. Many described their transition from Christian to secular life as a “popping out” expertise, the place they needed to admit to themselves and their family members they now not believed in God. And for a number of research individuals, this led to judgment, disgrace and bullying.

One participant recalled feeling like an outcast amongst Christians who grew to become bullies after discovering out about their secular id.

“It wasn’t the truth that I didn’t imagine in God that was making me really feel s****y, it was the truth that I used to be surrounded by a bunch of people that did imagine in God and who thought I used to be a nasty particular person as a result of I didn’t,” the respondent mentioned.

“The ‘love’ by which others are to know we’re Christians has turn into an remoted, unique observe.”

All this information factors to 1 factor: The “love” by which others are to know we’re Christians has turn into an remoted, unique observe. In response to non-Christians, this “love” Christians imagine defines who we’re will not be so evident to those that aren’t already inside our church buildings.

Those that aren’t certainly one of us, who don’t stroll or work with us, who query the excellent news and don’t search to “save” others could discover the doorway into the church too heavy to open — or could even be locked. For some, there appears to be no door in any respect, solely home windows via which they see us and we see them, however there isn’t any widespread floor.

Why are the doorways so closely closed? As a result of Christians have didn’t open them.

We’re too comfy in our uniformed communities the place our beliefs go unchallenged and exhausting questions are by no means spoken aloud. We as Christians have confused deep conversations that welcome curiosity or handle issues with poor religion or dangerous intention.

Maybe the true Christian “love” the hymn is speaking about has little to do with sustaining our personal social order and far to do with listening to and making time for these on the margins of church life.

Solely on this means, solely as soon as we open our doorways extensive, will they know we’re Christians by our love.

Mallory Challis

Mallory Challis is a senior at Wingate College and serves as BNG’s Clemons Fellow.

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