Three Things a Watching World Should See from Christ Followers in 2021

by Jan 6, 2021Christian Living, Holidays

A 2019 Barna Group report revealed some of the top words a watching world uses to describe evangelical Christians. They had the choice of words like hopeful, encouraging, generous, friendly, and caring. However, none of these words were chosen by non-believers. Instead, some of the top results included: Uptight, invasive, selfish, and hurtful just to name a few.

The Bible makes it clear that those who do not know Jesus in the world are watching us. They are drawing conclusions about the faith we proclaim based on what they see.

Look at these – a few of many – powerful reminders in scripture (all emphases mine) that discuss our interactions within a watching world:

“Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world – Philippians 2:14-15.

Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” – Colossians 4:5-6

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16

What Does the World See from Christians?

A question quickly surfaces: what do people see when they’re watching Christians? Based on the data above, there is not an overwhelming feeling we are speaking in a graceful manner that is “seasoned with salt” or that our good works are shining before men.

So, this is where we come to an easy path and a harder path.

The easy path is to blanket all of this data with a couple of verses relating to how the persecuted are blessed (Matthew 5:10) and how the world will hate us because it first hated Jesus (John 15:18). It’s a path that evades any careful introspection and generically concludes that “If we’re being called names by the world, then we’re doing great.”

The second path is harder.

This second path requires us to look a little deeper. It requires us to acknowledge that while there are times when we will be persecuted for righteousness’ sake, and the world will hate us because of the message of the gospel, there may also be times that we are more deservedly persecuted because we are rude, uncaring, or even cruel.

What Should the World See from Christ Followers?

The Bible makes it clear that the world should see Christ on display in our interactions with one another, our attitudes, and in our relationship with our community/neighbors.

While many items could be listed here, I want to focus on three ways we can put Christ on display for a watching world.

Have Love for One Another

You can’t say it more beautifully than the Apostle John:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. – John 13:34-35

If we love other believers in the same way that Jesus showed love to us, a watching world sees that we are reflecting His love to others and concludes we really do believe in following His example – we are His disciples. Unfortunately, that is often not what a watching world sees. It sees fans of Jesus who are not fans of each other and ultimately falter at following the commandment given to love one another.

Related: Watch the replay of our January 27 webinar: Five Steps to a Closer Walk with Jesus in 2021

A question to consider: How am I doing at loving other believers the way Jesus showed love to others (selfless, sacrificial, gracious – with no reciprocation required)?

Do All Things without Complaining or Disputing

This goes back to a verse highlighted at the beginning of this piece.

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” – Philippians 2:14-15.

Most people have seen the “Karen” memes/videos that thrive on social media and websites. The label “Karen” (or usually “Ken” for guys) is given to someone who quickly explodes in anger when something doesn’t go their way at a local store or shop. Unfortunately, some of these individuals identify themselves as Christians in the midst of rants that include foul language and verbal attacks on store employees and customers.

When we are quick to complain and rush to dispute with others, we come across as selfish and argumentative. Instead, we should be quick to resolve a difficult situation peacefully and address disputes with tact and respect. When we take actions like this, the Bible says we are shining like lights in the midst of crooked and perverse generation. Such actions can sometimes lead to the opportunity to share the gospel as your kindness opens doors to deeper discussions.

A question to consider: How do you respond when things don’t go your way? Are you ready to argue or are you ready to seek peace in the midst of difficulty?

Live others-first in intentional ways

It would take up pages of text to list all the passages that are relevant here, but I think Paul sums most of them up well in his letter to the Philippians:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” – Philippians 2:4

Of course, Jesus provides a masterclass in other-first living with the simplest of messages:

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:3b

When I have spoken at churches in the past, one of the questions I’ve asked the leaders is this: If your church was gone tomorrow, how would your neighbors or community be impacted? Would less people hear the gospel? Would more people be at risk of hunger or homelessness? What would the impact be to orphans, widows, and others who are struggling in the community (James 1:27)?

That can be an unsettling question for some church leaders. It can also be an unsettling question for us as individual Christians. If you moved, how would your community – your areas of influence – be negatively impacted?

When we truly live an others-first life, we are constantly on the lookout for opportunities to be blessing to a neighbor or offer time/resources to an organization serving the community. And when others experience this from us, get to know us, and find that we serve the living God, they have no option but to conclude that caring for others is part of what it means to follow Christ well.

Question to consider: How am I intentionally other-first in my areas of influence?

The Resolution

Where do we go from here?

I recommend looking over the three areas covered above and take them up in prayer before the Lord. Ask Him to reveal any opportunities you may be missing to share the love of Christ with other believers, with non-believers, and with your community/neighbors. These are not only opportunities to be the hands and feet of Christ; they are opportunities to open doors to the gospel for unbelieving friends, neighbors and loved ones.

I always find it helpful to consult Psalm 139: 23-24 when asking God to reveal something in me that I may be missing:

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.

While you can’t change the perceptions that a watching world has of Christians, you can improve the perception that a watching world has of you – and “me” is always the best place to begin when we’re looking for a change.

Take the Next Step

While this blog covers “what” we can do to serve Christ better in our culture, we be covered the “how” in our January webinar: “Five Steps to a Closer Walk with Jesus in 2021”.