Accusations Against Christians

California_Drought_Dry_Riverbed_2009There’s quite a litany of accusations against Christians these days, from non-Christians and other Christians alike. Those charges include things such as Christians can’t do art or create good speculative fiction, are greedy and hypocritical and hateful.

Sadly a selection of very visible individuals or groups claiming to be Christians have reinforced some of these ideas–pastors who end up having affairs, televangelists who preach health-and-wealth rather than sacrificial giving, sign-waving funeral crashers who condemn rather than present the good news.

But then there are individuals like the owner of Chick-fil-A who became the brunt of accusations because of his stand for monogamous, heterosexual marriage. He too was accused of being hateful.

Recently, as I was reading Scripture, I realized, we might as well get used to these sorts of recriminations. All the way back in the Old Testament, people proclaiming the truth about God and man’s sinful condition were tarnished with the brush of accusation.

Even Elijah. He prophesied during the reign of one of the most sinful kings Israel would know. Ahab married a pagan and proceeded to lead his people into idolatry like no king before him. He built temples and altars and assigned priests and made sacrifices to these false gods, all the while persecuting those who were faithful to the Lord God who lead them out of Egypt.

As judgment on the nation, God, through the prayer of Elijah, withheld rain from them for over three years. Needless to say, they suffered severe drought and famine. Ahab apparently conducted an extensive search for Elijah, thinking perhaps to force him to beseech God for rain. His search failed because God kept Elijah safe and supplied with food and drink.

When at last God told Elijah to return to Ahab, his first assignment before dealing with the drought was to confront the prophets of Baal. But before he could propose a showdown, Ahab accused him of troubling Israel.

Elijah didn’t let the accusation stand. Rather, he turned it back on Ahab:

He said, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, because you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and you have followed the Baals. (1 Kings 18:18)

Of course today such a statement would be seen as further evidence of a hateful, intolerant, unloving attitude.

I think this is why New Testament writers like Paul and Peter were instructing Christians about how to handle things like false accusations and suffering. Peter in his first letter makes a strong case for suffering for the sake of righteousness, not for wrong doing:

and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. (1 Peter 3:16-17 – emphasis added)

In the end, it seems the only thing we as believers in Jesus Christ can do is live godly lives. Earlier Peter said

Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation . . . For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. (1 Peter 2:12, 15)

Hypocrites! Hateful! Greedy! The accusations will come. The key is to silence our critics, not by taking a defensive stand, even though that worked for Elijah, but by exhibiting good behavior with which the accusers cannot argue.

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Published in: on November 30, 2012 at 6:54 pm  Comments (1)  
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One Comment

  1. Against such accusations, Christians often confuse humility with self-humilitation, and Godly confidence with sinful arrogance.

    Often, though not always, these accusations are simply false, and indeed Christians must oppose them with winsome yet firm refutations, similar to those offered by Elijah. I think also of the Apostle Paul, who stood up for his civil rights under Roman law, and even for his spiritual standing (while giving up other rights) when accused of being weak or uncreative by the so-called “super-apostles.”

    Meanwhile, Becky, I can heartily recommend the nonfiction book Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media, by Bradley R.E. Wright. (I’m finishing my first reading of it now, thanks to a free e-book offer not long ago.) Wright takes on not only secular-spawned or -repeated tropes (such as the plainly wrong notion that “Christians’ divorce rates are the same as non-Christians'”) but Christians’ own woe-is-me wailing about themselves and how they’re sadly mistreated, or else brought the very righteous pagan accusations of hypocrisy upon ourselves.

    Yes, Christians have much to work on. Yes, the Church isn’t perfect (yet it’s better than the alternative!). And yes, the “we’re not perfect” truth is not an excuse. However, all these truths are no reason to try to suffer for our sins in place of Christ — and definitely no reason to motivate striving for holiness (saying “impress others!” rather than, “be like Christ.”).

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