At the service on Sunday morning I posed two questions, based respectively on the lectionary readings from Luke and Galatians and the fact that it was the last day of the year:
- Given the knowledge that you are heirs to the Kingdom of God how will that change your behaviour in 2018; and
- What barriers do we knowingly, or unknowingly, put in the way of people seeking Christ?
I was grateful that one of the elders seemed to address the second question rather energetically during the coffee time after the service. I was interested in the response she elicited from one of our recent newcomers. He said one of the biggest barriers for him was the stigma that society seems to confer on those who openly profess their Christian faith. Admittedly, this is not a barrier that anyone in our congregation is guilty of deploying, but it is serious nevertheless.
Whenever you see a Christian character in a drama on TV they are often quirky to say the least. It seems it is OK to believe in zombies but not in a loving God! I know we are not meant to conform to standards set by society, but by Jesus. However, I doubt any negative prejudices stem from our work in helping poor, homeless and hungry neighbours, as we seek to live by His standards.
How much of the negative ‘stigma’ is driven by real data from real people and how much is driven by preconceptions and prejudice I don’t know, but I do know we need to change these perceptions. For those of you who are normal and sane (I hesitate to include myself) my request for 2018 is that you should look for opportunities to tell anyone and everyone that you are a Christian, trying (and sometimes failing) to follow Christ’s example. Let’s pray that 2018 is a year when we reduce the tide of negativity against our faith in Jesus.