Two women stood a few feet away from me, paging through a book. The store had a mishmash of funny and inspiring cards, little knickknacks, and along one wall, a selection of books—most on spirituality, health, and wellness. As they paged through, one woman paused, commenting on perhaps a quote or story.
The other woman spoke, “I love Jesus, but I hate Christians.” “Yea, they’re terrible,” the first woman agreed. They both chuckled a bit and continued on with their browsing, soon moving to another section of the store.
I stood by a card rack, not overly surprised by her comment—it’s a common lament—but I had never heard it spoken out loud, at such close range, and had it sink in so much.
Because I’m a Christian. The comment was a general, broad, sweeping statement, but that day it felt personal.
“I love Jesus, but I hate you.”
I sort of get it. A lot of terrible things have been, are, and will be done in the name of Christ. Signs held proclaiming hatred, wars waged for the sake of conversion, words of cruelty spoken that bring shame—I hate those things, too. Yet people I associate myself with by proclaiming the label Christian sometimes do not hate those things, but embrace them.
So I understand her statement. Christians can seem quite the unsavory lot, though certainly not all fit that mold.
If I were a braver person, if I were better at listening for God in the heat of the moment, perhaps I would have spoken to her.
I would have liked to listen to her, to hear her stories of Christians who had hurt her, and maybe cry with her and tell her that I am so, so sorry that anyone, but especially those who claim the label of Christian, treated her that way.
And after I listened, I would have liked to apologize, for the ways and the days that I still proclaim Jesus as my Savior but act very little like him.
I would have liked to apologize for careless, graceless words thrown around out of anger or misunderstanding.
I would have liked to apologize for my tendency to squirm but stay silent when I’m in the midst of conversations that don’t reflect the heart of the God I follow.
I would have liked to apologize for lack of compassion, for lack of action, for lack of love.
I would have liked to apologize for thinking and acting like I am better than others, and failing to see the way my God sees them—as valuable, lovable, precious.
I would have liked to apologize for not making Christianity look more like Christ.
I would have liked to tell her I believe in God and a grace I don’t fully understand, one that tells me I am loved despite my inadequacies and failings, but that grace is not an excuse for me to behave and think the way I do at times.
I would have liked to tell her I understand why she hates some Christians, and that I hate some of the things Christians do in the name of Christ.
I would have liked to tell her that I think it’s awesome she loves Jesus, and that I love him too.
But I didn’t tell her anything of these things. Maybe next time I will.
Til next time…
p.s. What would you have said to her?