When Another Christian Calls You a “Christian”

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Air quotes are an abomination unto the Lord. – John

There, I said it.

You know what I’m talking about, friend. You’re engaged in an online discussion with another Christian; sharing your religious views, comparing Scripture interpretations, discussing politics, or debating the issues of the day, and in the face of a perspective that doesn’t quite match theirs, they finally decide to detonate the bomb of bombs upon you in some lazy theological mic drop:

They call you a “Christian” or a “Pastor” or a “Believer”.

The air quotes ooze sarcasm, they drip with condescension, and they exist solely to demean you, disqualify your perspective, and shut down conversation. (All very Jesus-esque tactics, btw.) The quotes are a sugar-coated middle finger, letting you know that this relative stranger is declaring your personal faith convictions fraudulent, your public declaration irrelevant, and your life story false. The air quotes are Gospel.

Bull.

The irony of such tactics is that they reflect the kind of unchecked arrogance that Jesus frequently condemned in the Pharisees; the Jewish religious leaders who appointed themselves gatekeepers of the Kingdom. Fancying themselves authorities on the moral condition of humanity, they made it part of their regular job description to police the souls of strangers, while themselves losing the plot.

Jesus verbally tore them a new one, quite regularly. 

The Pharisees are still alive and well today; lurking in comments sections, cluttering your Twitter mentions, and trolling your Facebook threads. They regularly dispense damnation and claim to know you better looking through a few 140-character windows than you know you, based on a lifetime in your own skin. This is hubris at Everest levels.

One of the greatest mistakes we make in our spiritual journeys, is wearing the degrading labels that others would affix to us. We allow their snap judgements and drive-by evaluations to stick. In the face of our far less-informed critics, we so easily forget our roads, doubt our experiences, and second guess our own hearts.

Resist these temptations at every turn, dear friend. They are the stuff devils are made of.

The truth is, Jesus is the only one qualified to verify your Christian testimony; not Jesus as translated by someone else, not Jesus as passed through another’s theological filter, not Jesus constructed from a few isolated Scripture verses tagged onto their opinions.

That’s the beauty of your spirituality—it belongs to you alone.

It is the sum total of your life, your study, your experiences, your relationships, your private prayers, and the things God has revealed to you alone. It is outside the jurisdiction of other people. They don’t get a say. They don’t get to determine your devotion to Jesus. They get to shut up and worry about the redwood plank in their own eye.

The air-quoters want you to feel that your pursuit of God is less intelligent, less authentic, less real, and less relevant than their own, and when you refuse to do so—they lose their minds. When you ignore them, they implode.

Here the good news: Jesus alone defines your Christianity; not a stranger, not a social media friend, and not a bitter Pharisee with a Twitter account and control issues. Never be defined by someone who knows less about you than you do—which turns out to be a pretty extensive list.

The next time anyone tries to cheapen your religious convictions with air quotes, sarcastic remarks, or outright insults, realize that this says far more about them than it will ever say about you. Remember how unqualified they are to comment on the path that you’re on. You keep walking your road and resting in what your heart knows and what your eyes have seen.

Your faith is your sole property.

As for the air-quoters: bless their “hearts”.

 

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34 thoughts on “When Another Christian Calls You a “Christian”

  1. You’re singing my song, John! I recently posted a blog with the same message. I was commenting on the fighting between Christians – particularly online in the comments sections – where the minute there is a disagreement between them, one challenges the “Christianity” of the other. (I see it on your site often btw :)). I roared out loud when a woman commented on my post saying, “Anyone who would do that is not a real Christian”. OHMG for real? I rolled on the floor laughing. Are we really so committed to not seeing our own reflection in the mirror?

    We’ve come up with insulting names for people of a different mind because they challenge our own worldview or our view of scripture. You don’t have to have much of an imagination to know that “Fundie” is meant as an insult with the middle finger as an exclamation point.

    The division among us is growing at alarming rates. The irony is no one can prove their view or interpretation of scripture is the one correct. Not the Fundie and not the rest of us.

    I say the way of Christ is to rise above the fray. Take no offense from those who disagree. I learned the hard way to not take them on at all. Their fists are in the way of their hearts and minds. Their goal is to take a swing and walk away feeling superior.

    Here’s my post btw. I hope you’ve got a couple of minutes to read it 🙂
    http://40churchesin40weeks.com/index.php/?cID=278

    • Great article, Sharon. Especially loved this bit near the end: “And make no mistake, YOU don’t get to define that love as “telling someone the truth about their sins so they won’t go to hell”. That’s not how Jesus did it and it’s certainly not how He taught you to do it.” Pure class, well said. 🙂

        • No was trying to terrify anyone. I sincerely believe that I and my writings were dealt with unfairly and with disregard to some facts—which I kindly pointed out in a letter to her. I was also one of her supporters on this blog—and always have been—it felt very much like a kick in the teeth—and it came as a shock.

    • Read your article twice and loved it., you along with John have hit the nail on the head, I find myself judging and getting a little irate when I have a point of view that I believe to be the Gospel and someone criticizes or just outright doesn’t listen, even when it is fact, and they choose to ignore it..however, by your and John’s blogs they remind just how foolish we can be and how human we really are. Thank you Ms. Bollum for your article as well., I love the paragraph about letting our LIGHT SHINE, and not using it to light them up and burn them. Thoughtful, well spoken and from your heart. May God continue to use you in this Ministry..

  2. John, Thank you so much for all you write, it’s refreshing to hear the truth about all this crazy world, I finally hear all the things I feel, we are on the same page, I’m so glad someone has the guts to speak about the truth, about these people who judge, God help us if Trump becomes president! God Bless !

  3. I think it was my Mom who told me never to question another’s faith. She said it on the grounds that it was rude and besides there was no way I could know what was in another person’s heart.

    Looking back I realize that she also considered it the ultimate in tackiness. In her mind no one with any class would make such a judgment call about another person.

    And besides, neither would Jesus. And THAT was the point of the whole thing!

  4. “Your faith is your sole property”. Just having this conversation in my home this morning…what perfect timing of this blog. So many of your blogs come at just the right time. And a previous comment about fists being in the way of hearts and minds – so good! It is heartbreaking, and while I’m figuring out to not engage with these people it still doesn’t feel like an answer. The division still grows. Where is the redemption? Where does change happen and relationship become restored? Is this the new way and maybe we find a few people (very few) to connect with?

  5. Dear John,

    Thank you once again for speaking truth. Thank you once again for recalling us to what is important.

    Once of these days, I’d love to read a post from you that addresses the issue when someone declares one is not a Christian, or “I fear X has lost X’s faith” when they write such comments based on a few words in a blog post.

    How can we know the entire complexity of who a person is, what a person endures, what a person does not say, from a blog post. Yes, you hit the nail on the head when you said it is more of a reflection of the one who comments than it is of the one who wrote.

    I think people don’t like the way you, John P, spark ideas in them. I don’t think they don’t like the way they feel about themselves when they think on those ideas. Instead of taking responsibility for their own feelings, I think, they choose instead to heap blame on you, trying to make you change so you will say something that no longer ceases to challenge them.

    I personally wish to be challenged every single day. Or as often as you have time for.

  6. The hardest thing we will ever do is:

    admit when we are wrong

    respect someone else’s unfathomable faith.

    resist the temptation to dishonour our ‘enemy’

    love God with our whole heart

    love others as ourselves.

    • Agreeing with everything you said, Kathy. I would add to the list: taking responsibility for our own issues and not projecting them onto someone else.

      • Gloriamarie Exactly ! This is why it is good to follow principles not opinions. It takes all the icky personal baggage stuff out of the equation.

        • Participating in the comments section of this blog is challenging. I believe firmly in following principles, yet I confess there have been challenges to doing that when I see someone read “John P has lost his faith” in reaction to that devastatingly honest blog about “where was God when.”

          Can’t help but feel that the people who attacked John P or those of us who admired his piece, did so because they were projecting their own issues onto John.

          OTOH, my heart breaks for people who appear to have been taught all doubt is wrong, God will abandon anyone who doubts. I say “appear” because I quite clearly cannot possibly know what they were or were not taught.

          IMO, one of the nuggets of gold in that blog post was that John P still clings to God, despite the horrific emotions he expressed.

          • Well said, Gloriamarie.

            Is clinging to God a principle? If not it should be. Because I don’t know how to love God with my whole heart. It seems sometimes I am clinging to his garment and asking him to help me love. I am a good person by worldly standards but ever so lacking in loving ALL people including those who despise me. I am like everyone else I just want bad people to get what they deserve. But it is Jesus who stops me. He is asking me to do more; to love more; to forgive more. But why should I ? What is the ultimate goal? Is it to defeat our enemies or to realize the enemy is already defeated. We are free then to pursue ways to get around the loopholes of hate and start loving the unloveable. What does that look like in your life?

            • Kathy, seems to me that clinging to God is a principle, an act of faith, an act of love and sometimes an act of desperation. After all, “I believe, help me in my unbelief” is right there in the Gospel and no one should be faulted for asking for that help, as John P and others have been.

              “But it is Jesus who stops me. He is asking me to do more; to love more; to forgive more. But why should I ? What is the ultimate goal? Is it to defeat our enemies or to realize the enemy is already defeated. We are free then to pursue ways to get around the loopholes of hate and start loving the unloveable. What does that look like in your life?”

              I work at doing more and forgiving more because it brings me closer to God, to realize more fully within myself the Gloriamarie God had in mind when God decided to create me. The closer I become the that Gloriamarie, the more Christ increases within. Ok, it’s a mystery and a mystic thing.

  7. This is one of the best blog posts ever. john. Well.said and so.timely too.

    It does seem as if people with real faith freedom – like Jesus, for example- attract those who would wish to destroy that free faith and bring it under their legalism umbrella.

    A classic example in today’s world.is the street evangelist who, when told that you are already saved, feels like he has to interrogate you to ascertain whether you have *his* definition of salvation. You can waste hours engaging with these people. But their faith is real to them, and for me the challenge is respecting their faith while keeping my own un-attacked!

  8. I remember full well when my brother referred to the Episcopal Church as a “social club”. This was just before he held an altar call at Dad’s funeral. To say I’m disgusted with him & his beliefs is the understatement of the millennium.

  9. “Never be defined by someone who knows less about you than you do…”

    Great words! I spent far too many years allowing others to dictate who I was supposed to be. I have finally discovered the freedom of being me – with no apologies 🙂

  10. “The next time anyone tries to cheapen your religious convictions with air quotes, sarcastic remarks, or outright insults, realize that this says far more about them than it will ever say about you. Remember how unqualified they are to comment on the path that you’re on. You keep walking your road and resting in what your heart knows and what your eyes have seen.”

    I love this article, thanks John! I’ve been taunted and goaded with this by my narcissistic abuser for a number of years now – I’m not a “Christian” because I refuse contact of any kind with them because they are not safe. It is used to manipulate me into interacting with them again – very toxic behavior. They also claim to know my heart and the apparent hate I have towards them because I won’t play the game. It does say heaps about them but they mainly do this from behind a computer where most folks would not have a clue as to who they really are. I can never unsee the wickedness my eyes have seen and in the name of God too.

  11. John P, THANK YOU.

    I’m not quite sure how you do it but it’s as if you were looking at my life and writing exactly what I needed to hear.

    In fact your post today speaks to me not just in relation to my online life but about my offline life in the real world. It was exactly what I needed to hear.

    I hope this is the only comment I submit in regards to this post, because I know I am sometimes guilty myself of judging others spirituality from the viewpoint of my experiences.

    Truely your post today speaks to everyone on all sides of the fence not just those that I would class as fundie.

    So thank you once again and God bless you. Please keep writing these things that need to be said which speak directly to the hearts of many all over the world, not just those in the USA.

  12. Another GREAT BLOG John, but they all are., your insights into most of our hearts and what we are thinking is truly a work of Holy Spirit. You speak so much about the things that are on my heart but I do not have the poetic words and concise facts or the wonderful way with words that you have in bringing those issues to life. I am so happy you brought up this subject about it puts a check on all of us., I too, find myself at times judging, which I do not have the right to do, but do it just the same., Thank you again for reminding us how really human we are.. and Ms. Bollum your article was spot on as well.

  13. Goodness!! I have *so needed* this John!

    People see Jesus in me…until I reveal that I am a woman of transgender experience. Then *suddenly* I am the devil incarnate, and all that they had seen of God’s fruit in my life and my maturity is re-labeled: counterfeit. I still seek for God to love these people through me, but the pain (and irony) is exquisite. To be rejected by fellow believers is to be rejected by family. But God turns this to good also – most of my friends and family these day are among people many believers would not associate with, and these people see Jesus in me too. <3

    • Brettany:
      My name is Bob and I am a gay male and am legally married to my husband Lloyd and we have been legally married for almost 13 years but have been in a monogamus Covenant with our Lord for almost 49 years.
      Having said that, it has not been always easy and we can identify with you somewhat about how people see Holy Spirit and Jesus and all the Saints in you until you declare who you really are. I am also a Gospel Singer (not professional), and people have come up to me weeping and saying how they have experienced Christ as I was singing, again until I reveal who I am..Then the venom starts to pour out of these “christian” mouths.
      However, as you, we declare our love for them in Jesus name and go on with our lives, we have lost a lot of friends because we have turned to be followers of Jesus Christ, more than when people found out we were gay..
      Now I will get to the point..CONGRATULATIONS for being who you are and not compromising about who you are and what our Lord means to you. Also if you get an opportunity, please look up Lighthouse of Hope Christian Fellowship in Vancouver, B.C. Canada.
      We are a small church body with a Ustream feed and we meet every Sunday night at 6:00 P.M. PST., but, you can find us everyday on the site. We have a great Associate Pastor Sara Neilson who is also Transgender, we have several Transgender persons attending our services, our drummer is Transgender, and one of our youth is a female to male Transgender. There is no difference in our congregation,, we are family and love each other very much. So., thank you for sharing., I know this has been somewhat long, but wanted to get my points across., you are not alone. Please check our Church out and please let me know what you think. God’s richest blessings on you now and always.

      • Greetings Bob!

        *Thank YOU* – your reply was as a drink of cold water!

        I am *overjoyed* for you and your husband Lloyd! <3

        …AND found your worship community, and yes I look forward to joining you folks sometime soon!

        My spouse and I have nearly reached our 27th year of marriage, and one of the beautiful things is how God uses us as a transgender family: people see how we work through our impossibilities with God and they are encouraged to maybe allow God to help them with their impossibilities. I believe that Jesus has called me to be one of the planks in one of His bridges between the Christian and Transgender communities, so I very sensitive to my role as an ambassador of Christ and of the trans community.

        On my blog, I share of some of my spiritual experiences "while trans" that might interest you, or possibly Pastor Neilson. With your music background, you might find that my poem "Interlude" resonates. (Click on my name here to open my blog. I can be found on Facebook also; I always post with my real name.)

        Love, Blessings & Joy Dear Brother! ! 🙂 <3

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