"Christians live no better than atheists," claims George Barna, pollster of the American church world. He says he can find no evidence of transformed lives in the Christian community.
Barna hasn't looked far enough. If he considered the long list of Christian services and institutions (Elim, Bethany, Christian colleges, rescue missions, church-founded hospitals, Wycliffe Bible Translators, Christian missions, to name just a few) he might change his mind. The list is virtually endless. The world is radically improved by these faith-based organizations.
But when it comes down to everyday living on the personal level, Barna is disturbingly on target. For example, a colleague of mine shared this report: He and his wife have friends who earn their living as waitresses. They tell about how much they dislike working on Sundays, when the church people in their community come to eat in their restaurants. Fresh from worship services, these customers nevertheless are the stingiest tippers, the most discourteous, the most demanding.
Our behavior toward each other within the North American church community is not much better. In the early '90s, after more than 30 years in "care ministry," I realized I was hearing the same stories as when I started. Widowed men and women still tell me how friends avoid talking about their deceased spouses: the divorced still feel shunned; the terminally ill forgotten, and so on. Little has changed in the arena of personal care, even in the Christian community.
The story that stunned me most was about a mother who brought her newborn Down Syndrome baby to the church nursery before the worship service. The other mothers, who were oohing and aahing over the other babies, totally avoided her little one, she said. Extra hurt, rather than support, was added by these followers of Jesus.
Most of us have to admit these anecdotes are fairly representative of Christians. On the day-to-day level, church folks do not stand out as more generous, kind and caring, considerate or sensitive, than any godless or churchless person.
But we should! And we can!
Right now, at the beginning of 2014, is a good time to start a campaign to turn God's people into the best deliverers of care and kindness in the world. Such compassion is so needed. It is so easy. And it is right at the heart of Jesus' teaching and example.
My thoughts are running much longer than my typical blog allows, so look for more on this topic next week.