We have a reputation problem. Increasingly, the public tags Christians with some very unsavory attributes.

We describe these characteristics in our new book that releases this week, Why Nobody Wants to Be Around Christians Anymore. In short, people view Christians as judgmental, disinterested in others’ thoughts, hypocritical, and disconnected from God.

Are these fair assessments? How should we feel about this reputation? One might expect this news to serve as a wake-up call, an opportunity to do some self-examination and soul-searching. But that isn’t always the response. We recently leaked some of these findings in social media. The responses, from some self-identified Christians, have not been altogether contrite. For example:

  • “I believe that people who have that feeling of ‘I feel judged,’ are actually experiencing conviction.”
  • “People feel judged because they know they have sinned.”
  • “They don’t want to repent, just be accepted.”
  • “It’s an excuse. Like any other.”
  • “Unless you’re going to hell, you always feel judged when you’re not doing what you are supposed to do.”
  • “They don’t want to be convicted of their sin, repent and change their lives.”
  • “People don’t want to go to church because they don’t want to be told what to do or that their lifestyle choices are sin.”
  • “The Bible says to hate sin, but love the sinner. The things you say people are caught up on are mentioned as abominations in the eyes of God.”

These responses concern and sadden me, for a couple of reasons. First, assuming–judging–someone’s heart who says, “I feel judged,” just compounds the judgment. And it only confirms the public’s perception that Christians are indeed judgmental and hypocritical loudmouths.

Secondly, this knee-jerk tendency to condemn the public shifts all the blame and leaves the self-described Christians feeling entirely unaccountable, completely released from any need to improve. This high-octane self-righteousness does nothing to solve the problem. It only exacerbates it.

And, frankly, I’m puzzled by the zeal and sheer delight some show in their hasty condemnation of their neighbors.

Of course it’s true that everyone–believer and not-yet-believer alike–is guilty of sin and in need of repentance. But reading people’s hearts is God’s responsibility. Conviction is the work of the Holy Spirit. The public finds it repulsive when mere humans attempt to be God.

In the book we describe a Barna Group study that found 51 percent of self-identified Christians in the U.S. have the same judgmental and hypocritical attitudes and actions portrayed by the Pharisees in the New Testament. Only 1 out of 7 live out the attitudes and actions associated with Jesus.

As followers of Christ, we’re called to love. And we’re challenged, by Jesus, to be known not for our eagerness to condemn, but for our love. That’s a reputation that’s magnetic, that draws people into the light of Christ.

In the next post, I’ll share how willing followers of Jesus can begin to earn a better reputation through some simple “acts of love.”