A pro-life advocate on a college campus calls students passing by her booth “murderers,” and declares that God will judge them for their sins.

A pastor, from the pulpit, refers to Catholics, Mormons, and Jehovah’s witnesses as “stupid,” and “idiots.”

Picketers at a funeral for a murdered homosexual hold up signs that say, “God hates fags.”

A respected Christian organization places an advertisement on a billboard (in an uncharacteristic misstep) along a highway that begins with the words, “To all our intolerant liberal friends…”

As Christians we are outraged when the secular world labels us as extremists and whackos. We are offended when unbelievers make jokes that misrepresent and belittle us. And we become angry when those who don’t know Christ ridicule and reject us. But honestly, when I hear believers using insults such as those at the beginning of this article, I can’t help thinking about what Trumpkin the dwarf in film adaptation of “The Chronicles of Narnia” said to the Telmarines after they had beaten him:

“And you wonder why we don’t like you.”

Christians need to learn a very simple lesson: you don’t win people to Christ by insulting them or being unkind. Being rude and “in your face” doesn’t give the unbelieving world reason to like or respect us, or, more importantly, to seriously consider the reasons for our faith. When Christians mock and sneer or try to “one-up” unbelievers, the unbelievers don’t sit back and think, “Wow, that was a really well articulated, logically thought out insult that that Christian just hurled at me. I think I want to become a Christian too!”

Winning souls, not winning debates, should be our ultimate goal as believers. Seeing people come to Christ, not fighting for our personal rights should be our prime objective. And while we are to stand up for truth we need to do it in a loving way. Unfortunately, many brothers and sisters in Christ seem to have forgotten the manner in which the Bible instructs us to speak and behave. God’s word tells us that, “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” (Prov. 16:4) It also says, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col. 4:6)

When Christ walked the earth he didn’t avoid sinners or stand back pointing a finger in condemnation. He visited sinners, and ate with them, always treating them with kindness. He was firm and direct, telling them they were in sin, but his speech was never rude or condescending. His desire was to draw them to the Father with love and forgiveness, not through condemnation. It’s also interesting to note that on the occasions when we do see Jesus angry it was directed at the Pharisees and Sadducees, the chief priests and the scribes, and those involved in usury in the temple. Jesus hated hypocrisy and the use of the temple as a means to promote financial gain. But toward the sinner, the tax collector and the prostitute, he showed love and kindness, drawing them gently to the way of repentance. We never see him making fun of people or sneering at their ignorance.

This really struck home with me several years ago when I heard the testimony of a woman who had been a member of the homosexual community, but had become a Christian and left that lifestyle. She told the audience that it had been the behavior of a co-worker that had led her to Christ. Initially, she had hated this co-worker because of his open declaration of his faith. She had mocked and ridiculed him and found every possible way to demean him. But his response to her was always kindness. He bought her coffee everyday and performed little favors, all the while smiling at her and from time to time reminding her, not in an overbearing or preachy way, that God loved her. He didn’t condone her sin, and when asked about his beliefs he explained that God’s word declared homosexuality to be sinful, but he never beat her over the head with condemnation. Finally, this woman was broken, not by insults, mockery and unkindness, but by love. The genuine, lived out, love of Jesus Christ.

Christ loved the sinner. His message while on earth was that of imploring the sinner to turn from sin and follow Him. He wanted to save them from God’s wrath, not bring it down upon them. When Jesus and his disciples entered the village of the Samaritans and were not received by them, James and John said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” But what was Christ’s answer? “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.  For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.

 As we live out our lives in a world that does not know Christ, as we embrace truth and righteousness, and as we take a stand for biblical principles, we must always remember to do so in a manner that models the meek, gentle, and wholly loving behavior of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If we really desire to see the lost come to Christ we must represent our Lord as He represented Himself, with kindness and compassion. And we must also remember the words attributed to the English reformer and martyr John Bradford, “there but by the grace of God, go I.”