In pop-culture today, there's a certain, commonly negative, stigma held toward the church as a whole. I've heard many misconceptions varying from "hate-preaching" to "condescending" to "bible-thumping" to "hypocrites" to "judgemental" and so on. While I want to say none of these misconceptions are true, because they shouldn't be, there's a reason they exist. Far too many people who are far too loud have forgotten what it's really all about.
I think we can collectively agree as a human race that there are too many problems in this world. There are also far too many problems surrounding the idea of "religion," which is where part of the problem with modern Christianity lies. Loud "Christians" have created the impression that this life is about following rules instead of following the person who is Jesus Christ. We were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) to have a relationship with the one who created us and whose image we were made to reflect. The commandments set out for us are there for our best interest, set in order for us to truly be out her living our best lives. They are not commandments to put us in a box, but rather guidelines to set us free from the chains formed by sin that bind us.
Somewhere in the heat of the war between Heaven and Earth, many Christians have lost sight of what Jesus sets as the greatest commandment: love God above all else and love others as yourself (Matthew 22:36-40). The world is judgemental enough outside of Jesus, why must people bring it in an create a misconception about Him and what He preached? When all is said and done and we get to the judgment seat, all sin is counted the same. So as beautifully put in Matthew 7:3, "why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but fail to notice the beam in your own eye?" We are instructed not to judge or be hypocritical toward our brothers and sisters because well, who are we to condescend others when we rack up enough of our own sin daily? We all fall short, at least I know I do. Coming face to face with that single reality is, I believe, a major key to dropping the "holier than thou" front and bringing people to Christ not through hate, but with the unconditional love of our Father.
Don't get me wrong, it is beyond important to preach the gospel truth and bring people to a point of redemption. It is the great commission set in Jesus' last moments on Earth (Matthew 26:16-20). The problem lies in the execution when entire bodies hold signs reading "you're going to hell," "God hates gays," and other variations of hate. The problem lies in twisted verses that portray a lie. The problem lies in people bringing others down more than lifting them up. The problem lies in spitting on a spark with great potential through hateful words instead of helping it become a flame through encouragement. When you see signs of death-holding words or hear condescending/condemning statements or anything else of that nature, please know Christianity in its true practice is not a religion based on hate, it is a relationship with a Father based on eternal, unconditional, redemptive love.
To my non-believing brothers and sisters: I apologize for the hate you have received. You are loved.
To my believing brothers and sisters: take a moment to remember where God brought you from, love from your new heart.