During my freshman year of college, I joined a local campus ministry group and really grew in my faith. I was learning so much and starting to shape my life to better fit what I thought it meant to be a Christian. Of course, since I was becoming more like what I thought a Christian should be, I felt like everyone else in my family needed to do the same and I went home for Christmas break with that thought in mind.
On Christmas Eve, we started to go to church like we always did on Christmas Eve and my sister didn’t want to go. My new legalistic mindset couldn’t comprehend the idea of not wanting to go to church on Christmas Eve and so I called her a heathen. I don’t think I really even knew what the word heathen meant, but I felt like it was the right term at the time.
I don’t know if my sister even remembers that moment, but I do. In my life there are a few moments I’m ashamed of and it has always been up there at the top.
Why does it matter? Because for a good portion of her life, my sister has been fairly indifferent about God and while I don’t know if I have anything to do with it, I certainly haven’t helped. In our family, she’s the fairly calm one. She doesn’t let things bother her, she goes along with the flow, and just tries to keep from rocking the boat. Nothing is really that big of a deal. I’m the one who causes trouble, gets into arguments with my mom, didn’t attend my mom’s wedding to a man I didn’t like and still just barely tolerate, and even spent almost a year not talking to my mom. And I’m the one who is a Christian. If I was my sister and saw that’s what a Christian looked like, I wouldn’t be racing to become a Christian either.
None of us is perfect. That’s why we need Jesus. But when it comes to being a Christian and encouraging others to be Christians, we have a big responsibility.
My freshman year self thought that responsibility came in the form of telling everyone what they were supposed to be doing and calling them out for things like not being baptized or not wanting to go to church. My today self knows that the responsibility comes in the form of loving people.
Am I going to complain some? Yes. Am I going to not like some people? Most likely. Am I going to make mistakes? Absolutely. But when my family and the other people I come into contact with on a regular basis think of me, I want them to remember less of the bad and more of the good. Because if they connect me with Christianity, then what they think of me will often become what they think of Christians in general and if they don’t think very highly of Christians in general, then they’re less likely to ever want to be one.