Years ago, C.S. Lewis wrote an essay entitled “God in the Dock.” The essay detailed problems that Lewis had encountered when trying to share his Christian faith with the everyday man. In brief, these problems were:
1.) The idea that history was uncertain and open to interpretation
2.) There was a difference in vocabulary between believers and non-believers
3.) The idea that man sat in judgment of God rather than the other way around, and tied to that idea: a real absence of the concept of sin.
While all of these problems remain in today’s world, there is one issue, possibly more current, that is the primary obstacle to talking openly about the Christian faith to the everyday man. Mainly, that most people believe they already know what Christianity is selling and have pre-judged it to be worthless.
Whenever Christians are portrayed in the media, what you will most likely see is an unflattering caricature. This is more or less to be expected, but there are several characteristics common in the caricature of Christianity that may be instructive to those that are trying to overcome objections when presenting the Christian faith.
The most dominate misconception regarding Christianity is that the entire faith is based around adhering to a restrictive set of rules. This has several consequences. First of all, it’s clear that Christians aren’t perfect, but they are trying. Do you have to be a Christian to try to live up to a bunch of rules? No. As a result, the majority of folks out there think that ultimately, if God exists, they are as good as most people and better than some. They haven’t killed anyone, which is the one commandment they recall hearing. They don’t believe in heaven, but if it exists, they are doing okay without having to go to church.
Secondly, and possibly more damaging, the idea that being a Christian involves following rules makes it very apparent that many self-labeled Christians are utterly failing to live up to whatever standard it is that they are supposed to live up to. As a result, it becomes idiomatic that all Christians are hypocrites; condemning others while failing to live up to their own standards.
The final and probably most prevalent consequence of the way in which Christianity is portrayed in the popular mindset is that committed Christians are soulless and pathetic facades, worshiping and talking about religion in a syrupy manner with a vacant, brain-washed look in their eyes.
When C.S. Lewis presented his findings in ‘God in the Docks,’ he was helpful not only to define the problem but also to present solutions. The best solution to this problem is for Christians to do what they should be doing already: enter the lives of those around them as a fellow man: show them your humanity, befriend them, and talk to them frankly about your faith and beliefs. People will turn down a caricature automatically. They will not be so swift to shoot down a good friend.
Secondly, remember that the benchmark of correct Christianity is not the Christian. When Jesus was scorned for hanging out with thieves, prostitutes, and lowlifes, his response was to say, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Christians are simply sinners who have realized their desperate need for what Jesus is offering. The benchmark of correct Christianity is Christ.