Can You Love Jesus and Hate Jesus’ Followers?

April 11, 2015

I’m not a big bumper sticker guy, but I couldn’t help noticing the one proudly displayed on my new neighbor’s car. When I first saw it, I was excited because it said, “JESUS LOVES YOU” in large capital letters. Great! I thought. A Christian has moved in next to me. I imagined early morning Bible studies, perhaps even attending church together, exchanging prayer lists, or swapping casserole recipes for church potlucks.

But the rest of the bumper sticker gave me pause. In fine print, under the “JESUS LOVES YOU,” was a cryptic second line: “But everyone else thinks you’re a jerk.”

My neighbor is not a theologian. I’m not even sure he is a follower of Christ. But those simple lines gave me some good insight into a phenomenon that unfortunately plagues the evangelical church.

We think it’s acceptable to love Jesus and hate His followers.

The last few years have seen an explosion of books that try to separate Jesus from the church. Most of these are well-meaning efforts to distinguish genuine faith in Christ from hand-me-down, works-based religion. This is important in a culture still influenced by a nominal Christianity, where many think a ticket to heaven simply requires regular church attendance.

We pride ourselves on our independent spirit. Christianity, however, was never intended to be an individualistic faith.

But I wonder if in some ways we’ve overreached and have, in emphasizing the personal relationship with Christ, lost the holistic nature of the gospel message. America is a highly individualized nation—we pride ourselves on our independent spirit. Christianity, however, was never intended to be an individualistic faith.

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