Top 8 Misperceptions About Christians & Christianity
What are the greatest misconceptions about being a Christian and Christianity? Here are the top eight. And all eight are based on the same basic fallacy…
No Intro Needed
Does this post even need a preface or an introduction?
I don’t think it does.
Let’s just get right into it.
Here are what I believe are the top eight misconceptions about being a Christian and Christianity…
⓵ Christians don’t have problems
This, to me, is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, misconceptions about being a Christian: that, upon accepting Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, your life will suddenly become perfect.
That your problems will magically disappear, and that every day will be filled with sunshines, rainbows and unicorns.
I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but that’s simply not the deal.
I wrote about this at length here, and the following is an excerpt from that post:
Paul: Paul was dedicated to persecuting the early Disciples of Christ until, via a miraculous encounter with Jesus, he became an apostle who taught the Gospel to the first-century World. Paul is credited with writing thirteen of the twenty-seven books in the New Testament. Here is a partial list of things he endured, word for word, from a single scripture in the Bible, 2 Corinthians 24-27:
“Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.”
If you thought David experienced a lot, Paul experienced even more. And, again, we’re talking about the single greatest contributor to the authoring of the New Testament, the primary message of which was the good news of Jesus Christ, the most important message in the history of humanity, in my opinion.
The point: if the greatest, most significant characters in the Bible were not spared from pain and suffering, (exactly as God stated clearly in His Word) why would we logically think WE would be spared from such things?
It doesn’t make any sense to think that God would grant a completely ordinary person like me – or you – privileges and protections He didn’t give the most important people at the very core of His story.
This is a big point, so I want to err on the side of making it very clearly: it is wholly and completely unreasonable to blame God for all the pain and suffering in the world when:
He promised – directly and explicitly – we would have pain and suffering in this life.
His focus is NOT on this life, but on eternity. As such, His focus in not on providing us comfortable, easy, prosperous and trouble-free lives, but rather on making sure we end up with Him in eternity.
The greatest characters in the Bible experienced incredible amounts of pain and suffering; if that is true, why would we think we deserve anything better?
So, our lack of knowledge is a major issue with respect to blaming God for pain and suffering.
Summarizing all that, no, being a Christian does NOT mean your life will suddenly be devoid of problems.
So, that’s the first big misconception: that being a Christian means that suddenly your life will be free of trials and tribulations.
That’s simply not the case, as much as we may like it to be.
God’s Word as expressed in the Bible makes that abundantly clear.
⓶ Christians are weak, cheek-turning pacifists
Yes, it’s true that Christians are called to “turn the other cheek.”
But not out of weakness, but rather out of obedience and recognition.
Obedience in the sense that that’s what the Bible tells Christians to do. As per Matthew 5:38-40:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.”
And recognition in the sense that the Bible states that it is God who is to repay those who do them harm. The key scripture that says this is Romans 12:19-21:
“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.” On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
On a human level, there is obvious, inherent wisdom in not repaying evil with more evil, as that is a game no one can win. All we have to do is look at the long, sordid history of the conflict in the Middle East to see how that has played out.
When we exchange an eye-for-an-eye, everyone ends up blind.
When we let God handle vengeance for us, we limit the incremental damage to ourselves.
Further, note that that last Scripture starts with, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath…”
This is subjective, but my interpretation of this is, “If you decide to take revenge on your own, you will not be leaving room for God’s wrath.”
In other words, God may be telling us that we can avenge the wrongs done against us our way, or His way, but not both.
Ergo, it very well could be that, the minute we decide to do anything in terms of seeking revenge against any other person for any reason whatsoever, we are effectively tying God’s hands and preventing Him from acting on our behalf.
The bottom line: while it’s true that Christians are called to turn the other cheek, that doesn’t originate from a place of weakness, but rather from a place of understanding.
⓷ Christians are always prosperous and successful
This misconception stems largely from something known as the “Prosperity Gospel,” made popular primarily by a handful of televangelists.
This Prosperity Gospel suggests (or states outright) that financial success (and other personal blessings) is the natural, expected result for those who accept Christ.
This perversion of the Christian faith essentially views God as a cosmic vending machine: Drop your offering in the plate, and God will reward with something material!
And while it’s certainly logical and reasonable to think that financial success may well result for those who practice what the Bible preaches – honesty, diligence, discipline, treating others fairly, being prudent and wise, saving, having a strong work ethic, etc. – such financial success is not guaranteed.
More importantly, focusing on the accumulation of wealth and material possessions is a perversion of the intent of the actual Gospel, which is not about this life per se, but rather about preparing us for eternity, and helping us to make it to heaven where will spend eternity with God.
Not to mention that thinking that God will grant you material success in this life on the basis of simply being a Christian is the fast track to losing your faith when things don’t necessarily play out that way.
As an aside, did you know that the Bible talks more about finances than any other individual topic? It does.
And I believe it does so because God so clearly understands us and our nature, and how so many of us tend to idolize money than more than we idolize Him.
Finally, the Bible is full of Scriptures that directly contradict the Prosperity Gospel. Here are a few examples:
✝ 1 Timothy 6:7-10: “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
✝ Mark 10:21-24: “Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
✝ Matthew 6:19-21: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Even the Lord’s Prayer – which is the model for how Christians are supposed to pray – lends credence to the idea that Christians are not called to focus on prosperity.
As you may recall, the Lord’s Prayer includes this line: “Give us this day our daily bread.”
In other words, we are told to ask God for just what we need to get through the day, AKA, “our daily bread.”
Ergo, our focus should not be on material things, but rather on staying purposefully dependent on God’s daily provision.
So, yes, while it is entirely possible that a Christian can accumulate wealth and possessions, that is not the goal of being a Christian. Nor is it typically the outcome.
Also, I feel it’s important to note that money is not evil or a bad thing in and of itself.
Lots of people – many of them Christians – believe that money is “the root of all evil.”
But, if you go back and re-read the first scripture in this section referenced above, you’ll see that it says, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”
So, it’s the LOVE OF money that is the problem, not the possession of it.
⓸ Christianity is just one of many ways to heaven/to God
“Christianity is just one way to heaven.”
“We all worship the same God.”
“All religions are created equally.”
We’ve all heard these things, right?
Unfortunately, these well-intentioned and politically correct-driven sentiments contradict what the Bible actually says.
Here are the key Scriptures that state this explicitly:
✝ John 14:6 – “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
✝ John 11:25-26 – “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.”
✝ Acts 4:12 – “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
✝ John 3:36 – “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.”
✝ John 3:18 – “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”
So, while you may not like this, it is the reality of the situation.
You cannot simultaneously believe in the God of the Christian Bible and also believe that there are other paths to heaven, or that there are any other “big-G” Gods.
Which makes sense even from a simple human, logical perspective, because — if other religions are correct — then that renders the entire Christian story incorrect, and vice versa.
You can’t have God creating the universe and everything in it in seven days, etc., AND have other creation theories be correct at the same time.
It’s one, or the other.
And you can’t have Jesus Christ as the only savior of mankind AND have some other figure playing a similar role.
It’s either JC, or someone else.
Only one “God theory” can be correct.
So, even from a basic, logical, common sense perspective, Christianity is not and cannot be just one of many ways to heaven.
⓹ Christians should keep their beliefs to themselves so as to not upset others
In my humble opinion, next to the Prosperity Gospel, the “I’m going to avoid talking about religion so as not to offend others” phenomenon is perhaps the second largest perversion of the true Christian doctrine.
Exactly as with the prior misconception, I believe this stems from simple ignorance: many (most?) people have never actually read the Bible, so they simply don’t know what it says.
Here is what it says with respect to this significant misperception, which we find at Matthew 28:16-20:
“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
That Scripture is known as the “Great Commission.”
Here is what Wikipedia says about the Great Commission:
“In Christianity, the Great Commission is the instruction of the resurrected Jesus Christ to his disciples to spread the gospel to all the nations of the world. The most famous version of the Great Commission is in Matthew 28:16–20, where on a mountain in Galilee Jesus calls on his followers to make disciples of and baptize all nations in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
So, what many view as THE GREATEST command in terms of what Christians are called to do directly contradicts the idea of not offending others by avoiding the topic of religion.
Another Scripture along these lines can be found at Matthew 5:13-16:
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
In other words, Christians are called not to hide their beliefs, but rather to let them “shine before others” so that they may “glorify your Father in heaven.”
This underscores and reinforces the Great Commission.
So, contrary to the misperception that has been created and reinforced by political correctness, Christians are directly, explicitly called to share their faith with others.
⓺ Christians don’t sin and are better than others
The Bible is clear in terms of the true nature of human nature. I’ve written about this before. Here are some examples:
✝ Romans 3:22-24 – “There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
✝ Psalm 14:3 – “All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
✝ Psalm 53:1 – “They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good.”
✝ Romans 3:12 – “All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
Also, it should be noted that some of the greatest characters of the Bible committed some fairly serious sins:
✝ David, the slayer of Goliath and the only man of whom God said was a “man after His own heart,” committed adultery with Bathsheba, and had her husband killed in battle.
✝ Moses, who led God’s people out of captivity and into the Promised Land, killed an Egyptian and had to hide in the desert for 40 years.
✝ Paul, originally known as Saul and the most prolific contributor to the writing of the New Testament, spent his early years terrorizing and attempting to destroy the early church.
So, if three of the greatest characters in the history of Christianity committed such sins, it’s safe to say that the average Christian isn’t likely to do a whole lot better.
One said, “NorthRidge Church is for HYPOCRITES.”
The other said, “NorthRidge Church is for LIARS.”
As you can image, that got noticed, and in fact received some national attention.
Lots of people were upset about it.
But I wasn’t.
I understood the concept immediately.
I thought it was genius.
Brad was simply telling the truth.
Christians are human.
All humans are sinners.
Ergo, Christians are sinners.
Just because you become a Christian does not change that reality.
And this extends to the leaders of Christian churches as well.
Just because a person is a Pastor, a Minister or a Priest doesn’t suddenly make them non-human/non-sinners.
To put a cap on this misconception, here is something Paul wrote, at 1 Timothy 1:15-16:
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life..”
Paul – again, we’re talking about the guy who is credited with writing 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament – wrote that of himself.
He fully understood his own sinful nature.
And note that he wrote, “I am the foremost sinner.”
Not “was,” but “am.”
Paul understood that, just because he had accepted Jesus has his personal Lord and Savior, that did not fundamentally change his human, sinful nature.
He still needed the saving grace of Christ to be reconciled to God and to overcome his innate sinful nature.
Absent that divine intercession, there was simply nothing Paul could ever do to overcome his sinful character on his own and be “good enough” to make it to heaven without the automatic and instant atonement that resulted from his acceptance of Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior.
So, the idea that Christians don’t sin and are better than others is a serious misconception unfortunately held by many.
⓻ Good people go to heaven, bad people don’t
Continuing directly from the prior point and to repeat, because of our inherently sinful nature, there is simply nothing we can do to be “good enough” to make it to heaven on our own.
The only way we can do that is through our acceptance of Christ.
In other words, no matter how much “good” we may do in this life, it’s simply not enough.
As long as we are human beings trapped in human bodies that come preloaded with human nature, which is by definition sinful, we are and will always be slaves to that sinful nature. Paul (the same Paul I’ve referenced several times above) said this beautifully at Romans 7:14-25:
“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
In summary, Paul recognized his own sinful nature, and he fully understood – through God’s revelation – that he was heading for eternal death and damnation without the salvation of Christ.
Ephesians 2:8-9 makes the larger point explicitly:
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.”
This is one of the biggest misconceptions about Christianity, and one of the primary things that separates Christianity from all other religions.
Because we cannot possibly be good enough to get to heaven on our own, Christ’s sacrificial life, death, and resurrection is the basis on which we can get to heaven.
We are saved by grace (which is a gift) through our having faith in Christ, and specifically not through our own merit.
While this may be counterintuitive from our limited, human perspective, it is the reality of the matter: we simply cannot be good enough, or do enough good deeds, to get to heaven on our own.
We’re inherently sinful and imperfect, and – absent God’s grace – none of us could possibly make it to heaven.
Ergo, not all “good” people (as we define “good” from our limited human perspective) go to heaven.
And yes, this also means that some “bad” people (as we define “bad” from our limited human perspective) will make it to heaven, because of their faith in Christ.
⓼ Being a Christian means you can no longer have any fun
Billy Joel summed up this perspective quite nicely when he sang these lines from his hit Only the Good Die Young:
I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints
The sinners are much more fun
Allow me to be honest here: I’ve often struggled with the idea that being Christian means not being able to have a lot of fun.
My struggles stem from my inherently human, sinful nature: I want to do the very things I know I should not do. I am naturally attracted to the wrong things and the wrong behaviors.
I feel exactly what Paul expressed in the previous points, when he wrote this:
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. … For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”
Without throwing myself so far under the bus that you may end up viewing me as the worst person you’ve ever encountered, allow me to say this: I’ve done a lot of bad stuff in my life.
Some of it would probably shock you.
I did a ton of insane stuff in my youth.
And more than a few things as an adult, if I’m honest.
And I still have the desire to do the wrong things, even now.
But here is what I have learned: the “bad” things to which I am attracted never satisfy.
They just don’t.
Further, I find this to be true in terms of doing the wrong things: there is a law of diminishing returns inherent in every activity that is bad for me.
That is, I end up having to do more and more of a given bad activity in order to experience the same result I received when I first did whatever that activity is.
And, at some point, I grow sick of that activity and want to get away from it.
On the contrary, when I do the right things, there is no law of diminishing returns.
And I never grow weary of the activity.
As sort of a sub-point of this larger misconception, many think God’s “rules” (the Ten Commandments and other things scattered throughout the Bible) are designed to limit our fun.
But that’s not really the case. Instead, God is just trying to keep us from doing the things He knows are most likely to harm us.
Things like killing, stealing and coveting thy neighbor’s wife.
I think we’d all agree that those things, more often than not, do not produce positive outcomes for those involved in such activities.
Further, on the positive side, God doesn’t exist to limit our fun or keep us from being happy.
On the contrary, He WANTS us to be happy and to have a great time in this brief experience known as life. Here are some examples of that:
✝ Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 – “A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God.”
✝ 1 Corinthians 2:9 – “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”
I can tell you this unequivocally: the greatest, most lasting highs I have experienced in this life involve my direct interactions with God in one form or another.
In summary, God isn’t trying to be a buzzkill and to prevent us from enjoying life.
He’s simply trying to steer us away from our natural tendencies, because He knows how destructive they can be.
And He’s trying to steer us toward the things to which we are not necessarily attracted, because He knows how much we’ll actually enjoy them, if we simply give them a chance.
So, why do these common misperceptions about being a Christian and Christianity exist?
If you analyze each of these eight things I’ve discussed individually, you’ll see they all have one thing in common: the misconception is based on simple ignorance.
That is, the fallacy is based on the subjective opinions, thoughts and desires of humans, and nothing more.
As opposed to the true source upon which all things Christian and Christianity should be based: the Bible.
While there are admittedly other factors at play – the rise of secularism and humanism, the growing war against spirituality in general and Christianity in particular, political correctness, progressivism, etc. – the fact that people don’t take the time to educate themselves properly by spending time with the Word is, by far, the primary reason these misconceptions exist.
It’s that simple…
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