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It would be foolish for me, as an amateur, to head out onto the field at any professional sporting event without proper training, conditioning, and preparation. No doubt people would immediately see the difference in the way I played and my athletic abilities. I would be disjointed from the rest of the team and very clumsy. It would be very clear to everyone that I was not ready for the game. While I would cause great embarrassment to the team, the owner, the fans, even the other players, the greatest embarrassment would fall on me personally.

We might think that sort of thing would never happen, but we tend to overlook the thousands, if not millions of Christians step onto the playing field of life, ill-prepared for the game. We haven’t conditioned our minds to think like Christ, our speech to sound like Christ, nor have we participated in the pregame “rituals” of prayer and devotion. We think we can go out there and “wing it.” Then we wonder why people are easily embarrassed to be called “Christian.”

1 Thessalonians 2:10 tells us that we “should live in a way that proves you belong to the God who calls you into his kingdom and glory.”

If no one ever heard us speak, would the actions of our lives, the demeanor that we carry, and our attitudes towards others, be enough to convince them that we are followers of Christ? Would there be a visible difference in the way we carried ourselves? I would venture to say the answer for most who call themselves “Christian” would be “no.”

More often than not, our lives show very little difference from the lives of the unbelievers. In the rare case, they may even treat others with more respect and dignity than we do. Or maybe they’re more involved in making an impact in their community. Yet with all they do, if they don’t do it without Christ, it’s essentially worthless. People see them and applaud. Then they turn around, look at the average Christian, and scold them for being any number of things that Christ was not.

The minority of Christians that do represent Christ, His Church and His Kingdom well are eclipsed by the lame, powerless, stereotypical Christians who give Him a bad reputation.

These are the Christians who all the bad stereotypes are based off. They’re close-minded, judgmental, and stuffy. They don’t have any fun and they definitely don’t hang out with those who believe differently than they do. Their days are steeped in rituals and practices that would rival most who are diagnosed with OCD. They seemingly can’t breath without praying. They constantly tell everyone else, not only what they’re doing wrong, but how they do it better, and how it should be done. You’re always holding your tongue around them because the wrong word could set off an “Jonathan Edwards-esque”sermon. They’re quick to condemn people to Hell for their sin and fail to love the person doing the sinning.

And we have the audacity to wonder why more people are not believers of Jesus Christ.

The reason Jesus doesn’t have more disciples isn’t because of Him, it’s because of His followers. The world has met enough Christians to sour their perceptions. They didn’t like what they saw. What they saw was not only embarrassing to them, as a nonbeliever, but it’s also embarrassing to other Christians as well.

Instead of constantly pointing the finger at what others are doing wrong, what can we do to right the maligned image of Christians in our society today? Although we can’t change everyone’s opinions, we can change the ones of those closest to us. How? By living an authentic Christian life. One based in relationship with Him, not religious rules and regulations. If you don’t think there are any “real” Christians out there, then why don’t you step up to the plate and be one?

{For more from Stuart McDonald, check out his personal blog and follow him on Twitter}

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