And They'll Know We Are Christians by Our...Hate?

April 29, 2013

One of the most memorable moments for me in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings was a video that emerged after the lockdown and subsequent manhunt. The video showed residents, freed from the restrictions placed on them, gathering in the streets to applaud passing police officers and spontaneously break out into a rendition of the national anthem.

Members of Congress singing the anthem, post-9/11
As I watched the much-shared link on Facebook, tears stung my eyes and my throat closed up. It reminded me of how, in the aftermath of 9/11, members of Congress from both sides of the aisle gathered to sing the national anthem and “God Bless America!” As I watched the two highly divided groups come together, if only for a moment, I felt my own pride in my country, in civility, in the strength of community, rising up within me. 

It was a heartfelt moment.

In an era where we constantly see division, where red is against blue, pro-life is against pro-choice, where the haves and have-nots collide, where the beliefs and morals and ideas and ideals seem to move further and further from each other, a brief, shining moment of unity like the post-9/11 and post-Boston ones seem like a moment out of time, dreamlike in its rarity.

But it’s also true that while our American culture is divided, it is merely a reflection of the division I see in our churches.

 Oh, I’m not talking politics, although that’s true, too. But I get so tired of seeing all the hateful messages and posts people put on Facebook and elsewhere in the name of Christianity. Don’t get me wrong: I am not ashamed of my faith in Christ – I am ashamed of people who use and abuse the Bible to forward their own self-righteous agenda, who choose to pound people over the head with their dogma rather than leading them gently by the hand. Here is a simple truth I have learned: No one responds well to over-the-top tactics – instead, they act defensively and dismiss the message.

It reminds me of the song we used to sing in Sunday school, and as much as it’s a cliché, there is a well-worn truth that rings through the lyrics: “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, and they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

I’m not saying that morality doesn’t exist, that Jesus didn’t have firm teachings on things, and that there’s no such thing as right and wrong – it does, he did, and there are – but how can we “know our audience” unless we first love them as he did? How can we communicate a message that speaks the truth in love, rather than through hate? And how can we foster unity in the body of Christ without alienating the very disparate parts that compose it? 

"This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again." - John 3:16-17 



  1. Beautiful Kristin!
    I love that song, and viewing our actions and words through that light is great advice :-)