Well, I don’t know how this one will go over…
Over the years I’ve been bothered by some of the language we Christians use. I hope this doesn’t read like I’m venting a silly gripe – and though this isn’t the biggest deal ever I do consider it a worthy concern.
So here’s my big beef: that we call non-Christians “the lost.”
As in, “I really have a heart for the lost in my neighborhood.”
Okay, so you think I’m nit-picking. Allow me to explain why this rubs me the wrong way.
First of all, most people don’t consider themselves lost. Plenty of people who aren’t Christians feel pretty firm where they are, they don’t feel this huge void or like they’re wandering aimlessly. If they did consider themselves lost they’d go looking (and maybe even end up finding Jesus looking for them).
From an evangelism point of view, I think we misread our “target audience” by calling them lost, because the label, at least for me, conjures up images of weak, emotionally frail people who are swayed by the slightest breeze. And though this world is indeed tough, it’s not an accurate portrayal of the majority of non-Christians.
Of course some would say “they don’t even realize how lost they are!” and I think this is rooted in the presentation of the gospel as the missing piece in your life – as if finding Jesus solves everything. While Jesus certainly gives us meaning, he doesn’t complete us.
I think the roots of the term trace to the Romans Road evangelism strategy, which in order to help the person arrive at the conclusion they are in need of savior they first are damned and shown just how terrible they are. The danger in that is the only message that actually stays with the person is “you are a dirty, rotten, poor excuse for a human being.”
Thus the biggest complaint I have with the use of this language is that it’s demeaning and insulting to those considered lost. By the simple act of calling someone lost we implicitly are saying that we, by contrast, are “found.” And to me, this can create a sort of accidental yet convenient hierarchy where we are high up and holy, and meanwhile non-Christians are lowly, helpless and pitiful little puppies who don’t know anything.
That’s dramatic I realize, but I do think this is what our language implies (and even reinforces in our own minds). Ultimately our use of the label simply shows we don’t know the people we want to convert very well and that we make snap judgments without understanding them. We cheapen their entire existence by summing it all up as being lost and purposeless.
Frankly, if (and when) non-Christians overhear us referring to them this way, I suspect they feel very talked down to. Maybe it’s my defiant streak, but if I were a non-Christian and heard this rhetoric being used, I’d be spiteful, and maybe even closed off to their input. Insulting someone is not a very good “hello.”
This is another post where I’m taking a chance and throwing out there some thoughts that likely will get be lampooned and corrected. All that to say I want to hear what you think about this. Am I being picky? Have you shared this concern too? Indulge me, please, I truly do want it.