7 Things a Christian Should Never Say to a Non-Believer

angry couple

Pleasant words are a honeycomb: sweet to the taste and health to the body.” (Proverbs 16:24)

Though I’ve always been a believer, I didn’t truly understand what that meant until my four years in college. There I bore witness to people of my faith, other faiths, and no faith at all. Though by no faith, I simply mean people who do not subscribe to a major religion or scriptural teaching. However, I think everybody believes in something.

Back then and even now when I hear the word non-believer, I attribute the term to people who are not Christian, and more often than not, people who are atheist. But as I’ve said, everybody believes in something, even if that something is riches, sex, or science.

In those college days of self-discovery, everyone was trying to figure themselves out. Naturally, there were those growing fonder of Christianity, and others despising the faith. People of either camp were bound to cross paths eventually. As a Christ-follower myself, there are going to be people who say offensive things about God. Some say He’s a “pie in the sky,” or that He simply doesn’t exist. Whatever words are spoken, no matter how much I disagree, I need to respond in love. As Christians, we all do.

Though some non-believers will not have love for me or my fellow Christians, Scripture has been clear. I am to love everyone, and by doing so I can show them who Jesus truly was and is (John 13:35).

Personally, I didn’t struggle much with saying things that were offensive to non-believers, but I knew some Christians who did. I still do. Sometimes I am offended because of how fellow believers act or even speak to people outside of the faith. These hurtful deeds can pose as a barrier for many to enter into the faith. If we are to make disciples, let us do so with love in our hearts.

Here are seven things a Christian should never say to a non-believer, regardless of whether or not they want to believe.

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  • beauty for ashes

    1. “You’re going to Hell.”

    Says who?

    When were we given that authority as Christians?

    One year as a college resident assistant (RA), I recall hearing about how a fellow Christian RA told a woman he didn’t know on a personal level that she was going to hell. The woman was so hurt she confided in a number of different people. I knew both of the people involved and was saddened by the incident.

    I’m not exactly sure what words were said, but I knew why. This particular woman referred to herself as “they” and was also homosexual. That was enough reason for this Christian to tell her she was going to hell.

    Maybe he had a particular Bible verse in mind when talking with her.

    Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or males who have sex with males.” (1 Corinthians 6:9)

    Whatever his motive for saying what he said, and whatever verse he quoted, doesn’t ultimately matter. His harsh words didn’t lead to a productive and caring conversation with her, and to this day she is not a Christian to any degree. In fact, she has drifted further into her thinking.

    Maybe he didn’t know that we can be loving toward people without agreeing. And maybe before making such absolute statements to people, we should assess whether we are throwing stones in a glasshouse (John 8:7).

    2. “I don’t judge.”

    This phrase has become quite the virtue signal to many, but it is in fact far from true. Everyone judges. To judge is simply to come to a conclusion, whether bad or good. Judges judge whether or not someone is guilty. Even if someone is ruled innocent, they have been judged.

    We make judgements every day about activities we partake in, jobs we work, the food we eat, and more. We make these same judgments about the people we surround ourselves with or the information we learn.

    For anyone to claim they do not judge is either a blatant lie or a statement uttered in ignorance to avoid offending someone. If there is anyone we are afraid of offending let that person be God. And let us not deny what is right and wrong for the sake of avoiding offense. We don’t want to be like Peter, denying Jesus (Matthew 26:75).

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  • Hands pointing at a disappointed woman, the difference in judging to love and judging to shame

    3. “What a shame.”

    Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. For you will be judged by the same standard with which you judge others, and you will be measured by the same measure you use.” (Matthew 7:1-2)

    Some are quick to use that word shame in regards to other people. Yet, how many of us want that word used against us? To cast shame onto people is to ignore all the forgiveness God has shown to humanity throughout the Bible. Not only that, but by casting shame on people, we ignore the forgiveness that God has given us.

    We all have reasons to live our lives feeling ashamed. Maybe we hurt someone, abused, molested, killed– the list can go on. Yet, Scripture talks vehemently about forgiveness. We hear so much about God’s love, and thus, our duty is to share that love with others.

    If we don’t want to live ashamed, we don’t need to encourage that in others.

    4. “If you don’t believe in God, what stops you from hurting people?”

    As earnest as this question may be, we have to be mindful of how we communicate. Another way to phrase this question is, “How do you define what is right and wrong without God?”

    That’s a valid question and can lead to an opportunity to share the gospel. What we don’t want to do is put non-believers into defense mode where they feel under assault. To suggest to anyone that they are liable to hurt people is to dehumanize them. No one wants to hear that.

    If we can properly frame our questions and explain why we are asking, productive conversation is likely to ensue.

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  • man and woman silhouette having argument, common roots of jealousy in marriage

    5. “You must hate God.”

    This is an assumption, and nobody likes assumptions. There are people who come to the Christian faith and people who leave for a variety of reasons. In order to find out the why, we simply need to ask. Assuming someone is not Christian because they hate God assumes maliciousness in the other person.

    If we don’t want people to stereotype Christians, we ought not to do the same. Maybe instead people do not believe because they are confused, or maybe some past trauma led them to no longer believing. Whatever the reason, we can discuss properly without assuming anything.

    6. “Maybe you don’t try hard enough.”

    You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)

    Christians may have this verse in mind when they make this statement. And maybe they are right, but if we want to bring someone into the faith, how much progress will we make by insinuating they haven’t done enough? Even as believers, we know that faith can at times be delicate. More often than some would admit, the trials and tribulations of life lead us to struggle with our faith.

    Sometimes we end up lost, confused, and unsure of what to do next. We become like the disciples discouraged by the storm and needing rescue (Luke 8:23-25). Do we want someone telling us that we have our struggles because we don’t pray enough, read enough, study enough?

    We would find this unhelpful and demotivating. Keep this in mind when talking to others.

    7. “So you believe in nothing.”

    Everybody believes in something. Suggesting to someone that they stand for nothing is both insulting and untrue. Someone who doesn’t believe in God could easily tell us the same thing.

    If we all believe in something, then the correct question to ask (instead of making a statement) is, “What do you believe in?”

    Whether or not we are all Christians, we as people can find common ground with one another. This takes effort. In communication we can talk, but we also have to listen. The more we can strive to connect with non-believers the more love of Christ we can bring into their lives. We never know who we are encouraging and even teaching. This is how we make disciples, loving others the way that we want to be loved (Matthew 22:39).

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    headshot of author Aaron BrownAaron Brown is a freelance writer, dance teacher, and visual artist. He currently contributes articles to GodUpdates, GodTube, iBelieve, and Crosswalk. Aaron also supports clients through the freelance platform Upwork.