How can someone choose Jesus when Christians have done so much harm?

Hi, my name is Sarah, and I want to share a story with you about my previous student, Bri, who I’ve had the privilege to stay in touch with for the last couple years since she graduated from high school.

One day Bri and I were out to dinner, and she brought up a pretty heavy conversation topic. For context, I work on a Native American reservation, and only about 3% of Native Americans are evangelical Christians. This is largely because of what’s called colonization and the way the U.S. government historically abused Native peoples — especially through the use of physically and emotionally abusive boarding schools. A lot of these schools even continued until the mid-1900s, and the trauma that followed still affects Native Americans largely today through very high numbers of poverty, addiction, unemployment and homelessness.

Bri knew that I was a Christian, and at dinner that night she told me that she couldn’t understand how people could be Christians when they had done such horrible things. She told me she’d recently learned a new term — “generational trauma.” And she was starting to see how these horrible events of the past were affecting her present and the current hardships in her life. 

It made a lot of sense to me that she felt the way that she did. It was a very real moment, and I was honored to have built enough trust with her to have a conversation like this.

I told her that the Jesus that was spread through colonization isn’t the real Jesus at all, that [the real] Jesus loves diversity, and that “every tribe and people and language” will worship him, like it says in Revelation 7:9. The real Jesus does not want cultures and languages to disappear. 

Something clicked for Bri that day. And about a year later, she was softened enough to the gospel to want to get to know Jesus more intimately through reading his Word. We’ve been studying through the Bible together since this past spring and are reading John 13 this coming week! She is eager to get to know the real God of the Bible.

What I think is most important about all of this is that this kind of stuff happens as a result of building a genuine friendship or mentorship with someone, as well as having a willingness to invite deep and real conversation. Many people do want to know the real Jesus. We just have to be willing to take steps of faith to talk about him with the people in our lives.