A major part of being a Christian should be to avoid contributing to a misconception that gives someone a reason to reject God out of ignorance– ignorance of God’s actual character, what the Bible says, or how Jesus calls us to live, love, and forgive.
Christ and His church have a bad rap because the vocal ones in the media are the crazies who picket funerals, and because the self-professed Christians around us hardly do anything differently than those around us who don’t call themselves Christian.
When Paul walked into a new city, do you think he rejected the responsibility of people looking to him to see what being a Christian meant? Absolutely not. He hoped for and embraced the responsibility as Christ’s ambassador. He was careful to give an accurate depiction. And he was joyful to see so many people believe that Jesus was raised from the dead and earnestly seek the same surrendered life of service and love they saw Paul living.
The Great Commission is taking a hit because, before we get to the actual truth of what Jesus taught and who God is, we have to resolve so many inexcusable offenses and misconceptions that non-practicing but self-professed Christians have been passing out like Skittles. The offenders may even be zealous Christians who just don’t realize that they are, for whatever reason, completely ignorant of what Jesus actually taught.
Christianity has plenty of enemies fighting against it and working to keep people from knowing who Jesus is. They don’t need any help from Christians.
I don’t blame people for seeing some of us and thinking, “I don’t want to be a Christian if that is Christianity.” Sometimes, it may be a truly God-honoring lifestyle they are witnessing and still rejecting as absurd. The Bible prepares us for this to happen. The problem is, however, much of the time, it’s not real Christianity those people are being shown. There’s no self-control, humility, love, and forgiveness– or even the appearance of those things mattering to their “Christian” example. Based on an example like that, I would have zero interest in being a Christian myself– and I already AM a Christian.
Christianity is an active pursuit of faith and trust in God’s word– above our own opinion and understanding. It leads to a different and selfless life that is influenced by God’s own Spirit as He brings us ever closer to Himself. And it’s the enjoyment of that relationship which brings contentment, peace, and joy. It’s a life that is closer to what God designed us for all along. This is the example Jesus wants His followers to display. He wants others to see our lives and decide if there is something about it that seems inherently right to them. We’re human, yes, but hypocrisy should be followed with a sincere apology and attempt to do better– not an apathetic shrug of the shoulders.
There’s a song Tupac Shakur made called “Only God Can Judge Me.” Regardless of how many times I may or may not have enjoyed listening to that song in middle school, this is a phrase that should never come out of a Christian’s mouth. We are being judged every day by the people in our circles of influence who are far from God. They’re looking to us and considering if the God we serve is a God they’d like to serve as well. We might be their only illustration of who God is, so that is a responsibility we should all lovingly embrace.
I guess what I’m getting at (and please forgive my bluntness) is this: If you’re not willing to seek out and accept God’s will over your own; to accept forgiveness through Christ and then act like you’ve been forgiven; and to embrace the responsibility of others looking to you to get a little glimpse of God’s character, then stop calling yourself a Christian. Please. You’d be giving more help to the Great Commission by doing that– not contributing to a misconception– than you would by going around calling yourself a Christian because you think you’re a good person. Go ahead and say you’re trying to grow in your faith. Tell people you’re working on letting your belief in Jesus as the Son of God become a real and active part of your life. But you don’t have to fake it and claim you have something you don’t.
Faith isn’t a title. It isn’t something you use to get the girl or prove you’re a good person. It’s a lifestyle– a game changer. It’s an all-in thing or it’s a meaningless thing. It’s something so important that you need to make sure that you have the details straight.
Somehow, Christians have become commonly associated with the very things Jesus taught against– confused and lukewarm people who don’t stand up for what they believe in. They’re seen rolling with every current of culture, making excuses the whole way, or being just as likely to judge people as they are to love them. They don’t forgive, or even apologize like everyone knows a Christian is supposed to.
Guys, we can do this. We can redeem Jesus to the people who think they know who He is but have only gotten the wishy-washy, unloving, hypocritical, uneducated version of what He taught.
The real message is difficult but simple, and nothing we (hopefully) haven’t heard before. We’re not meant to master it all at once, but we’re meant to make ongoing progress toward the goal with the help of the Holy Spirit: Make “loving God” the top priority and purpose of every relationship, hobby, and decision. With that comes all the rest: loving our neighbors (even the ones who don’t love us back), forgiveness, generosity, courage, conviction.
Knowing who George Washington was doesn’t make me a historian. Putting a swing set together doesn’t make me a structural engineer. And I’m sorry, but reciting that Jesus is the Son of God doesn’t make me a Christian. Being a historian, a structural engineer, and yes, even a Christian takes a little time and dedication. It takes passion and a strong desire to know more.
Pastors are great resources, but don’t just take their word for it. The only part of the Bible you hear each week can’t just be the few verses preached about on Sunday. There are reading plans for smart phones. You can Google just about any question you have about Jesus or the Bible and get an instant answer. And just about any sermon worth listening to these days can be found for free online.
We now have no excuse to not obtain more knowledge. We can educate ourselves on any topic and be far more aware than ever about our faith and our world. But instead, most people use technology to numb their brains. It’s our source for endless pornography, video games, and stalking virtual strangers who will never have a positive impact on our lives.
I seriously doubt anyone who had a considerably large role in the invention of the Internet was thinking, “This will finally allow people to avoid any real responsibility or social interaction.” Maybe not universally, but most of them contributed their efforts thinking they were helping society find a way to be more informed, more intentional, and more connected. The top-dogs who created the Internet weren’t envisioning half of the sites on it eventually being dedicated to a multi-billion dollar porn industry, which feeds millions of consumers an anonymous way of quietly destroying their perceptions and expectations of reality.
The Internet should be a great thing. In many ways, it is. I can simultaneously seek answers to my questions and share what I’m learning about as a Christ follower. But how unfortunate is it that these purposes have been turned into the minority compared to mind-numbing, relationship-killing, time-wasting addictions whose low-level creators are only trying to get rich at the expense of their customers’ success?
We as Christians are meant to be a city on a hill. That means out in the open; a refuge seen from a long way off. We’re called to be a light shining for the whole house. That means helpful, generous, and pure. And we’re called to be the salt of the earth. That means the preserver of a culture that leads to strength and flourishing over depression and apathy.
Christians are meant to define a culture that counters what the world creates, not roll with whatever people who worship themselves decide to do. Corinth was a city in ancient Greece defined by its prostitution temples when Paul came in and helped plant the first church there. My guess is you wouldn’t have found those new Christians proclaiming their freedom through Christianity while still regularly sleeping with prostitutes. Harsh example, I know. But just about everyone else was doing it. It was part of their culture. But they somehow knew that being a Christian meant their lives needed to look noticeably different now. They knew if they were unashamedly found in the temple with prostitutes, the message of the Gospel would have gotten confused to a point where it would have never gotten off the ground.
The Corinthians knew how vital it was to rep this new hill-top city well. They knew people were watching. And they were up for the challenge. Are we?