American Christians Must Change How We Share Our Faith

The Problem

Christians in America, we are ruining our witness in our pride. In my adult life, I have met very, very few people hostile to the Christian faith – even among the non-believers who say they do hate the Christian faith. Instead, what I have run into repeatedly in my adult life are people hostile to Christians. In other words, they don’t hate the message, but the messenger.

Too often, we assume that this always because of what Christ said: “You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake.” (Luke 21:16-17).

Like all Scripture, this is 100% true. Like all of Scripture, it can also be taken out of context. Christians will, somewhere or another throughout the world, be hated and despised simply for their faith. But this is not the only reason we can be hated. We can also be hated because of disgusting hypocrisy and arrogance. So, how can we tell when we are being hated for our faith as opposed to when people are rightfully disgusted by our own behavior? Let’s put the oft-quoted verse in its full context.

“Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes and in various places famines and pestilences. And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers[c] and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance, you will gain your lives.” (Luke 21:10-19)

There are two huge signs from these verses that let us know if the hatred directed at us is due to our faith: persecution due to our faith will provide a platform for us to witness, and God will help us answer in a way that cannot be countered or ignored.

The Root of the Problem – Pride

Instead, I see the opposite happening. We are constantly being ignored, and, when people do pay attention, we are mocked for hypocrisy, obvious double-standards, being willfully blind. And the reason for this is because we are most vocal in our faith not out of love for God and his worthiness as well as compassion for our fellow man and wanting to show him love and help him find peace, but rather out of pride. Pride in what we know instead of trying to take what we know to glorify God in our own lives and then for others reaching out in compassion so that they find joy and peace as God did for us.

Pride #1 – Political

Recently, the most obvious and possibly most damaging place this shows up is how many of us constantly proclaim our faith is the main reason for our political affiliation. Let me make this as clear as I can make it: there is no political party in America that is a good representative for the Christian faith. I’m not saying you shouldn’t vote – far from it. That is a responsibility we have, and we can’t just shrug and go “it doesn’t matter.” But both parties in America proudly support things that should be horrifying to Christians, and neither party cares about faith beyond trying to use it to manipulate people’s emotions to get their votes. If a Christian proudly vocalizes his faith is why he/she votes for a politician for whatever reason – let’s say because of the issue of abortion, a matter of the sanctity of life – then our pride is also carried over when that politician does things that are horrifying according Scripture and even go against the sanctity of life, such as the treatment of people on our border where many, including children, have died.

And sadly since I have seen people claiming to be Christians defending our handling of the border situation, let me remind you of what Scripture actually does say about handling foreigners seeking sanctuary in your land: 

For the Lord your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God, showing no partiality and taking no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner, giving him food and clothing.” (Deuteronomy 10:18-19)

When a foreigner lives with you in your land, you must not oppress him. You must regard the foreigner who lives with you as the native-born among you. You are to love him as yourself, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt; I am Yahweh your God.” (Leviticus 19:33-34)

 In 2018 alone, 260 people died along our southern border, including children in our custody (https://abcnews.go.com/International/260-migrants-died-cross-us-southern-border-report/story?id=59832675).

I’m not trying to say you shouldn’t have voted as you did – I voted third party because I found both candidates disgusting. But we can’t trumpet our faith as the main reason we vote when they do horrendous things and try to justify them as well. Vote as your conscience dictates, but don’t claim your politics are centered around your faith when no party represents Scriptural ideals in their fullest and both pervert many of them. (By the way, Dr. Mohler of Southern Theological Seminary also voted third party, and that’s about as conservative as you can get from a religious perspective).

I get it – originally, the Christian ethic once held more sway than it does now, and it’s difficult to see our laws changing in a way that strays further and further from Scripture. But ultimately, while sad, this is not where we should be spending our time fighting. America is not a second Israel. “There is now no Jew or Greek {some translations may say Gentile – point being, God no longer has a select nation, and his Kingdom is borderless).” And, like all other earthly kingdoms, America will indeed pass away one day. That’s okay! It was foretold long ago, and that all earthly kingdoms will fade is written many times throughout Scripture.

I’m not saying that our laws shouldn’t, ideally, reflect Scripture. They should. But we are going about it all wrong. One of the major themes throughout Scripture is how we cannot use law to force people to be good and please God. This was the whole point of the Old Testament and why we now live under the New Covenant! Paul even states this exactly in Romans!

What should we say then? Is the law sin? Absolutely not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin if it were not for the law. For example, I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, Do not covet. And sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind. For apart from the law sin is dead. Once I was alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. The commandment that was meant for life resulted in death for me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment deceived me, and through it killed me. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good. Therefore, did what is good cause my death? Absolutely not! On the contrary, sin, in order to be recognized as sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that through the commandment, sin might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am made out of flesh, sold into sin’s power.” (Romans 7:7-14).

This is why it is impossible to live a life that pleases God without the faith (Hebrews 11:6) – which comes from the Holy Spirit. So, not only do Christians expose themselves to hypocrisy when proudly proclaiming our faith as guiding our politics, we are trying to force something we should know won’t work based on our understanding of Scripture! We are quite literally putting the cart before the horse! Instead of reaching out to people in compassion as Christ did – our Savior who ate and drank with sinners and healed them and showed them love – we are constantly bragging that we know better and are trying to force people to live by a law that they are powerless to obey!

If we instead focused on reaching out and healing the lost and helping restore them to a right relationship with God as Christ did, then the Spirit would help them grow and as a people our laws would begin to reflect that. We are fighting for the customs of our land, which is temporary, and not even trying to reach out and save the people – who are eternal – of that land. Ironically, if we did things in the right order, we might even be able to achieve both.

So stop it! Stop boasting that your religion is guiding your politics. Because if it truly was, you wouldn’t be proud no matter how you voted – not just this most recent election, but any election.

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors…” – CS Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Pride #2 – Self-righteousness

This one is much shorter but quite likely even more destructive in the long run. Too often, Christians in America consider themselves “good people.” We try to “save” our neighbors who do things that are “really” evil.

I’ve got news for you. We are all evil. We are all perverse. Anything that goes against God’s design is perverse, and we all have and are continually tempted to do so. As Paul writes, “I know that nothing good lives in me.” And yet, we still have the audacity to judge non-believers because they don’t sin in “church acceptable” ways. I’ve got news for you – they are just as acceptable – or the more accurate phrasing, we are just as unacceptable – as they. We keep trying to “fix” them – that God won’t allow his people to struggle with certain temptations. Where is that written in Scripture? That we must all repent is certainly written throughout, but cease to struggle with any particular sin? From what I’ve read, we will struggle with our own sins and desires for as long we live on this side of heaven!

Let’s focus on the equality/inequality of sin. We worship an almighty, sovereign God. That means we can do no harm that he doesn’t allow us, at least for a time, to get away with. Ultimately, his will is always going to come through. We certainly have agency. But when we act to try to thwart his will, ultimately he just accommodates our actions and still brings his plan to fruition exactly as he planned it. This is the answer to the riddle of whether or not all sin is equal. Our sins to our neighbors and the physical consequences are certainly not equal. If you steal, you can repay – even with interest and the victim may even be better off than before. But if you murder, you cannot repay. So, not all sin to our fellow man is equal. But the only sin we can commit against God is fruitless rebellion. God is our Creator and a loving Father. We owe him everything, including our eternal love and obedience. But we can’t actually hurt him. So, the weight of our sin and how we wronged God is all equal (and why all sin, no matter the type, will be met with judgment) – we deprived him of our worship and love, the only thing he truly lets us pick. All the actions we call sins are merely variations in method of how to commit this one sin. Of course, any sin against our fellow man is also a sin against God – as they belong to him.

So, when you reach out to “sinners” – you are reaching out to those just like you, as far as your own worthiness is concerned. And if you feel superior, instead of aching at seeing a fellow neighbor struggling like you, then not only are they your equals as far as what both of you deserve, you might very well be complete equals, as that is a strong sign that you are acting apart from the God’s Spirit, the source of anything different in you.

People don’t sin to sin. They sin because they believe their actions and attitudes they are engaging in are what will bring them the most fulfillment that can be found in this life. Rather than judge them because they sought it, like you, in the wrong place, you should be aching because you know they won’t find it in that, but at the same time be patient – what they are clinging to is the snare that they are caught in because it offered them more than anything else they have found so far.

“Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. For with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a log in your eye? Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5)

Remedy – Love and Humility

The solution is the simplest and shortest part of this whole thing. We must stop focusing on what we can see – politics and the sins of others – and instead focus on God and his love for others as he has loved us. This is not as easy as it sounds. If you do this, then just like Christ was rejected, you too will be rejected. And, if you truly love them, that will hurt. It will be agonizing. Think of a family member or friend you love rejecting you. If you start to love others as Christ does, you will experience that same level of agony whenever those people God has taught you to love reject you.

That’s why we have retreated in our pride. It’s much less painful to not love others and blame their rejection on hostility towards God. There is no doubt that it will happen. But we haven’t even got to that point yet. Right now, they are hostile to the messengers, not the message. They don’t even hear the message.

As Christians, we have forgotten our place as messengers. We should be bold in confidence sharing the message. But we should not be arrogant. When we see people sitting on their throne that are proud of in their castles made of sand, we should remember our own past. Instead of judging them for what they have chosen to build their kingdom on, we should be sharing the message in love, hoping they will see the emptiness they are trapped in, like someone did for us in our sand castles. Even if they mock us – just be patient. How many times did we either mock or doubt God’s will only to have to humbly admit we were wrong later? But if we ever change and become haughty…

Why should they believe in a God that loves them and offers them a better way when he apparently sends such arrogant, hateful messengers? Pray to God to change us and that it is not too late!

LOVE! “If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing… Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not conceited.” (I Corinthians 13: 2&4)

LOVE! “Do not owe anyone anything, except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments: Do not commit adultery; do not murder; do not steal; do not covet; and whatever other commandment—all are summed up by this: Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:8-10)

HUMILITY! “Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross. For this reason God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2: 5-11)

 American Christians Must Change How We Share Our Faith

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