Are You the Reason People Don’t Believe in God?

Look, it’s a fair question. and before the insultfest starts, you should think about the question. If you consider yourself a Christian, it’s a good exercise:

“Am I the reason people around me mock Christianity and reject Christ?”

Now, I’ve already considered the question myself. And just so you know, I’m guilty as charged. I admit it. I’ve taken the time to examine my own way of following Christ out in the real world. It ain’t pretty. But not for the usual reasons. Not for the 21st century watered down version of Christian do’s and don’ts.

I’ve been spending countless hours immersed in the writings of the Early Church Fathers. You know, the guys who knew Paul, Peter or John and the Apostles. Or were discipled by them personally. Or they were discipled by men who had been discipled by the Apostles. These guys were very close to the source of the New Testament. Some of them are even mentioned in the New Testament. I’ve wanted to understand how they understood the faith.

Their understanding of what it means to follow Christ is far different than our modern day version. It’s not even close. If Polycarp or Clement were to walk into any evangelical congregation in the entire western world, they’d likely find an unrecognizable version of Christianity.

But then again, their version largely swept over the earth and transformed the world. Our version? Well, let’s be as charitable as we can….we’ve got great worship bands, sound systems and offerings. But the non-Christian world laughs at us. Worse, they’re rejecting Christ more and more.

But I have a hunch they’re not actually rejecting Christ. They’re rejecting you and me. They look at the Christians they know and they see that we don’t live out these great truths we proclaim. Give them credit, they’re not stupid. If you’re not willing to live out what you believe, why should they consider believing it?

And this brings us back to the question: “Am I the reason people mock Christianity and reject Christ?”

The writer of 2 Clement asked the church of his day to consider the same question. It was written sometime between 100-140 AD, maybe a little later. Here’s why he asked it:

“Let us wipe off from ourselves our former sins and be saved, repenting from the very souls of our being. And let us not seek to please humans, nor let us desire to please only ourselves with our righteousness, but also those who are outsiders, so that the Name many not be blasphemed on our account.

For the Lord says, ‘My name is continually blasphemed among all nations,’ and again, ‘Woe to him on whose account my name is blasphemed.’

Why is it blasphemed? Because you do not do what I desire.

For when the pagans hear from our mouths the oracles of God, they marvel at their beauty and greatness. But when they discover that our actions are not worthy of the words we speak, they turn from wonder to blasphemy, saying that it is a myth and delusion.

For when they hear from us that God says “It is no credit to you if you love those who love you, but it is a credit to you if you love your enemies and those who hate you,” when they hear these things, they marvel at such extraordinary goodness.

But when they see that we not only do not love those who hate us but do not even loves those who love us, they scornfully laugh at us, and the Name is blasphemed.” 2 Clement 13:2-3

They marveled at the teachings but ultimately reject them. And why is that? Because they didn’t walk the walk. They reasoned, if these incredible words are true, we expect the people who believe them to live them out. If they don’t live them out, then they’re not true.

They were amazed by the greatness of the teaching of Christianity. But when they wanted to see these great teachings in action, they found nothing. The result? They considered the message a myth and a delusion. God’s name was dishonored among unbelievers and it was the fault of believers! Let that sink in!

It was the church’s fault in 120AD. Is it our fault today?

Consider the question of this post. Reflect on it. Do some soul searching. Resist the temptation to point fingers at the church at large or other people. That’s too easy. Consider your own life. You can’t change the church, the people around you or society at large. Besides, that’s not your responsibility. You and I can only change ourselves and we should focus on that.

About Jim

Not For Itching Ears is a blog dedicated to discussing the American Evangelical church. It is a place for people to share their thoughts on a host of issues relating to this subject. Jim is available to speak at weekend services, and retreats at no cost to churches in Florida. Contact us for more information.

Posted on May 22, 2021, in Christianity, Contemporary Church Culture, Early Church History, The Christian Life, Theology and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Nice post, and good reminder! Thanks for sharing.

    Like

  2. This is a great post.
    We may not realize it, but non-Christians are always watching us.

    Perhaps you have heard the story of Linda.
    Linda claimed to be ‘on fire for the Lord’. She told others how she had been born again, and that Jesus had entered her heart.

    However, whenever Linda was seen at a non-chuch function, she looked angry. She frowned and scowled a lot. Frustration and tension were evident in her appearance.

    Finally, a neighbour said to her : ‘Linda, if Jesus has entered your heart, please inform your face.’ 😄

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This reminds me of Trypho’s comment to Justin, “Moreover, I am aware
    that your precepts in the so-called Gospel are so wonderful and so great, that I suspect no one can keep them; for I have carefully read them.” He is almost certainly talking about the Sermon on the Mount.

    It also makes me think of M. Felix’s claim in The Octavius: “If we Christians be compared with you, although in some things our discipline is inferior, yet we shall be found much better than you. For you forbid, and yet commit, adulteries; we are born men only for our own wives: you punish crimes when committed; with us, even to think of crimes is to sin: you are afraid of those who are aware of what you do; we are even afraid of our own conscience alone, without which we cannot exist. Finally,from your numbers the prison boils over, but there is no Christian there, unless he is accused on account of his religion, or a deserter. (The Octavius 35)

    I have heard recently that there are scholars arguing that 2 Clement could be as late as the fourth century, which would explain his comment about Christians not living out what they teach. On the other hand, 2 Clement just doesn’t sound like a 4th-century writing to me. It sounds a lot more like second-century writings.

    Finally, for the purposes of hope, I know I have to keep growing and resist the temptation of entertainment more than I do. Nonetheless, I do not believe people turn away from Jesus because of me. I have been told by three or four lost people over the years that I was the first real Christian they had ever met. This is a horrific testimony towards the church, but I know others who have had that experience. Living at a standard that draws people to Christ is not as common as it should be, but it is nowhere near unattainable. I have no doubt that you are drawing people to Christ no matter how much you are not living up to the highest standards of obeying Jesus. Let us step up our game, but we can be be excellent testimonies to the life-changing grace of God even in the US. It happens, even with people like you and me who know our own failings so well.

    Like

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