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.
You’ve seen it, and maybe even done it:
Doesn’t anyone believe in marriage anymore?
I can’t get over how many people today smoke weed.
Can you believe they just sleep in instead of coming to church?
Did you hear they moved in together? That’s so bad!
What’s wrong with our government? Why don’t they uphold biblical values?
Whenever I hear that, I feel like saying “Do you seriously expect non-Christians to behave like Christians?”
This article was not written by us over here at NotForItchingEars.com. I found it over at www.Careynieuwhof.com. You can read the article on Carey’s site here: http://careynieuwhof.com/2013/02/why-christians-should-let-non-christians-off-the-moral-hook/ I think he makes some great points in this article, and I thought it was worth reposting. So here it is:
Think it through.
Most people in the West no longer consider themselves Christian.
Or even if they use the term “Christian” to describe themselves, few believe in the authority of scripture or profess a personal faith in Jesus Christ.
So why would we expect them to behave like Christians? Why would we expect people who don’t profess to be Christians to:
Wait until marriage to have sex?
Clean up their language?
Be celibate when they’re attracted to people of the same sex?
Pass laws like the entire nation was Christian?
They’re not pretending to be Christians. Why would they adopt Christian values or morals?
Please don’t get me wrong.
I’m a pastor. I completely believe that the Jesus is not only the Way, but that God’s way is the best way.
When you follow biblical teachings about how to live life, your life simply goes better. It just does. I 100% agree.
I do everything I personally can to align my life with the teachings of scripture, and I’m passionate about helping every follower of Christ do the same.
But what’s the logic behind judging people who don’t follow Jesus for behaving like people who don’t follow Jesus?
Why would you hold the world to the same standard you hold the church?
Before you judge a non-Christian for behaving like a non-Christian, think about this:
1. They act more consistently with their value system than you do. It’s difficult for a non-Christian to be a hypocrite, because they tend to live out what they believe. Chances are they are better at living out their values than you or I are. Jesus never blamed pagans for acting like pagans. But he did speak out against religious people for acting hypocritically.
2. Your disapproval is destroying the relationship (if you have even have a relationship in the first place). Some of the most judgmental Christians have zero non-Christians friends. Is that a surprise, really? I mean, on a human level, how many people have you made time for this week that you know disapprove of who you are and the way you live? Exactly.
3. Judgment is a terrible evangelism strategy. People don’t line up to be judged. If you want to keep being ineffective at reaching unchurched people, keep judging them.
4. Judging outsiders is unChristian. Paul told us to stop judging people outside the church. Jesus said God will judge us by the same standard with which we judge others. Paul also reminds us to drop the uppity-attitude; that none of us were saved by the good we did but by grace.
So what can you do?
1. Stop judging non-Christians. Start loving them. Very few people have been judged into life-change. Many have been loved into it.
2. Empathize with non-Christians. Ask yourself, “If I wasn’t a Christian, what would I be doing?” Chances are you might be doing exactly what the non Christians in your neighbourhood are doing. Understanding that and empathizing with that completely changes how you see people. And they can tell how you see them.
3. Hang out with non-Christians. Jesus did. And caught plenty of disapproval for it. I have a friend who continually drops f-bombs in my presence. As much as it bothers me, I never correct him (he’s not a kid, he’s my peer). But I do pray for him every day and we talk about my faith. I pray I see the day when he’s baptized.
4. Pray for unchurched people. It is impossible to remain enemies with someone you genuinely pray for daily.
5. Live out your faith authentically. Your actions carry weight. Humility is far more attractive than pride. When a non-Christian sees integrity, it’s compelling.
I just have a feeling if we in the church loved the world the way Jesus did, the world might come running to Christ.
And, then, the change we long to see might actually begin to happen.
Visit Carey’s site for more of his take on Church life and Christianity: http://careynieuwhof.com/