“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:35
We dropped the ball, fam. As we became so wrapped up in our legalism and process and “doing church,” we missed the part where we’re actually supposed to act like Christ outside the four walls of the church, too. Nothing is destroying the church faster and more devastatingly than we are ourselves.
Not political personalities, not transgender people, not persecution. The Bible is ripe with examples of political leaders who attempted to shut Christianity out of their kingdoms, only to be met with grace and love from a Christian who eventually affected entire nations. Think of Joseph and Daniel, and the incredible difference they made. Sodom and Gomorrah are prevalent examples of sexual sin that affected entire cities and made Christianity in those areas an extremely unpopular belief to hold, but Abraham and Lot made it out with their faith intact and even had the chance to share it with others in the process. Persecution is one of the biggest subplots we see in Scripture, and we see the church thriving abundantly when faced with the hardest opposition. Do we forget that Paul lived a life of perpetual uncertainty and imprisonment?
None of those elements of our culture are an excuse for Christianity’s decline. Threats to the church cannot succeed unless we open the door and give them space to work. The explanation for the church’s decline is the failure of Christians to follow the example Christ gave us. Somewhere along the way we started watering down the Gospel so it would be easier to swallow when our pride-filled hearts had trouble accepting the conviction that came with it. It required action on our parts; it required action that was uncomfortable and difficult. Instead of stepping out of our comfort zones, we chose to remain inside our prison with the door wide open, refusing to step outside for fear of what may lie beyond our comfortable cell.
That refusal is leading to a hostility toward Christianity that is not new historically, but is new for this lifetime. Persecution for Christian beliefs is not a new phenomenon, guys– we’re not the first generation to deal with pushback. In fact, we have it pretty easy compared to guys like Peter who was crucified on a cross upside down because of his refusal to stop proclaiming Jesus. What do we have to face today? A mean tweet from someone who didn’t like what we said? Have we become that sensitive that our feelings have overtaken the importance of sharing Jesus with the people around us?
Don’t take the benefits that Jesus gives if you’re not willing to accept all parts of the job. Don’t use Jesus as a crutch to justify your behavior. Don’t judge the people around you because they’re not as holy as you. Don’t judge hurting people because “they did that to themselves.” Don’t act like an idiot and use God’s grace to justify your pattern of irresponsibility. Don’t abuse that grace. Don’t shun people who look different than you. Don’t leave during the altar call just to beat the kids’ ministry pick-up line. Don’t blame the evil in the world on people who are sinners just like you are.
God loves every transgender person just as much as He loves you, so stop acting like they’re lowlifes who don’t deserve as much respect as anyone else.
Do love the people around you, regardless of who they are. Do pray for people like ISIS who threaten to destroy everything you stand for. Do reach out to that social reject who’s down on their luck. Do humble yourself and elevate others in word and action. Do allow the Holy Spirit to convict you of wrongdoing in your life. Do tell your neighbor about Jesus even if they’ve rejected Him multiple times. Do allow Christ’s love to permeate everything you do and every word you speak. Do accept the fact that you’re really not that great, no matter how hard you try.
But Jesus is. That’s the part we lost in the madness of trying to fill up our church buildings. We tried to fill pews but we just ended up with empty hearts. The watered-down Gospel message has no power to save anything. It is the reality of Jesus’s sacrifice and the magnitude of what that means for us that allows imperfect sinners to be transformed in God’s eyes to righteous, accepted, perfectly loved children. With that comes a responsibility to reflect His love to a watching world.
The world is going to push back against what the Bible teaches. It is going to wholeheartedly reject fundamental ideas such as distinction between biological sexes and even influential groups are going to advocate for the elimination of such distinctions. Our response to this cannot be to heap hellfire on their heads and condemn their sinfulness to a life of unrecoverable damnation. What we can do is point out the blatant error in judgment for a myriad of reasons while still displaying love throughout it. Speak the truth in love. No one ever changed their mind because someone judged them into submission. You change hearts and minds through a genuine message that disagrees respectfully and engages in dialogue about the way to move forward. No one was ever won over by hate, but love still performs miracles.
We should never accept or justify any wrongdoing, but we must call it out while keeping in mind that we are sinners just like they are. Drop the self-righteous lunacy because it damages all parties involved. If you want to revive Jesus’s message in this country, you do so by allowing Him to live through you and setting aside the pride that threatens to rot us from the inside out.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20