This is part 2 of a three-part devotion. If you haven’t done so already, please read ‘Arrogance? Part 1’ posted on April 15, 2018 before proceeding.
‘Hello. Sorry we couldn’t get together last week. But I am glad we have a chance to continue our conversation today.’
‘It is good to see you. But honestly, I am kind of dreading this conversation. I’m not really in the mood for more Jesus propaganda.’
‘Believe it or not, I completely understand. I have been where you are. And even though I know that on my own I am not equipped to address the points you brought up at the end of our previous discussion, because I trust in the goodness of God, His desire for you to know Him, the leading of His Holy Spirit, and the truth and power of His Word, I am confident that we can avoid any propaganda and have a meaningful conversation. So, if you are willing, I would like to dive in and see how things go. Would that be alright?’
‘I guess so. But only because you are a good friend, and this seems important to you.’
‘Thanks. This is important to me, because you are important to me. Also, I always appreciate you being honest with me.’
‘Without honesty, what’s the point?’
‘I don’t think there is one. Speaking of points, if I remember correctly, when we ended our discussion two weeks ago, you said there were three things that needed to be addressed before going any further. I believe your points were:
- There are a lot of intolerant Christians that not only condemn people, but they also want to force their standards and beliefs on everyone else.
- The Christian church has hurt a lot of people with their hate, persecutions, and in the past, forcing people to convert to their religion.
- You don’t believe in absolute truth.’
‘That’s a good summary of what I said. But before you start addressing those points, I want to say something. When we were talking week before last, you said that a Christian not sharing their faith is like a person running out of a building that is on fire without telling anyone else. Although I don’t know much about what you believe, you also talked about someone who hasn’t surrendered their life to Christ spending eternity in torment in a place called hell. I have heard this, but really don’t understand it.
You are passionate and dedicated to your faith in Christ, and I appreciate your devotion to it. I want you to know that I really appreciate you sharing your faith with me. Although I don’t believe what you believe, I know you do. And if you didn’t share your faith, not only would that call into question your sincerity, but it would also indicate that you could care less about the eternal destination of my soul. Which leads to a question, why don’t all Christians share their faith with other people?’
‘You are welcome Chris. I know I have brought up my faith a few times in the past, but I should have trusted that you would engage in a respectful discussion with me if I shared more openly. And actually, the reason I decided to make that statement about Christian evangelism being a declaration that other gods and beliefs are wrong is that I wanted to engage in a real conversation with you about this. I needed to face my fear of you rejecting a deep conversation about Christ with me. As friends, this is the most important thing we could talk about. I’m sorry for not trusting more in our friendship.
As far as why all Christians don’t share their faith with others, as I just confessed one reason is fear. Fear holds back a lot of us – fear of rejection, fear of persecution, fear of not knowing the answer to a question, fear of not remembering what verses in the Bible address certain issues, and so on. But actually, I think I can include this question about Christians not sharing their faith as part of my response to the first two issues you said I needed to address before proceeding further.’
‘Okay. Go ahead and dive in.’
‘To talk about intolerant Christians, inappropriate Christian behavior, and Christian introverts, I would like to start with talking about how Jesus treated people. In dealing with most people, Jesus demonstrated kindness, patience, love and compassion. After all, Jesus came to be the once for all sacrifice for the sins of the world. He tirelessly spent His time speaking the truth in love, healing the sick, delivering those possessed by demons and much more to show His love and demonstrate His deity.
- John 3:16-17 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
- Matthew 12:13-15 Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and it was restored as whole as the other. 14 Then the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him. 15 But when Jesus knew it, He withdrew from there. And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all.
However, Jesus consistently rebuked the hardhearted, hypocritical and haughty Jewish religious leaders. These leaders should have recognized Jesus for who He was, God. They should have been sharing God’s love and truth with everyone. But they were more interested in power and position. They valued rules over relationships. They focused on laws and commandment rather than love and compassion. Jesus condemned them for how they lived and how they led.
- Matthew 23:14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.
- Matthew 23:27-28 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.’
‘From what I have heard and seen, many Christians today act more like the religious leaders of Jesus’ time rather than acting like Him.’
‘I hear what you are saying. But, how much trouble have you personally had with a Christian trying to force you to do something?’
‘Plenty. Just turn on the news. Seems like there is always some loud-mouth Christian putting people down and trying to pass laws that force others to live by their standards.’
‘Chris. Really? You and I both know how things get blown out of proportion in the news. Besides, how often have you seen other people being just as loud, and probably more intolerant, advocating for what they want society to look like?
In the sense that Christians want the society they live in to represent their beliefs and values, they are like everyone else. Christian’s values and beliefs are found in the Bible. Easy or not, convenient or not, we believe what the Bible says about what is true, just and honorable. Christians should advocate, vote, exert influence, etc. to get like-mined people elected to office and proposing and/or supporting laws they agree with. That is the socially responsible and God-honoring thing to do.
Christians must remember, morality can’t be legislated or forced. Exercising their freedoms to vote, demonstrate, give speeches, write letters, author books, broadcast on radio and TV, advocate for or against laws, etc. are all important and legitimate. But for Christians, evangelism should be the priority. The truth about Christ leads to changed hearts and minds. Jesus was clear, His followers are to do all things in love. Not according to societies definition of love, but love according to the Biblical definition we discussed two weeks ago. Jesus said:
- Matthew 5:43-44 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,’
‘You keep talking about what the Bible teaches. What about how Christians live?’
‘Fair question. But let’s start with how all people live. Consider the following verses:
- Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
- Matthew 15:19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.
- Romans 2:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
- 1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
The Bible teaches that all people have a depraved nature. Most people don’t want to agree with this teaching. They say that people are basically good. But that just doesn’t match what we see in human behavior: lying, stealing, intimidation/bullying, disrespect, cheating, hate, drugs/addictions, abuse, slavery, murder, pride, envy, jealousy, love of money, prejudice, infidelity, and on and on and on. The human race just can’t seem to face the truth about themselves.
And the fact of the matter is, Christians are no better than anyone else. Christians sin! However, a Christian’s sins have been forgiven. And when a person surrenders in faith to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, they are viewed by God as righteous and they are indwelled with God’s Holy Spirit. That is how and why they will spend eternity in Heaven with God.
- 2 Corinthians 5:21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
- Ephesians 1:13-14 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
The bottom line of this point is that when you are dealing with Christians, you are dealing with people. And all people are flawed. However, there is no excuse for a Christian to not treat others the way Jesus did – with love, patience, kindness and respect. Christians are called to very high standards of conduct.
- Ephesians 4:1-3 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
- Colossians 3:8-10 But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, 10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him,
Actually, Christians are called to follow the example of Jesus. They are to live like Him.
- 1 Peter 2:21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:
- 1 John 2:6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.
But God doesn’t just call His children to live Godly lives, He empowers them to do so by sending His Holy Spirit to live in them.
- 1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
- Ephesians 5:8-10 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.
- Galatians 5:16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
Am I making any sense at all?’
‘Actually, yes. You are saying that everyone sins, but a Christian’s sins are forgiven because they have surrendered their lives to Christ – that is why they go to heaven instead of hell. And, although they do still sin, Christians have been called and empowered to live Godly lives. Christians are supposed to live like Christ lived!’
‘I understand what you are saying. And in theory, some of it makes sense. But I am still stuck on why Christians act like they are better than everyone else. I need to think more about all this.’
‘Sure. We have talked about a lot of stuff. I need some time to think and pray about it all myself. Also, I brought you a Bible. Would you mind if I write down the verses I referenced today and last time we talked? That way you can look them up, read them for yourself.’
‘Okay. I will definitely think about all this. I will consider looking up some of the verses - thanks very much for the gift.’
‘Why don’t we get together again next week and talk some more? In the meantime, if you are really interested in knowing the truth about God, why don’t you talk to Him and ask Him to reveal Himself to you? If you open your heart, and truly seek Him in humility, He will make Himself known to you – just maybe not in the ways you expect or in the timing you want. I will be praying for you.’
‘Thanks, I guess. We can get together next week to continue this discussion. We will see how it goes after I have digested what has already been said. But I think I would like to try to wrap this up after that.’
‘I understand. See you then.’
Father God, there are so many topics, questions, viewpoints, opinions, issues, etc. that can distract us from getting to the heart of the good news message about Jesus. Please help Your children navigate these conversations with love and patience. But also, give us the wisdom to guide these conversations back to Your truth – that Jesus, God the Son, is the only way to the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with You. Our hope and eternal life depend on the resurrection of Jesus. As always, I pray for Your truth to touch lives and change hearts. Please do what only You can do – save the lost. I pray these things in the name of Jesus. Amen.