“Why would anyone want to become a Christian? I’ve seen so-called Christian’s lives and, with few exceptions, their lives don’t match what they say they believe. And besides, there has been a lot of evil done in the name of their religion—the Crusades, hate-filled organizations like the Klan, and so on.”
Our writer writes of a perplexing issue. The fact is, in American society, the practice of Christianity doesn’t seem to have much of an impact on most of its practitioners. For instance, the divorce rate among Christians is higher than non-Christians. In fact, atheists are less likely to get divorced than Christians. And it is also true, many hate-based organizations claim not only to be based on Christianity, but their adherents claim to be practicing Christians. And if you need icing on the cake, ask your Sunday waitress what kind of patrons Christians make—an interview with a waitress I read recently was a real eye-opener. She told of many thoughtless acts, like leaving a Gospel tract instead of a tip: “How am I going to feed my kids with that?” And so on.
So, how do we answer our writer’s objections? The evidence really is on their side. In the words of a police chief, “We’ve been to your people’s homes—we know what you act like.” And the lame bumper sticker excuse, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven” gives tacit permission for unforgivable behavior. Maybe this is one of the reasons why the church in North America is declining, while the church is growing in virtually every other nation of the world.
The answer is found in the Jesus of the Bible.
The Jesus of the Bible is a very different person than the one represented by most Christians. The Jesus of the Bible expected his followers to take his teachings and his example seriously or else they weren’t counted as one of his (John 15.14; 1 John 2.4). Indeed, even the title “Christian” means one who is like Christ, something few professing Christians seem to exhibit.
There is something attractive about the Jesus of the Bible and his teachings. That Jesus is compassionate. He exhibited real love, as explained in 1st Corinthians 13, for everyone he met, not just his close associates. He didn’t condone sin, but he didn’t go around pointing it out either—except for the sins of the self-righteous; he was hard on both his disciples and the Pharisees. He never used the scriptures as a justification for treating anyone with contempt and he never disfellowshipped anyone; instead, he held the bar up so high that those who wouldn’t follow him disqualified and disfellowshipped themselves (Matthew 8.19-22; Matthew 27.3-5; Mark 10.21-22). The Jesus of the Bible is apparently different from the one many Christians are associated with.
When someone says they aren’t interested in being a Christian, ask why. If they say, “Because of the atrocities that Christians did in the Crusades,” ask if those actions reflect the teachings and examples of the Jesus of the Bible. If they say, “Because I was hurt by a good ‘Christian’,” ask if they were behaving as the Jesus of the Bible taught. And so on.
The fact is, none of us can ever live up to all
Jesus taught and all Jesus was. But if we call
ourselves a Christian, there ought to be evidence
to back up our claim. Our marriages should be
stronger. Our children better behaved. Our
words softer and kinder. Our compassion deeper. Our
concern genuine. Our love exhibited. Our
commitments sure. Our promises kept. Our
motivations pure. Our tolerance wide. Our
judgmentalism absent. Our prayer life deep. Our
biblical knowledge wide. Our spiritual disciplines
practiced. And our grace extended to all.