One of the biggest misconceptions about Christians that unbelievers hold is that people who follow Christ are self-righteous, hypocritical, or weird. And to be sure there are elements of Christian culture that are off-putting and frankly, are weird and utterly ridiculous. Just think Westboro Baptist.
These same posers and shysters of Christianity were around in Jesus’ day and they are with us now. As Bono was quoted as saying, “I’m not doubting. I don’t doubt God. I have firm faith absolutely in God. It’s religion I’m doubting.” Touche. And Bono was certainly much kinder than Christ, who called them all a brood of vipers.
And then there is the ridiculous New Age believers that pose as Christians, such as Joel Osteen, who peddle a humanistic-sorcery type of “Christianity,” telling his followers that they can, “Have Your Best Life Now,” which is entirely contrary to what God’s word tells us. Jesus tells us that, ”In this world you will have trouble….”
Jesus instructs his disciples that we are to pray for the kingdom that is to come in one of the most recognized Bible passages of all time: “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done…” Nowhere in scripture do we find Jesus telling his followers to speak positive words of affirmation.
It seems evident to me that if the Christian mandate was to change the world, Jesus would not be instructing us to pray for God’s kingdom to come. But that just seems too simplistic. This is not to say that true Christians are to disengage from the world just because we are waiting for the day when God redeems all of his creation, which he tells us is groaning in travail. No, we are not to put our head in the sand and just wait for some Utopian god to zap us into another world. Rather, God tells us that we are the salt and light of the world.
Too often the church seeks to “convert” people rather than engage them in the life-long pursuit of being disciples, teaching them his eternal truths through his word and equipping them to, “fight the good fight.” And why the fight? Well that goes hand in hand with the other charge levied against Christians, that is, that they are hypocritical. And they would be right.
Paul says it best in his letter to the believers in Rome: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.…”
To the untrained ear, it may sound as if Paul is blaming his behavior solely on his sin nature. You have all heard the old saying, “The devil made me do it,” but though Paul is acknowledging this inner conflict, this is not what he is expressing here in this scripture. Rather, he is confirming the self-evident truth that we are all born with a sin nature. He is confirming that to be a follower of Christ will require a life-long sanctification process.
There is a struggling and a wrestling with the “flesh,” or our very nature. Sadly, even most “Christians” don’t understand this most basic truth. Rather, today’s Christians have been misled to believe that because they said a simple prayer and “gave their life to Christ,’ they are now a fully equipped super Christian. They can willfully go around hurting others or doing wrong, but it is okay because, “I’m saved.” Ouch!
Our sin nature doesn’t just go “poof” and disappear in a plume of magical smoke just because we make a decision to follow Christ. This then, is where the struggle of the human condition begins. But before we can be redeemed we must first recognize that we need redemption.
The reason why Christ tells us to, “Take up our cross and follow Him,” is because there is a burden to Christianity. There is something to overcome. As Oliver Perry said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
Too much of modern Christianity focuses on the simplistic, free gift of salvation without addressing the need for the redemption of humanity. Dare I say the “S” word, that is sin. It is like taking a bath with only soap. We must have the water and the soap to be really clean.
If you are a student of history, it is easy to see that there never has been and never will be a time when man can govern the world in justice and equality for all. It is simply not in him to do so. As long as avarice, self-interest, and vice rule our very natures, we are all in need of salvation. To those who still believe that man can create a utopian type society, I believe it is much harder to believe in your religion and fairy tales than to be a Christian.