Christianity’s Biggest Mistake? (Caution: This May Step On Your Toes.)

NOTE: I’m not a debater. I’m much more of a motivator. So this post has been difficult for me to write. (It took me two days to write it.) And I pray that my readers take it in the way it is written–with utmost love for and sensitivity toward each of you. Having said that, I realize that being an effective motivator sometimes involves bringing up the obvious and dealing with it–even if the obvious is difficult or painful.

So, here we go…

I’ve been teaching my Inspiring Evangelism course at a church in west Houston. (Wonderful people are at BridgePoint Bible Church!) Last Wednesday night we discussed a difficult subject. We realized there is a big mistake taking place among the Christian world–at least in America. Our big mistake is that we have adopted a we vs. them mentality of us and the world. Battle lines have been drawn between the Christian world and the rest of the world.

We, Christians, do not shy away from the fight. We hang on to 2 Timothy 4:7 where Paul said he “fought the good fight.” Yet we have taken that to mean something different than what Paul meant.

And so we fight for our rights in America.

We fight for better politics.

We fight for conservatism. Or liberalism. (Which ever is appropriate for you.)

We fight for the most correct theology. And we’re even willing to fight each other over many of these things.

We fight for our Christian world. And we should strive toward excellence in these areas. I don’t disregard these.

However, in doing so, we end up fighting the non-Christian person when we should be fighting for him.

How have we come to this?

One way is that we tend to limit our daily dealings to Christian-only businesses and organizations. We take our business and dealings to those who post the fish symbol on their web-page. Many Christians tend to avoid businesses that are owned by a people of other faiths–boycotting them because of it.

Another way is that we do not wish to look like the world so much so that we have separated ourselves from it. We have built a wall of “protection” around ourselves. This wall keeps out anyone who does not share, not only our faith, but also our opinions, gestures, styles, speech, preferences, and worldviews. And we have justified this as our act of being holy.

We have failed to see that Jesus suffered outside the camp (outside the wall of protection) where the hurting, despised, and lost people live. We have failed to undertake the responsibility of suffering with Him outside the camp (see yesterday’s post on this).

So we have left the world to itself. To fend for itself. We have told ourselves that the world has gone so far into chaos that the Church must separate and keep to ourselves.

Oh how we have missed God’s mark!

So last Wednesday night our class took a good, hard look at the Apostle Paul’s writings in 1 Thessalonians 2. I, for one, am convicted when I read of Paul’s compassion for the non-Christian. Check it out:

But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God.

We must bring up the obvious and deal with it:

1. Do I act gently toward non-Christians?

2. Do I cherish them as a mother cherishes her own children?

3. Do I feel affectionate toward them?

4. Am I eager to, not only impart the gospel of God, but to sacrifice my own life for them?

5. Are non-Christians dear to me?

6. Do I desire to labor and toil for them and not be a burden to them?

Tough questions to answer? Perhaps not, if we’re honest with ourselves.

Before He was arrested, Jesus did NOT say to His disciples, “They will know you are My disciples by your separation from them, and your holiness apart from them, and your logic and reason against them, and how you will fight for your opinions to be heard.”

He did say, “They will know you are My disciples if you have love…”

If we truly believe that Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead, and that believing in Him alone gives us everlasting life–then shouldn’t we be eager enough and loving enough to live out this good news to non-Christians around us?

After all, God has entrusted us with His gospel to bring to the lost (1 Thessalonians 2:4).

How will we love them if we do not know them? How will we know them if we are not friends with them? And how will we become friends with them if we hold on to this mentality of we vs. them?

A mentor of mine once said, “We can give without caring, but we cannot care without giving.”

It’s time to let our love wash out the line drawn in the sand.

Questions? Comments? For the edification of the Church, feel free to reply with your thoughts.

______________________________

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(18) Comments

  • passionprayedfor
    02 Mar 2012

    What can I give to the non-Christian that is of any value other than the word of God. I know there are many people out there “on the fence” when it comes to religion, the Bible, Jesus, and faith. Seeing a Christian show them anything but love can throw them off of the fence in the wrong direction and for that we do need to be careful!!

    But when you deal with people who constantly slander the name of our God showing them love is not what I truly believe we NEED to do. Respect, yes. (1 Peter, 2:17) Love, I’m not sure…..Non-Christians falsely assume that Christians are hypocrites because they believe in an all loving God and yet cannot show love to all people in all situations all of the time. Well, if we did that, does that make us tolerant of every sin and every human condition? What distinguishes us as Christians if we are afraid to rebuke those who are not living a Christian lifestyle? Speak the truth in love….this is vitally important because more than anything we want to show everyone the love of Christ, but unfortunately in the world we live in (call it the end times if you like) there are so many hardened hearts you cannot even say the word Jesus without being hated. What good is my love going to do for them?

    I think of Jesus’ message in Matthew 10:12-15. “Whatever town or village you enter, search for some WORTHY PERSON there and stay at that person’s house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. (be respectful). If the home is DESERVING, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, SHAKE THE DUST OFF YOUR FEET when you leave that home or town. Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.” So Jesus did tell his disciples that the people would know them by their showing of love, but he did not tell them that their love would be useful to all. He recognizes that some people just cannot be saved.

    And if some people cannot be saved then why do we continue to waste our time “loving them?” What was the reason Jesus told his disciples to dust off their feet? I don’t approve of hate. I don’t approve of the us versus them mentality. I do however acknowledge and I think the Bible does too (you’re welcome to prove me wrong). That sometimes love just ain’t enough….

    I guess for me the best way I know how to show love to an unbeliever with a hardened heart is to pray for them. But as far as me working hard to have a relationship with them….I’m not convinced that that is necessary…..What are your thoughts?

    • J. Chad Barrett
      02 Mar 2012

      Thanks for your thoughtful comments, friend. I guess my response is that loving the non-Christian does not equal condoning sin.

  • Mel
    02 Mar 2012

    First of all I love your honesty. I can see both sides, in that many Christians feel they are too good to even speak with or “deal” with those that don’t hold the same beliefs we do. I feel that is wrong, but with limits. I just blogged about this (not as in depth) yesterday, so I’ll share that link and not retype it all, so I’ll paraphrase below. http://justalittlemel.wordpress.com/2012/03/01/667-2/

    Basically, I feel that one we as Christians share the biblical basis for our views while speaking or interacting with those that don’t agree with us, it is no longer our responsibility to “hound” them. Just as I don’t want someone that is an atheist hounding me trying to get me to change my beliefs, I don’t think non-Christians desire the same of us. Nor do I think we are commanded to follow them to the depths shaking our bible at them while they refuse to acknowledge it. Once I inform you of God’s word, and you have knowledge that there is another side to your (wrong) belief/principle, then it no longer falls on me to coddle you. Yes, I will be your friend, but until you come to me, I’m just going to continue on living my life to please God and show you His love in that way.

    To the poster above me, I believe you have valid points also. I don’t feel love for ALL people, I try to see the good in people, and give the benefit of the doubt, and I have very close friends and family that are non-Christians whom I love dearly. You can love non-Christians, but it’s not something I feel we are commanded to do. There is a huge disconnect with Christians that don’t know how to love/respect the person but hate the deed. You know the old “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater” deal. I think we are to share God’s love with them, and show them compassion and present ourselves as someone forgiven and cared for by God so they would want to experience the same.

    All JMO.

    Great post Chad!

    • J. Chad Barrett
      02 Mar 2012

      Thanks, Mel! Your thoughts are important to me. I guess my thinking is that since “God so loved the world” so should we. But love doesn’t mean condoning sin, and (as you rightly said) it doesn’t mean bashing non-Christians over the head. And this love can be expressed in a variety of ways–always led by the Holy Spirit. Good thoughts, Mel.

    • passionprayedfor
      02 Mar 2012

      I’m not disagreeing with Chad’s post at all. I’m simply pointing out a truth. There are people in this world that hate us. They HATE US with a passion that I will NEVER understand because I don’t hate anyone. I’m simply realistic here…. I cannot show love to those who hate me. It can’t be done!!! (well except maybe through prayer like I mentioned in my original post) In reading Matthew 10:12-15; tell me why did Jesus say that? Have you ever tried to be loving to someone who, because you are a Christian, mocks you, brings up evolution constantly, and uses the name of your Lord in vein just to see you wiggle. What love should I show other than love enough to bite my tongue and walk away. The devil is doing some of his finest work in this world. I know that I cannot change any hearts. That is God’s job. So I guess my question boils down to this. Chad’s post is correct in theory, but how do we love those who don’t want us to love them. Those who HATE us, mock us, say horrible things to and about us. I am not Jesus!!! I’m not that good. I know he did it, and yet he instructed his apostles to walk away!!!! Is there a time where it is ok to “dust off our feet” if you will? Becauses I would NOT sacrifice my life for one of these people.

      • J. Chad Barrett
        02 Mar 2012

        It hurts when we are attacked for our belief in Christ. And it is true that the world will hate us, just as Christ said it would.

        But it is also true that Christ can love those through us. Realizing that those who ridicule me are ultimately rejecting Jesus–not me.

        I don’t think we should push the gospel continually on those who act out against us in hatred. There are so many who are eager to know Christ and waiting for us to bring His gospel to them.

        The point of my blogpost was for us to consider ceasing the fight against the world and begin to fight for the world. This love for them can be expressed in a variety of ways: praying for them, giving to their needs, sacrificing for them, etc. After all, we are commanded to love our enemies and to do good to those who hate us.

        This is not easy. That’s why we must all God to love them through us. However, many of us are not willing to let that happen.

        That’s the mistake we make.

        Thanks for your authenticity! It’s refreshing.

        • passionprayedfor
          02 Mar 2012

          I do understand what you are saying and I do appreciate this post. It is hard to hear what we don’t want to hear, but make no mistake I want and need to know this. This post has inspired me to dig a little deeper and go into the different kinds of love that it talks about in the Bible. The Greek definitions and compare the different kinds of love in all the different situations that that Bible refers to showing love in. You really do need a working definition of love to grasp this concept fully. Surely God does not expect us to show our enemies the same kind of love that Jesus showed us!!!….or does He? Questions I will be pondering soon 😉 Thanks again!

          • J. Chad Barrett
            03 Mar 2012

            Keep searching, friend! Thanks for your comments! God bless.

          • passionprayedfor
            03 Mar 2012

            I did keep searching and I found this video that explains the different “loves” of the Bible soooooo well. I wanted to share this just because there’s something about his clarity that just made something click in my head and I get the concept of God’s love now. Thank you again for sparking this question for me to explore…

            http://www.truthortradition.com/modules.php?file=article&name=News&sid=743

          • J. Chad Barrett
            04 Mar 2012

            1 John 4:9-10 talks about the 4 aspects of agape love: it’s all giving, sacrificial, toward those who don’t deserve it, and it takes initiative. This is how we are to love one another. And this is how God loves the world (John 3:16). This is how Jesus loved lost people. It’s how the apostles loved lost people.

            Glad I could be of help to you, friend!

      • Mel
        02 Mar 2012

        Passion – I think, in short, that the Bible tells us to love other Christians (and you can certainly love non-Christians), but you don’t have to daily or repeatedly subject yourself to riducule. You can, and sometimes God can overcome their views through you, but sometimes it is ok to turn the other cheek. Yes, Jesus “hung” out with less than desireable people, and some Christians feel that is their calling to go to the bottom of the barrel and minister, but not all of us feel that calling and I certainly don’t think that it’s our Christian duty to subject ourselves to someone that has heard the word and chooses to vehamently deny it. So, no, you don’t have to show “LOVE” to those that hate you, but you do have to show restraint and common sense.

        Again, that’s my opinion.

        Chad – If you haven’t, check out my post, I’d love to hear your feedback on it:)

        • J. Chad Barrett
          02 Mar 2012

          i hear ya, Mel. And love can be expressed by praying for those who persecute. I’ll check out your blog!

  • Glenda Jansson
    02 Mar 2012

    Thank you for this! and especially on a forum such as Facebook. Especially at a time such as now, as I’m seeing more and more of my friends who are believers and my non-believing friends fighting “LOUDLY” and lengthily on Facebook about political issues. We’ve gotten caught up in the minor things of this world. And we are forgetting eternal matters. Shame on us! Christ physically touched the sick and lost to heal them; he ate with sinners- not to partake of their sins, but to love them and reach out to them with his inclusion; he died for “me” while I was lost! Thank you Jesus! Can I not love the unbeliever? minister to the unbeliever? reach out to the unbeliever? share Christ while they are lost? do business with them? associate with them/without partaking of sin with them? If not, how will I win them to Christ?

  • Lucian Rudd
    02 Mar 2012

    What a lot to consider! I’m an old? preacher … just returned to the pastorate after 17 years retirement …. Yes, we battle each other … within the local church, between denominations, etc. Personality flaws and the like bring on some of that. But we probably don’t battle the world enough … I don’t see very many recently who will quit trading because the owner may not be Christian or not the right kind of Christian. Saw more of it in the 50s and 60s … now we are much more a part of THEM.

    We are fast approaching a time when we will be in more battle with the world … go beyond the idea of loving the ones near us or the ones on the mission fields. We will soon have a major battle with the forces that want to destroy us. Government forces in our own nation are gradually raising more and more opposition … other religions that will kill their enemies are more and more “raising the sword.”

    More times will come when we will need to seek the wisdom of the Lord and be vigilant to see what’s going on around us that will try to overcome and destroy our witness.

    I mention being an “old” preacher to make the point that I have had 60 years in the ministry to see these things come about. We need to pay attention to Eph 5:13-17, a paragraph titled in the open Bible as “Walk as Children of Light,” teaching us to “walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise.”

    My book .. A JOY TO SHOUT ABOUT, has messages that relate to this.

    • J. Chad Barrett
      02 Mar 2012

      Thanks for your many years of service to our Lord! And “old” is such a relative term, ain’t it?

      You make good points, my friend! God bless!

  • authenticbeliever
    04 Mar 2012

    I agree with Mel about how we are to love non-Christians, but not hound them with our beliefs. We should share our beliefs, pray for our non-Christian friends, and be open to further discussion, but love them selflessly without motive. The biggest issue I have had with my non-Christian friends is essentially putting my relationships with them before my relationship with God, and compromising my own beliefs in the process. It is so easy to get caught up in the friendship that you end up slipping a little in your own faith. It’s important to be strong in your faith, as well as stay grounded in prayer and God’s Word to be effective with non-believing friends…

    • J. Chad Barrett
      04 Mar 2012

      Excellent point! That’s why my inner circle of friends comes from a group at Kingwood Bible Church!

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