Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Perhaps the most inspiring story I know

I realize I have not posted in quite some time, but I recently read an incredible story which sparked me to start writing again.

The story was about a man who was born and raised modestly, mostly just doing his work and whatever his parents told him to do. But his parents saw something special in him from the moment he was born. Most people did not even notice him at first, but his parents – especially his father – were convinced that he would change the world some day. As a young man, his charisma and intelligence far surpassed that of his peers. Thus, the educated adults in the area began to see his potential early on.

As time went on, he – like many great historical leaders – began gaining considerable influence. And he – like many great historical leaders – became the target of both heavy praise and harsh criticism. Now, I am not sure if you would agree, but it seems to me that truly great people (and I mean those driven by a higher purpose than power, money, etc.) die young more often than not. It is as though the world cannot tolerate authentic goodness. Notice that Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., many great men of the Bible, etc. were murdered for nothing other than their noble efforts to bring virtue into the world. This man was no different.

I do not doubt he would have christened himself a man of God, and accurately so. He often traveled to homeless shelters to feed the residents and, more importantly, to remind them of their value and give them hope.  Further, he frequented the local bars where he spent time with the roughest people, those with the worst reputations, and he simply talked with them. Through these visits he wanted to show them something they had likely never witnessed: love.

Now, when I say, “love,” I do not mean anything romantic or strictly emotional. No, this was real love. It was the tough, selfless love his father taught him early in life. He loved quite instinctively, and as far as I can see, his goal in engaging these rough people was – once again – to give them hope. He did not see them as vile, unpleasant people; he saw them as people in need of something more – something deeper. He knew that taking the time to pass through their territory and show them authentic religion (religion concerned with benefitting rather than condemning people) would likely impel them to do the same for others. Love in its purest form typically does spread this way.

Inevitably, this man – like many great historical leaders – gained a following. Those drawn to him were not typical, for he did not concern himself with the powerful, nor did he spend much time with “religious” folks. He was far more interested in those he could aid than in those who could aid him. Wherever he went, people were pleased to meet a powerful example of plain goodness. For the seemingly hopeless, a minute with him was a minute of joy. And although he gave much, he expected nothing in return; he only asked that people take his precedent and pass the love on to others.

Of course, this period of happiness could not last forever; none do in this crooked world. Incidentally it was the “religious” folks who turned against him first. They – as “religious” folks faced with pure religion often do – hated him for breaking their cherished customs. Further, they were offended that a man claiming to follow God would associate with such wicked people in such repulsive places.

And, as it turns out, it was a radical cult among the “religious” folks who killed him. This should not be surprising, seeing that “religious” people have a long history of doing such horrid things in the name of their religion (let’s not forget the Apostle Paul who first tried to serve God by killing Christians, or the Crusades for that matter). Of course this is a blatant contradiction; the “religious” folks should have known better. But only purely religious people focus on their own flaws (rather than focusing other people’s), and the “religious” folks I speak of (those who worry with the minor rules/policies of their religion, forgetting the essentials) are rarely the purely religious folks in any given community. The purely religious folks are generally too busy loving the world to worry with stiff, man-made regulations; especially those regulations which tend to stifle rather than motivate the truly religious life.  

This man was certainly not afraid to point these things out to the “religious” folks. Perhaps this is why they killed him.

Now, often such good men are assassinated in a rush, being shot or stabbed. It happens in the blink of an eye, and suddenly they are gone. Sadly, this was not good enough for those who killed this man. They made his family and friends watch as they tortured him in a gory mess. It was not until he was naked and humiliated, had nearly bled to death, and could not even rise from ground that they finally finished him off. His closest friends and family could only sob hopelessly as they watched him fade away. But even as he was about to die, he – like many great martyrs of the past – was begging God to forgive the very people who were executing him.

This was not the first time, nor was it the last that a good man was taken from this world brutally and early in life. I often wonder if dying young is a sign of virtue; if the world is so corrupt that it kills the good people and preserves the foul ones, for it seems to me that this man – like many great leaders of the past – was simply too good for this world. And I think I was so inspired reading his story, because he – like many great leaders of the past – taught me how to be more than just a “religious” person; his story showed me how to be truly good. His story inspired me to forget being “religious”; to serve humanity instead. His story spurred me to crave a life worthy of the same cruel fate.

But I think, more than that, I was inspired by him because he – unlike any great leader of the past – was resurrected. I am inspired because he – like no one else – is the Son of God. I am inspired because Jesus – like none before or after – showed me more than a good life; he showed me the perfect life.

If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
– Jesus

Friday, April 26, 2013

Suppressing Senioritis

Although “senioritis” is mostly associated with high school, it unquestionably has its place here at Harding. Symptoms include: laziness, apathy, academic collapse, short attention span, late assignments, and wearing sweatpants to class. Many students have not been cured of it since high school, while others were cured but caught it again very recently. With the end of the semester in sight, it is senioritis season.

Now, there are three important questions we must ask ourselves about senioritis. The first and most important question – one you should ask about any disease – is: is it fatal? And as far as I know, it isn't.  With our minds at ease we can move on to the next question, which is: is it contagious? And yes, it is absolutely contagious. The student who hasn’t caught senioritis yet may quickly fall victim to it when hanging out with lackadaisical peers. This means we all must be careful. Once senioritis season rolls around, it spreads more quickly than the Iota Chi Facebook group.

This leads us to the final question: how do you suppress senioritis? To best answer the question, we have to first understand where senioritis comes from. Perhaps the easiest indicator of this is found in its timing; it strikes the majority of students four or five weeks before the end of the spring semester. This would suggest that the culprits are summer and graduation – two things found at the end of spring. Stress has been building for months, students have been straining to complete their work, and the end has never seemed so beautiful. The result is often for these students to live as though their work is already done. Their motivation is gone and often their grades go with it. The issue here is not with looking forward to graduation or summertime, which is perfectly natural; the issue is with forgetting that they haven’t arrived yet.

So what is a victim of senioritis to do when the fire of motivation has gone out? At one time, I wondered the same thing. In fact, having caught a pervasive case of senioritis, I scheduled an appointment with my psychology professor and asked what to do about it. I told him I had lost my motivation, and asked how I could recover it. His reply was somewhat depressing but incredibly helpful.

“Why do you need motivation to get the work done?” My professor asked, “Sometimes you just have to sit down and do the work without feeling like it. If everyone only ever worked when they were motivated, not much would get done.”

It would certainly be a spoiled person who only worked when motivated. Plus, we know how elusive motivation can be. Sometimes you have to – in the words of Nike – just do it.

But it is not impossible to self-motivate and hence battle senioritis. Perhaps the strongest method of fueling motivation is to find role-models and mentors. The people who have accomplished what you wish to accomplish can obviously tell you some things about what it takes to succeed. Not only will they have practical advice, but their stories of success will often inspire you and give you a standard to live by. Even God thought it wise to send a role-model – Jesus – to display the perfect life, thus giving the world inspiration and a standard to live by. There is great power in having a role-model.

Several other tactics exist to produce motivation and kill senioritis (e.g. you can read about your goals, openly talk about your ambitions, post your goals where you’ll see them, think positive thoughts, etc). But for the sake of space I will abstain from detailing them.

Instead, I will just remind you that the semester is coming to a close. With that in mind it would be easy to fall victim to the senioritis epidemic, but rather than let the nearness of the end sap your motivation, let it spark you to buckle down and work hard. In the words of Aristotle, “Well begun is half done,” and we know there is still much to do. Do not let senioritis make you forget that the work you do now is setting the foundation for your future. Shortly it will be time for a much needed break, but for now it’s time to finish strong.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Letter to Satan


It seems that you’ve decided to make your presence painfully known in recent months. From the Aurora shooting to the Sandy Hook shooting to this most recent bombing in Boston (and so much more), there is no doubt that the Scripture was right in declaring you to be the “prince of this world.”

I just wanted to write you and remind you of how worthless and powerless you are. Yes, you can cause temporary suffering. Yes, some people may fall into your traps. Yes, you may even successfully terrify some people with your cruel attacks. But the truth remains; one day you will be bound in eternal suffering far worse than any you could inflict. In the end, you will be the most worthless of all. No one will even remember you.  

Plus, must you be reminded that even your power in this world is limited? All you have done by terrorizing us is remind us that we are temporary creatures. But this just leads us to realize that we have eternal souls. If this world was all there is, perhaps you would have some power. But it isn’t. If losing our physical lives was the worst that could happen to us, you might have some power. But it isn’t, therefore you don’t.

You can kill us, torture us and do all sorts of evil to us, but it means nothing. In the end, you’re the one who will truly suffer. Our suffering during our short time on earth just makes the comfort of living with God that much sweeter. Even now, we know that our loved ones who have died are at peace, and that brings us profound tranquility – something you will never have.

Watch closely, as people rally to help each other in these difficult times. When you do your worst, God’s creatures step up and oppose you every step of the way.

You have failed once again. Feel free to keep trying, but your attempts will be short lived. Soon you will answer to God. In the meantime – while you remain here on earth as an insignificant prince – we will continue serving the King.

In Christ,


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Unity: Part 2

You may object that many organizations, such as large businesses are perfectly unified even though most of their employees are only working for personal gain. I, however, fail to see the unity in that. They may work in the same building, and wear the same uniforms, but it is not often that I see money-grubbing business men develop a close bond with their coworkers – often not even with their own families – unless those coworkers are valuable to them for profit. As far as I can see, such an organization with such a mindset produces scandals, treachery, blackmail, and occasionally even murder more often than it produces unity.

It is clear that one obsessed with self-preservation is not one to be trusted, while two or more united under the same cause can always trust each other. Two students working on separate projects in competition for the best grade may try to sabotage each other’s grades (that is if they possess poor character), but I have yet to hear of two students working together for a joint grade sabotaging each other’s work.  If unity is to come alive, there must be a higher cause to unify under.

If the goal is not to “get to heaven” though, then what is it? Further, how does it unify us? To answer the first question, it is important to realize that there is nothing wrong with desiring heaven. The problem arises in forgetting why heaven is desirable – and I mean beyond the basic fact that it is better than the other place. Heaven is, very simply, such a desirable place because it is in heaven that you find God. It is impossible for our mind to comprehend this, but as we investigate the implications of what meeting God will be like, we may find deep within ourselves an insatiable hunger for that meeting. “As the deer thirsts for the water” you might say.

Consider first that God created us. And if He created us, then He created all of our passions. And if He loves us as He claims to, then might He create us to desire Him above all else? Might He create us to be only fully satisfied by Him? I spent my whole life being told that it is only right to desire God above all else, but now I realize that He is what I – and everyone else – have always desired the most; we often just do not realize that He is what we are craving. One will seek alcohol, sex, art, nature’s beauty or any number of things to feed the craving, yet the craving always returns; desire disappoints once more. We then may come to realize that although God designed with our cravings, it is Him we are actually craving. We will find that He is far more beautiful than any landscape, far more pleasurable than sex, and far more satisfying than any food or drink.

You must accept this truth unless you wish to claim that God did not create us or does not love us, because once you accept those two things, you must then accept that He created us to love Him back and to be satisfied in Him above all else. Now, once we crave God, we inevitably find that He completely satisfies us. Further, we find that everything else becomes infinitely more satisfying as well. We are able to appreciate earthly pleasures for what they are – gifts from God – rather than craving them as our ultimate desires. Through this process they become far more satisfying and far less disappointing than they ever could have been before. Once we join to Christ and God becomes the object of our desire, we have begun to partake in the “living water” by which we “will never thirst” (John 4:13-14).

Now, one may object that hoping for union with God has nothing to do with unity here on Earth. We can desire God for ourselves while disregarding anyone else’s need for Him. This objection leads into the third and deepest level of unity: unity through the Spirit of God.

Yes, it is theoretically true that one could desire God and God alone and disregard other people’s need for Him. In reality this is simply not possible. When God becomes the focus of your love, you begin to see within yourself the very same goodness you found in Him. As your hope becomes tied to Him, His Spirit becomes tied to you. What must naturally follow is truly astounding. You walk into a room of Christian people, look around, and find yourself surrounded by other God-like creatures (we were all created in His image, remember?). Now, how does this impact you? Well, if you gained your godliness through Faith which led to Hope, and your Hope is founded in desiring God, the implications are obvious: You will be drawn by an immense Love to your fellow, God-like Christian brothers and sisters, if for no other reason than that they are just like the very God you find so satisfying. He lives within them just as He lives within you and as a result, you cannot help but Love them deeply. It is an awe-inspiring experience to come in contact with your companion in Christ, to look them in the eyes, and to see the Creator of the entire Universe dwelling deep inside them. No greater Love exists than this and therefore, no greater unity. Of course, one might say that this is irrelevant because the people we meet are all imperfect. Perhaps, but only if you are willing to say God also does not love you because of your imperfections or if you are ready to own up to your own perfection. If not, then realize that when God’s Spirit lives within you, you will be full of the same God-like Love He is defined by. Through the Spirit of God, Christians are united by the deepest possible bond; it is designed by the Designer Himself.  

At the beginning of this chapter, I mentioned loneliness and stated that throughout this chapter, my goal would be very simple: to show that loneliness has no place in Christ’s Church. As Faith leads into Hope, and Hope – once attached to God – leads us to become filled with a God-like Spirit of Love, loneliness is defeated. God connects people who could never otherwise have been connected. He has followers all over the Earth and a “cloud of witnesses” in Heaven, and loneliness has no place to hide.

The Unity: Part 1

As often as I have been in conversation about people’s greatest fears, one specific fear has inevitably been mentioned: loneliness. A person will often take drastic measures to ensure they do not feel as though they are alone. The most obvious manifestation of this I have seen is in people who get into romantic relationships with people they do not care much for. In college I lived with a guy who was doing just that. He would come storming into the room and start ranting to me and our friends:

“Guys, I don’t know if I can take this anymore,” he would say, “This girl is driving me crazy! She criticizes me for absolutely everything; she won’t let me hang out with any of my friends; she flirts with every guy she meets! This is getting to be too much for me!”
Now at this point, I figured my other friend would encourage him to break off the relationship with this girl. She clearly was not good for him; but he had something else in mind.
“Well…” he said, “At least you have somebody.”

I admit I was bewildered. Both of my friends would rather have a relationship with someone they described to basically be the second coming of the Wicked Witch of the West than feel alone! I find it more spectacular still that this sort of irrational desperation to escape loneliness is a common phenomenon. One will hang all rational thinking if only to feel connected to someone else. To avoid the horrors of an empty home, the fearful man shares his marriage vows and then his home with whoever will join him, no matter how critical and contemptuous she may be. The fearful woman shares her bed with mindless pigs, if only to feel accepted for one evening. Loneliness is a most formidable enemy to humanity.

But how might the world look if there was one place where loneliness had been destroyed? People would flock to it. Nations would mobilize their entire armies and draft all their young men (and probably some women and children) if only they could have within their grasp the one place where loneliness died and was no more. How incredible it is for us to find that Christ has every intention of making His Church just that place. In a world hungry for Unity, the Church is alive.

St. Thomas Aquinas claimed the Church is unified in three ways – through Faith, Hope and Charity. I am inclined to agree, although in this article, I intend to slightly tamper with the wording. Rather than say we are unified through Charity, I will say we are unified through the Spirit of God, and I will explain why later. For now, let us navigate through a discussion of the Unity found in the Church, and perhaps discover why it is such a beautiful thing. In doing so, we may find ourselves standing victoriously over loneliness, and may finally say that it has – at least in one place – been destroyed. I will leave that for you to decide.

In keeping with the unifying factors mentioned by Aquinas, we will begin with Faith. Faith is the most basic level of Unity we find in the Church, and for those who have not seen much of the world outside of America, it may be difficult to see. The church would seem to be disjointed, split into hundreds of denominations all proclaiming to believe different things. One Church plays instruments and another Church claims that instrumental worshippers are punching their tickets to hell with every note played. One Church takes communion quarterly while another Church claims that weekly communion is the only biblical way. Take a trip to Southeast Asia, however, and a whole new picture begins to unravel. While I personally was there, I spent time every week worshiping God in a small apartment crammed tight with 10 or 15 people. I grew to know and love those people, because in the city of 7 million we were living in, they were the only 10 or 15 Christians; they and they alone were my fellow believers. I could barely communicate with half of them seeing that their English was poor and my Chinese was nonexistent. If ever I was wondering the marketplace or walking down the street and I saw one of them, though, we would make eye contact and with a twinkle in our eyes, we knew. We knew we had a bond shared by very few in the area. We, together, believed in the risen Lord, Jesus Christ, and in that moment we had a beautiful unity through Faith.

Faith, however, is the shallowest of the three unifying factors, so that once one gets past the initial bond of Faith, the unity grows far deeper. The hope we all share is far more powerful and it is the natural product of a Faith well-founded. Once the Faith foundation has been set, the Christian is then united to other Christians by a common goal; a common destiny; a common hope. One may object that a Christian may very well have the hope of eternal life and never need to interact and unite with fellow Christians of the same hope, and I must agree. Should the goal be eternal self-preservation, then of course there is no need for unity. For Christian people to unite in hope, that hope must be tied to something far greater than individual salvation. This may be best illustrated within the framework of war.

Imagine you are at the front lines of a brutal war. Dull explosions boom all around. You hear the crack of a landmine and wonder if yet another friend has been dismembered. Men all around are shouting in anger or agony as they brutalize one another, orchestrating the worst symphony of pain and distress known to the world. If you are in the middle of this terrible situation for no other reason than that you want to survive, your morale is likely to be very low. Perhaps you were drafted and have no desire to be where you are, and have no idea why you should have to fight. You simply know that the men in opposition are looking for any opportunity to mutilate you, and you would prefer not to meet one of them up close. In this situation, feeling a strong sense of unity with your fellow soldiers seems unlikely. When your purpose is simply self-preservation, there is no reason to unite with anyone unless they may prove to help you in your quest to survive. Most likely, though, that will not happen because they too will be on their own personal quest to survive and your respective hopes will rarely match up.

What happens, however, when the war described is no longer theoretical, but is World War II? Now you are fighting among men who all share the same goal: stop Hitler. It’s no longer about you and your life; it is about the lives of everyone who would be affected should Hitler and his hateful government become the dominant world power. It is about freeing the prisoners of Hitler’s men who are being forced to suffer beyond human comprehension. Suddenly motivation is sky high and all good men are united. In fact, they would fight side-by-side with nearly anyone willing to join them if only the evils of the Third Reich could be stopped.

It is not difficult to imagine that Christians – soldiers of Christ – likewise will have trouble uniting if they do not join themselves to a cause higher than individual self-salvation. Many people will claim that their goal in life is to “get to heaven.” When this goal is accomplished it is certainly a good thing, but as the main intention, it is remarkably selfish. I cannot recall any time when Christ advocated self-preservation as the ultimate goal; and why would He? The least unified group of people you will meet is a group of people all seeking personal gain. The Church is no different. 

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Faith

At age 7, I was quite possibly the most difficult child a parent has ever seen. I was diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder by age 5, and I think the disorder magnified once we affirmed I had it. One afternoon, at the end of recess and lunch break, the teachers had us lined up to go back to our classrooms. I was standing at the back of the line, and what happened next is hard to explain, but I will do my best. I had a sudden, profound notion that I needed to do something. I could not tell you where it came from, although Satan would be a reasonable guess. All I know is that it sent me on a journey across the playground to one of the other lines of children. I walked up to a girl in the line, reared back, kicked her with all my strength, and walked back to my line.

The big question to ask in this situation would be; why? Well, there really is no answer. When people asked I would simply say, “I don’t know,” and to this day, I could not tell you what possessed me to kick the poor girl. Perhaps that is why I was unable to defend my actions and therefore got paddled severely for it. I would have needed some pretty strong evidence to get away with kicking her, and having no reason at all did not do the trick. For any rational person to agree to an action or adhere to a belief there will have to be a good reason for it. When something is done on any other grounds, it simply looks like ignorance.

A prominent atheist once said, “Our ignorance is God; what we know is Science.”

Statements of this sort are quite common, and I admit that I do not find this surprising. The Apostle Paul, an astounding defender of the faith, encouraged his readers to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), but more often than not it seems Christians let other people work out their salvation for them, and there is not much fear or trembling going on in the process. Were they asked why they believe, they would articulate highly irrational answers. We see evidence of this when non-believers attack the Faith and leave many Christians at a loss for words. Sure, the Christian may make some bold statements about the authority of the Bible to judge humanity and the reality of God, but not with any evidence to support the case.

As a young man, the argument I most often heard in defense of the Gospel was that the Bible is comprised of 66 books with 40 different authors and yet does not have a single contradiction. They would say such cohesiveness is impossible outside of divine inspiration. And I agree; the Bible is remarkably cohesive for such a compilation of separate works, but what happens when a non-believer points out some obvious contradictions? For example, Jacob once claimed to see God face-to-face (Genesis 32:30), yet God told Moses no man could see Him and live (Exodus 33:20). There are numerous examples of polar opposite statements such as these in the Bible, and that is exactly how I witnessed every non-believer silence this argument. Of course, the Christian would make a blanket statement about paying attention to context allowing them to walk away feeling justified, but the winner was undisputed.

Any other defenses I was taught had nothing to do with defending the gospel. The goal was to debunk the beliefs of other denominations. I suppose my teachers wanted to strengthen everyone’s personal conviction that we were the only denomination on the remarkably narrow track to heaven. The funny thing is this rarely led anyone to evangelize. I felt as though I was part of a group of spiritual elitists who were smugly confident in their beliefs and glad to remain that way. There was no need to defend the Gospel, we already had the truth. I would bet this attitude is what leads many non-believers to accuse Christians of being completely ignorant. A large group of blind followers who believe in angels, demons, worldwide floods, and all sorts of nonsense for no reason and condemn others who do not do the same could not possibly be an intelligent group.

This problem is magnified by a large group of Christians who take the description of Faith as the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1) to mean there is no need to defend the Faith at all. If it cannot be seen, then what is the point? Does that not put it outside the scope of scientific observation? Maybe, but the word “evidence” would indicate that there is some reasoning to be done before adhering to any beliefs blindly. Further, the Scripture is quite clear that one must have a defense prepared for anyone who questions their beliefs (1 Peter 3:15).

Whether it is Scriptural or not to consider eternal things, it is a wonder the general population does not spend more time considering them. With potentially eternal consequences, one would think that people would be very meticulous about seeking Truth and Salvation. It might even lead them to experience some fear and trembling. Of course, it is more practical to address the more immediate issues such as making money, finding a spouse, etc., but if we get the eternal things wrong, does all that really matter? When you consider how painfully obvious it is that a large percentage of us are going to die (100% to be exact), it seems quite shallow to avoid questioning the things which may transcend this physical life.

Faith and considerations of eternal things endure serious scrutiny from many in the scientific community, though. The existence of God cannot be physically proven by any form of scientific measurement. They believe the metaphysical deserves no consideration in the realm of science where ideas are only relevant when physically proven.  Because thoughts on God can never be more than ideas, they are frequently discounted.

 I admit I cannot see how the scientific community would expect the Creator of all physical things to be measurable by physical processes. Sure, the world is a beautiful image of God’s artistry, but it can in no way be mistaken for God Himself, nor can it be used to measure Him. A painting will reveal evidence of its creator’s personality, but you do not really know the painter until you have seen them. The world we see reveals some truly stunning attributes of its Artist but we, as part of that artistry, cannot expect to measure our Great Painter using His own painting. We will not know Him until He reveals Himself.

With no physical proof of God’s existence, the case for Him may seem difficult, and indeed it is no light matter. Philosophers have debated it for centuries and no consensus has been reached. How then, can an educated Christian choose to avoid this battlefield? The Faith is under attack, yet Christians often lay down their belt of Truth and shield of Faith, leaving them virtually defenseless against “Satan’s fiery arrows” (Ephesians 6:10-17). Faith requires a Christian to ask some very big questions, to answer those questions and to defend their answers. If we cannot, how will anyone reasonable ever join our cause? We would, in fact, be just the group of dumb, blind followers many atheists already say we are.

The evidence for Faith is certainly available. Many high-minded thinkers have published brilliant work on the issue. From such evidence I have yet to hear an atheist or non-believer adequately explain how Morality or Reason could exist without God. These arguments are just the tip of the iceberg, though. Arguments from History, Physics and Philosophy are countless. God becomes much more real to one who takes time to search for Him. And believe me, He is not hiding. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The World

Pretend for a moment that you are an atheist. Or at least pretend you are not a follower of Jesus. If you actually are not, this should be pretty easy for you. Anyway, you are at your home on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, Saturday being your only day off work. You are tired from the busy week, and you are thrilled to finally be able sit down with a glass of wine, grab a book and chill out for the day. Just as you get settled into your comfortable surroundings, you hear a knock at the door. No one told you they were planning to visit today, so you walk to the front door confused. When you peek outside, you see three young people you have never met. They are standing awkwardly on your front porch, each holding a Bible and a flyer. They look almost as scared as you are confused. Increasingly bewildered, you open the door.

“Can I help you?”
“Hello,” says the young man standing slightly ahead of his two friends, “My name is Christian. My friends here are Faith and Grace. We are from the Hope Church just down the road. We just have a couple of questions for you.”
“I’m all ears.”
“First, are you a member of the Church?”
“I am not.”
“Well, do you know where you are going when you die?”
What? Are you kidding?
“I haven’t really thought about it before…”
“You haven’t? It is so very important! Could we have a Bible study with you?”
“Yeah, about that. I actually don’t believe in the Bible.”
“Do you not know? The Bible is the only way to receive eternal life!”
“I’m honestly not interested.”
“Ok, well here is something for you. I hope you come visit us some time!” And with that the kids are off to the neighbor’s house. When you look down at the flyer they handed you, you see a list of steps to eternal life, each with an accompanying Bible verse – even though you just said you don’t believe in the Bible – followed closely by some warnings about being thrown into a fiery lake should you refuse to listen (also from the Bible). At the end, the flyer lists the congregation’s worship times.

Yikes. This situation is painfully awkward. Unfortunately, I have been in that group of kids many times, and with almost always the same result; the unsuspecting victim of my evangelistic efforts was far from interested. I thought I was doing it right. I had the message of truth in my hands, and the courage to spread it. Why was nobody interested? Well upon looking closely at this method, I think the more relevant question would be: Why would ANYBODY be interested?

This example is just one of the ways the Church often struggles in its interactions with the rest of the world. Non-believers often view Christian people to be some of the most unintelligent and harshly judgmental people around, and they often have good reason to think so. If the only Christians you ever met had warned you to convert to their beliefs or suffer the eternal consequences, you might not feel favorably toward Christianity either. If you visited a Christian congregation only to witness the members patronizing and condemning the rest of the world, and often even condemning other congregations, you might avoid visiting ever again. Who wants to be a part of that system? Unfortunately, this is what one will frequently find when exploring Christianity.

Now, you might begin to think that I am condemning evangelism altogether. If you think so, you are mistaken. The Church obviously would not grow if Christians did not go out and spread the message just as Christ commanded. The problem arises when we forget how to spread it. For the Church to become what it was when it was first established, it will have to change its attitude toward outsiders and its methods of interaction with the world.

When Jesus sent his disciples out to spread the message, He sent them out with a couple of different tasks. First, He told them to proclaim that the Kingdom of Heaven was near. He then told them to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and cast out the demons. Finally, He told them to find someone to stay with for the duration of their time in each town (Matthew 10:5-15).

Do you notice a difference between the modern style of evangelism and the commands of Christ? The same message may be preached, but it is facilitated through the healing and helping of the target people. Further, the disciples were told to stay in the town for a while. Inevitably they would build relationships with people as they lived among them, and many people would grow to appreciate them for all the healing and love they brought to the town. 

We come to realize that the actions of the disciples were just as much a part of the message as the words they were using. Our religion is a one calling us to visit orphans and widows (James 1:27), feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome in strangers, clothe the poor, take care of the sick, and visit those who are in prison (Matthew 25:31-46). Effective evangelism requires a heavy dose of doing, not just saying.

But what about inside the Church? Since the Church is comprised of Christ’s chosen people, would it not be natural to take time during worship services to discuss the outside world and the impending doom hanging over the heads of all unevangelized people? It would certainly seem noble, and it would definitely motivate people to evangelize. Deciding the fate of outsiders, however, is not a Christian’s job. Paul clearly said that a Christian has no business judging outsiders. The people to focus on are those within the Church who know what they should be doing (1 Corinthians 5:12).

When Jesus said He was the way, the truth and the life, He made it clear that He is the Judge (John 14:6). There is no good reason for us to assume that He needs any help with that job. Those He believes should join Him eternally in heaven will end up going to heaven through Him, and those He denies will be denied. Who are we to say one way or another? A person can no more judge the inner workings of someone else’s soul, than they can accurately diagnose someone with an illness just by looking at them. Christ is the only one who knows the inner workings of the soul, therefore Christ is the only one qualified to judge the soul.

The Church is not God’s vessel of Judgment in the world. It is His vessel of Love. The message to be spread is a message of Love, the Savior we proclaim is a Savior who loves, and we preach His message to people because we love them. That is why Christ-like interaction with the world involves a lot more than just preaching. It involves taking the time to go out into the world, and love it.