The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected…–1 John 2:4-5a
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” –John 13:34-35
“You’re a Christian!?”
I was a teenager eager to share my faith to anyone who would listen and this was the reaction I got from a girl my age who was active as a satanic priestess. I hadn’t really said anything that shocking. Mostly, we just talked. I learned a lot about her life and religion and we discovered that we both believed human beings were sinful by nature.
Curious, she asked what I believed and I told her I was a Christian. She couldn’t believe it. I elaborated by telling her what God had done for me and what He did for the world. “That’s beautiful.” Her eyes glazed for a moment before snapping back into reality. After some more conversation I learned that her experience with Christians had been extremely negative. They were the ones that were simply, mean spirited.
No one wanted to hear her out or truly engage her as a person.
Other folks I have spoken to have described to me how they were dehumanized in church or by Christians. Many Christian folks have also described this to me. They are routinely treated like outsiders or spoken down to.
Others have told me about strange evangelistic encounters where the evangelist will tell them about Jesus and argue with them but never be willing to answer for themselves or their beliefs–the evangelist is always right and quickly moves on to the next target if an individual does not wish to convert on the spot.
People are notches for his evangelistic belt, not people who can contribute to him personally or who have intrinsic value.
The Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) has very few minorities of any kind or women around. Currently the leadership blocks publications by other leading evangelicals who differ theologically on certain hot button issues–even though people who held to these positions helped to found ETS. I have been called a liberal for being more Arminian than Calvinist and some Calvinist friends have been attacked for not being Arminians.
Factionalism abounds in evangelical circles.
Personally, I have had regular nasty encounters with Christians. Often these individuals wish to correct me or a loved one on an insignificant point (like A.D. or C.E.) or tell us how “godless” we are. Some wished to school us on the clear teachings of Scripture while having sex outside of marriage.
Sexism? Yeah, there is a lot of that too.
Yes, There is a BIG Problem
It turns out that on a statistical level “born-again” believers are not that different from non-believers in the way we live our every day lives. Sure we own more Bibles, are less likely to approve of the “F” word on t.v., go to church more and invest in some non-profits (often churches), but the Barna Group notes that when it comes to “the substance of people’s daily choices, actions, and attitudes–there were few meaningful gaps between born-again Christians and non-born-agains…In virtually every study we conduct, representing thousands of interviews every year, born-again Christians fail to display much attitudinal or behavioral evidence of transformed lives.” (UnChristian, 44-45).
I know being saved does not make one perfect–but it is a serious matter if there is little real difference between believers and non-believers. Sure we have a lot of cultural differences like less swearing, Bible studies, and are slightly more likely to help the homeless…but in many important ways we are no different from everyone else. According to that same study, 59% of young adult Christians believe cohabitation is acceptable and 44% believe sex outside of marriage is. I have heard our statistics for divorce and pornography are also extremely high (sometimes slightly higher than those outside the church). The Barna Group found that when it came to inappropriate sexual behavior 30% of born-agains admitted to this activity in the last 30 days as opposed to 35% of other Americans (only slightly better in this study).
We should take all of this very seriously. No, I am not saying Christians are perfect or that anyone who struggles is automatically not saved. However, the Bible is clear that while works do not contribute to salvation, works do follow from it. In other words, we would expect that our behavior would be significantly different from the world where it counted. We would be more loving, caring and moral people. 1 John calls those who do not keep God’s commands and who do not love others and yet claim they know God liars.
By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked…The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes (1 John 2:3-11).
The Bible tells us that as Christians we can set our mind on the Spirit and turn away from evil. It says that if we walk by the Spirit we will turn away from evil.
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. –Gal 5:13-17
The apostle Paul spells out to us what it looks like when we are not walking with God and what it looks like when we are.
NOT Walking with God:
Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. –Gal 5:19-21
Walking with God:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another. –Gal 5:22-26
If we are truly in Christ our behaviors will reflect it. This does not happen over night or all at once, but transformation will be evident–even if not always occurring in a linear fashion.
What does it mean if most of us are no different where it counts? What does it mean if our movement is characterized by factionalism, enmity, strife and sexual immorality is rampant?
The world might hate us–it hated Christians in history and hates Christians today, but why does it hate us?
Are we at least known to be loving, kind and gentle people?