Does it really make a difference what religion one ascribes to? Is God that picky to insist that we choose the “right” brand? Isn’t believing in a god and living a good life enough? After all, in our enlightened day and age we sophisticates understand so much more about history and the world we live in. Using ‘sacred’ writings to order our lives and world view is so unenlightened.
Besides that, the statistics of those professing religion compared with the secular, or world-centered mindset, seem to indicate very little difference in measurable morality between the two. Consider this conclusion from a recent poll by the Barna group: “We rarely find substantial differences between the moral behavior of Christians and non-Christians. Barna Project Director Meg Flammang said: “We would love to be able to report that Christians are living very distinct lives and impacting the community, but …” You get the picture. Of course, polling can be misleading, but it seems clear that merely identifying as a person of faith, even attending services, does not necessarily impact one’s business, social or moral choices. The contempt that society heaps upon Christianity probably stems at least in part from this kind of hypocrisy. That also might explain the culture’s readiness to respect the more stringent Muslim faith and its followers who openly resist conformity to an increasingly decadent culture.
Considering the radical beginnings of those first believers, named Christ-ians (Christ followers) by an onlooking culture, it seems that we have lost something in the transition down through the generations. Analyzing this descent could be the subject of a lengthy treatise, but I submit one huge diminisher. We have lost the sense of destiny – of eternity – of morphing from the material into the immortal. ‘Destiny’ is rooted in ‘destination’, and I think as a whole the church has lost sight of the future because of a myopic focus on the present. Christendom here in America seems to largely define itself by political clout, and while litigating and protesting for certain injustices is probably good on many levels, the alignment with politics becomes debilitating. Too often we trample on people (opponents) for the sake of the ‘cause’. Meanwhile those around us who are broken, helpless and hopeless become somebody else’s problem since we are busy attending services and living a nice life, comforted by our donations to various groups that are out ‘doing the work’. We forget to think about who we will take with us into an unimaginable eternal existence. Perhaps we are too busy with church programs to spend time taking care of those lying in the ditch, robbed and beaten by this culture.
Our predecessors did indeed turn the world upside down as reported in Acts 17. Those first believers were fearless followers who did not leave their world the same way they found it. Their lives were characterized by prayer, learning about the Lord’s ways, and obedience. Their impact on a culture at least equally corrupt as ours – perhaps even worse – stemmed from the message they took with them everywhere they went. And when they took in abandoned children, loved when persecuted, had a common table, dignified their women (something very counter cultural at that time), refused the prevailing sexual immorality, were content in their circumstances, bold in their affiliation with Jesus, determined in the pursuit of holiness, their neighbors took notice. They were delighted with their Lord and their destiny. They were not seeking approval from their peers but from their Savior. Passionate about the truth of the Gospel because of its impact on them, they persuaded men by their lives as much as by their words.
Here is a quote from a letter to a man called Diogenes from 130 AD:
“For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life.
They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all others; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death and restored to life. They are poor yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things and yet abound in all; they are dishonored and yet in their very dishonor are glorified. They are evil spoken of and yet are justified; they are reviled and bless; they are insulted and repay the insult with honor; they do good yet are punished as evildoers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred. To sum it all up in one word — what the soul is to the body, that are Christians in the world.”
Doctrine moved into action. “Faith is not just an action of your brain, it’s an investment of your life. Faith is not something you think, it’s something you live.” Paul David Tripp
Let’s turn our world upside down!