“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” – Kevin Max
“We are the Bibles the world is reading; We are the creeds the world is needing; We are the sermons the world is heeding.” ― Billy Graham
After I accepted Christ, I spent must time studying Christian theology. I wanted to know God better, experience Him as best as possible, and live a victorious life in Christ like the apostles. I read numerous books, listened to many pastors and took any and all opportunities to learn from other siblings in the faith. I learned quite a bit. However, it took me decades to notice a concerning trend. As a group and culture, we Christians seem more concerned having the correct ‘theology’ than actually living the life.
For some reason, I see 90% of my readers closing this page after reading that last line…but, please, hold on tight.
To properly lead others to Christ, we need both love, communicated through actions, and truth, communicated through words. Love without actions, or actions without love, becomes meaningless. And without truth, neither of these matter. Timothy Keller said,
“Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical, unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace.”
Few Christians would argue with this. Most preachers would teach upon the above. However, in our evangelical culture, we spend a lot more time talking and teaching theology than we do living out the life of truthful love and action. Such an approach comes off as prideful boasting, and the world sees it. A recent poll by Barna shows that over half of Americans think evangelical Christians act more like Pharisees, than Jesus. ( https://www.barna.org/barna-update/faith-spirituality/611-christians-more-like-jesus-or-pharisees#.VKgRzSvF_D8 ) . In the comic book industry, we have a saying… show, do not tell. Some comic creators, myself included, have a tendency to add a lot of exposition to our story, when showing those same details through actions would get the point across much more effectively (and memorably).
Now, I do not mean to imply that Christians do not love, take action or give. Many do show their devotion to Christ through action on a regular basis. However, if one measure the amount of time, money and talent wrapped up in teaching theology versus the time, money and talent dedicated to giving and serving as Jesus did, we would find a huge variance. And the world notices.
A pastor I listen to spent nearly a dozen weeks (three months), discussing preterism… the belief that Jesus already returned after his resurrection, fulfilling those prophesies regarding his second coming. My wife and I listened, somewhat interested. However, I could not help but notice, what if the entire group of listeners took those 18 hours, and, as a group, worked to make a difference in someone’s life…or in each other? What if, instead of talking about the love of Jesus, we showed it?
I do not advocate a complete 180. We do need preaches and teachers. The Bible explains that to us numerous times. Jesus, himself, preached. However, I advocate a better balance between how we spend our time, talent and money as the body of Christ. To show the world the love of Christ, which He commands us to do, will require a massive change in how we gather, think and walk in our daily lives. I pray that you will join me in asking God to challenge our hearts to shine His light in front of man.
Mat 5.16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[b] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
John 13.34 A new commandment I give to you,that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
James 2.14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.