A man once told a story of traveling with a business partner. He was a believer in Christ, but his friend was not. Riding in a taxi from their hotel to an event, they passed by an abortion clinic where a protest was taking place outside of the facility. There were signs with bible verses, but the people holding the signs were not acting Christlike. When the taxi driver was finally able to pass through the commotion, his business partner turned to the Christian and said, “If it were not for you, I would hate those people.”
That statement often sounds in my ears. Much damage has been done by people who called the name of Christ, but who did not understand or accept the nature of His kingdom. When people point out the immorality of and harm done by hypocrites, I would say that Jesus completely agrees, and had very strong words for hypocrites. Read one of the harshest chapters in the entire Bible, Matthew 23!
Those who seek to discredit Christianity often highlight injustices committed in its name: Crusades, Inquisitions, European and American witch hunts, support of slavery, and violence against Jews and Muslims. In response, I would exhort you, as I have done in other letters, to study history! In each of those historical occurrences, the motives behind the unChristian methods were about acquisition of resources, consolidation of monarchical, social and/or economic power, and/or the unholy love of money.
Those who twisted the Scriptures for their own purposes were not following the orders of the Christ they claimed. When Jesus said, “I came not to send peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34), He was not referring to social world peace on Earth at that point in history, nor of a physical sword for violence against others. His peace is offered for the eternal soul, and the weapon He spoke of was a spiritual sword, as His message ultimately divides all humans into two groups. When He spoke of a literal sword, it was to tell Peter to put his away so that the will of the Father could be done (Matthew 26:52). That will was not to conquer lands or nations, but to conquer the hearts of people.
Let me paraphrase some remarks by Ravi Zacharias on this issue: Jesus never sought political power. He never sought to use the sword to silence the enemy. His method was to conqer through love. That method is slower than the way both religion or anti-religious groups would do it. When an atheist kills, it is in keeping with his worldview. When a Christian is hurtful or violent, he is in violation of Christ’s teaching. Never judge a belief by its abuse. (end paraphrase)
To follow Mr. Zacharias’ advice, let us judge Christianity in history by those who truly lived it.
I look at the life of David Brainerd, a man who lived in the wilderness, survived on moldly bread, and sacrificed his health to take the story of Jesus to Native Americans. He did not try to conquer their lands, but instead worked to secure their lands. He did not try to sell them alcohol, but instead tried to help families battling excessive drinking.
I look at the life of Betsey Stockton. She was born a slave, but once granted freedom, chose to live out her convictions, traveling with missionaries to Hawaii. There, she championed the cause of the education of the local children, learning their language so that she could teach them English, Latin, Algebra, and History.
I look at the life of William Wilberforce, who used his social position, his talents, and his money to fight for an end to the British slave trade. He lobbied other governments to end the slave trade, and called for an end to the institution of slavery altogether. He imported his Christian values into his work to reform hospitals, asylums, prisons, and refugee care. He was opposed and threatened, and he suffered illness, but he kept going.
I look at the life of Amy Carmichael, who risked her life to help little girls escape a life of prostitution in Hindu temples. In spite of living with severe pain, she cared for hundreds of unwanted children. She respected their culture through actions such as dressing in Indian clothing herself and giving Indian names to rescued children who needed a name.
I look at the life of Elisabeth Elliot, who obeyed God when she took her three-year-old daughter to live among the same Auca people who had killed her husband. Her husband had died trying to make peaceful contact with some Auca men, in the hopes of later being able to tell them about Jesus. Before that contact, he and the other men who died with him had already determined they would not fight back if attacked.
When James Calvert and a group of missionaries set their course for the Fiji Islands in 1838, knowing that some of the people there practiced cannibalism, the ship captain tried to turn them back, saying to Mr. Calvert, “You will lose your life and the lives of those with you if you go among such savages.” Mr. Calvert replied, “We died before we came here.”
True soldiers of the Kingdom of Christ are individuals who have died to self and have accepted the Savior’s call to go tell others about His offer of love and forgiveness. They are not after money or power or recognition. Like Jesus’ first disciples, they are fishers of men, women, and children. True Christians want nothing from others, but only want the greatest gift for them.
Do true Christians use the name of Christ for engorgement of their own wealth? Oh no. We are debtors to all, responsible for living righteously so that we may earn the right to share the good news with others. (Romans 1:14)
Do true Christians interpret Bible verses to achieve oppressive political, social, or emotional power over others? Of course not. We are to proclaim the power of Christ’s resurrection, and be prepared to share in suffering so that others may experience His power. (Philippians 3:10)
Do true Christians take advantage of the human search for love, acceptance, and forgiveness in order to gain prestige and popularity? No. Like John the Baptist, we say “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
Are true Christians trying to earn their way to heaven by works on Earth? Nope. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
In the front of my Bible, I have a phrase written that I heard a preacher once say was a summary of the entire book: “Come, and then go.” The Bible invites us to come to the Son of God, who is pictured in each of its 66 books. This theme stays congruent although the books were written by many different authors, on three continents, over a time period of about 2,000 years. Each author’s inspired words point to Christ in some way.
To all who come to Christ, the command that follows is to go tell others about Him. For some, “to go” means to serve on a local or foreign mission field. For others, it means to finance and support that work. For all of us, it means to live in such a way that others will want to come. For all of us, it is about eternity, and not about temporary gains on this Earth.
As you go out into the world, you will meet people who truly have been hurt by those who abused the name of Christ. Be sensitive to those injuries. Strive to be a man of whom others can say, “He’s the real deal.”
Think of Kenneth Cates, and how his life story is one of modern-day miracles and the increase of the true Kingdom of Christ along the Amazon River. Never have I met a man so humble, so disinterested in wealth or accolades. And perhaps never have I been in the presence of one so powerful. He never had need of government financing, an army, a college degree, or a bestselling book in order to accomplish all that was done. His life demonstrated that when you are fulfilling Christ’s commission to go, you have His power.
Be a man who lives out the command to go and tell others that Jesus loves them. Tell them that there is nothing to earn and nothing to pay. Just invite them to come.
And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. Revelation 22:17
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Matthew 28:19-20
I love you forever,