When I first came to Christ it was because I had been taught that He loved me; not because I was trying hard to be a good person ~ but that He loved me just as I was, with no strings attached. It was overwhelming and irresistible.
My early Sunday School teachers tried to instill in each child that same sense that they were loved unconditionally by God. They taught a gentle, kind, humble way of approaching life. We were told to practice kindness. We were taught to respect and appreciate each other, to be thoughtful and gentle, to help each other. We were encouraged to find beauty in things ~ to really look at a sunset, see the delicacy of a flower, appreciate the Creation. These were the characteristics of what it meant to be a Christian.
How is it, then, that in recent times so many Christians have become shrill, angry and, frankly, worldly people? Have we forgotten that our primary work on earth is to reflect the love of God to those around us, and thereby, perhaps, cause them to think about God? We have become caught up in political dialogue, have become advocates of harshness and disdain for anyone who doesn’t agree with our particular point of view, have come to think that God owes us material prosperity. The faith of some has become self-centered rather than God-centered. We want to be rulers over our own lives rather than submitting to the sovereignty and will of God.
The world view which many have embraced is far from the kind of faith which Christ preached. Instead of yielding ourselves to the role of humble servants of God, we are all about looking for recognition or the accumulation of stuff. Christ calls us to a different perspective. It isn’t about being the biggest and richest; it is about a unity of purpose, a shared desire to live out the Gospel in humility and grace. We are to reflect, as a body, the values that Christ teaches in the Sermon on the Mount and in the Parables.
The problems of secularism, materialism, and self-worship rather than God-worship are among the many factors dividing the people of God. Instead of a unified body, one voice proclaiming Christ to the world, we have become fragmented and splintered. What is the solution? Can we each continue to go our own way and disregard the rest of our universal Church family? Many thoughtful Christian leaders seem separately to have come to a similar conclusion: that we should be trying to find the basic things that we share. “Mere Christianity” as C.S. Lewis called it ~ the basic characteristics of Christ and the Gospel with all the man-devised clutter stripped away. They teach us to promote Christ’s values as opposed to denominational issues, and call us toward more unity as a believing people.
They emphasize the basic tenets of Christianity that have to do with the basis of salvation, the process of sanctification, the goals of evangelism, and the other great doctrines of the Church universal. These doctrines call us to a life of faith and an attitude of service and humility. God planned to make us into people of conscience ~ having dignity and purity of heart. Our goals are to seek to be more like Christ Himself, whose purpose was to be obedient to the Father, and Who offered the ultimate sacrifice of self: the Cross. We are told to deny ourselves, take up our own crosses, and follow Him.
I believe that the greatest evangelization isn’t necessarily preached from a pulpit, but in the lives of everyday Christians who quietly minister to those around them in countless ways. There is a genuineness ~ a quiet inner spirit which should mark our comings and goings. I remember one dear sister whose smile lit up a room. The love of God simply shone out of her and anyone who came in contact with her for even a brief time came away feeling loved and heard. She made everyone feel as if he/she was the only important thing in her life at that moment, and that she appreciated and cared about them. She was the greatest evangelist I knew ~ people trusted her and when she said something they were inclined to listen and think about it. She reflected Christ in her life, and people were drawn to her because of the spirit of Christ they saw in her.
Think what it would mean in this world if all of us who name the name of Christ reflected God’s love like this lady. There will always be scoffers and haters in the world, and we will undoubtedly run into those who would ridicule and despise us for our “naiveté”. The scriptures warn us that we will always find those who cannot hear our message, and that we might even suffer for our faith. Yet, living our faith is what we are called to do. The mega-churches, the televangelists and their need for expensive toys and venues, the Christian recording artists with the look and sound of the world ~ all this is irrelevant to what it means to be a Christian. Over and over the scriptures tell us to be humble ~ to be self-effacing and caring for others as much as we care for ourselves.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues, put on love, which bonds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:13-14 NIV)