There’s a great line by Christian author Philip Yancey: “American Christians have become the kind of men and women people appreciate as neighbors but don’t want to spend much time with.” By great, I mean the line is penetrating and painful. Ouch.
I’m afraid to ask what people think when they hear the word “Christian.” Whatever they might think, we have only ourselves to blame.
At the Christian college, there’s a crusty theologian with a long face and a loud voice lecturing on the imperatives of the faith. At the Christian newsletter, there’s a prideful group of guys writing papers to counter other papers that were written twenty years ago which were written to oppose papers that were written a hundred years ago. On Christian TV, there’s a mess of evangelists with every dyed hair perfectly in place naming the current Antichrist and pointing our their own healthy and wealthy lives as the way to salvation. All over the internet and social media – God help us! – there’s the religious right talking about their issues, their great morality. and their hardline stances on what’s absolutely right and absolutely wrong with the world.
We’re so eager to point out how good we all are, I fear we’re neglecting the very basic fact that the Gospel is a spectacularly good things that is happening to spectacularly bad people.
G. K. Chesterton famously wrote, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult, and left untried.”
We are failing the Good News of Jesus Christ when we run around acting like we’ve got everything figured out, like we’ve got all the answers, like there’s no more mystery, no need for divine grace. We distort the Gospel and do violence to the Scriptures when we proclaim that God sent his Son to establish my vision of my church or my version of the United States as a beacon of Truth to the rest of the world.
As children of God and disciples of his Christ, if we have any answers at all to what’s wrong in this world, it has nothing to do with our morals, our laws, or our political positions. The solution to what’s wrong is not found in anybody’s constitution or declaration or form of government or economic system or military strategy. What’s wrong with the world is sin. And the solution is only found in the crucified and risen Lord Jesus.
God revealed himself in Christ Jesus to show us how he’s fixing things. It’s in sacrificial service. It’s through unconditional love. It’s by forgiveness and reconciliation. Gentleness. Peace. Obedience. Prayer. Worship. Suffering. Death.
Politicians are not going to save the world. Parties and platforms and partisan positions are not going to change this country. This country and this world are not going to be won by votes or armies or news networks or being woke. Only our God in Christ can save the world – God alone!
And his way is the way of death. His way is the way of suffering and sacrifice and service. His will is to change people and save people, not by force or through threats, not out of anger or with an attitude, but with humility and love and forgiveness and grace. And peace.
This world will change, not when more Christians vote, but when more Christians serve. This country will change, not when Christians get their man or woman in the White House, but when Christians get suffering and sacrifice in their hearts. This world will change, not when the Church is in power, but when the Church is persecuted for righteousness’ sake and suffers for doing good. This country will be changed, not when our enemies are shot and bombed and destroyed, but when our enemies are forgiven and prayed for and loved.
Of course, you already knew that. This is not new information. You’ve known it for a long time. It’s just that it’s very difficult. And mostly untried.