Amos 5:24 “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
Isaiah 1:17 “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.”
Proverbs 31:8, 9 “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
So, you’re about to share your faith with someone and then you freeze. Or, someone finds out that you’re a Christian, starts asking questions or making statements, and then you don’t know how to respond. Then what?
One of the main reasons why many Christians don’t share their faith with others is because they just don’t know how to or there is this fear that something might happen such as rejection or being asked a question that one does not know how to respond to.
This #whatif series is designed to tackle that issue through the framework of responding to specific questions or statements that our non-Christian peers may bring up. This week we’ll focus on how to respond to someone that brings up the claim that so much bad stuff has been done in the name of Christianity and, because of that, they just don’t want anything to do with it. Below are (5) responses to that claim that could open up some really good conversations, but first, a few words:
When we’re engaging in conversation with others about things pertaining to our faith the goal is redemption; not merely winning an argument. We ultimately want them to see the beauty of the Gospel. And, supposed you are feeling pretty good about the response you gave them and about the overall conversation. You should remember that we have absolutely no power over changing the hearts of those we’re engaging. Only the Holy Spirit does. We’re simply either planting a see and/or watering the seed in our pre-evangelism work of breaking down barriers that may hinder skeptics from believing.
Ok, let’s dig right into it.
First, notice the standard that people use to indict the bad stuff done in the name of Christianity. Where does this standard of right and wrong come from? How do they know that all those bad things done in the name of Christianity is actually bad (we should also include in our conversation all those things that are not done that ought to be done in the name of Christianity)?
I notice that the standard they use actually comes from Christianity! It comes from within. So, to walk away from Christianity (out of great frustration toward the hypocrisy of Christians) is to actually walk away from those standards and to walk away from those standards is to make yourself no better than those who have done bad things in the name of Christianity (after all, you have no standards and if you claim to have standards for judging what is bad or good, where did it come from?). How do you actually now know you do more good things than the Christians who do so-called bad things?
In short, when there is no belief in objective moral statements, there is absolutely no framework for building a program of justice or for getting behind a just cause. Sure, you may have an idea that something is bad or good but it is only God who nudges us to act on the urge to seek justice.
Second, we must ask ourselves this question: did that person or group or church do bad things in the name of Christianity or the name of empty religion? There is a remarkable big difference between the two. When you think about it, it really doesn’t matter that they claim; what matters is what is compelling them inside their hearts to do what they do (or not do)?
Religion is when we do things to get the things of God. We don’t actually want God himself (we sort of use God to position ourselves above others). The gospel is when we do things to get God himself; out of great love for God himself. Religion is when we do things to level up with God and when we do this, we think we’ve gained an advantage over others who are the obvious sinners. We begin to view ourselves as superior, therefore, we become nasty, judgmental, and bitter toward others. We use others for our own advantage until they are of no use to us anymore. We oppress and marginalize others and turn a blind eye toward injustice. In short, we’re insensitive, uncompassionate, and harsh toward others. Why is this? It’s because we’ve worked so hard to ‘earn’ God’s love and favor that we can’t begin to think about God giving those who have not worked so hard for what we have (albeit what we think we’ve earned based on our moral performance). This is not the Gospel. It’s religion.
The Gospel, or true Christianity, is when we do things out of love for God himself. It’s when we know for certain that we did nothing to earn God’s love or forgiveness. It’s when we know we will never level up with God or measure up to His standards. After all, it was pure grace that saved us. We did nothing. Therefore, we know we cannot boast in our so-called good morals. Since this is true, we have no advantage or superiority over others around us. When we understand this, we become more compassionate toward others knowing, that we too, were once enemies of the cross. We begin to take on a heart that breaks over the things that breaks the heart of God. We become more kind, patient, and sensitive toward others.
So, those who have done bad things in the name of Christianity have done so out of a distorted view of the Gospel. The answer then, would not be to walk away from Christianity, but rather, to grasp a fuller view of Christianity that is accurate.
Third, when you look at all that has been done to end Jim Crow in the South, or slavery, or the creation of water wells in Africa, or the elimination of chattel slavery in Britain, it was gospel-centered Christians behind the fight or cause.
Here’s what’s interesting: the central reason behind the fight to end slavery or to reform our prison systems or to eliminate the Jim Crow laws was this idea that all human beings are created in the Image of God and that all human beings have human rights and all human beings have worth, value, and dignity. Where can one get this idea of human dignity outside of the Bible? You certainly cannot get it from human secularism that believes in the survival of the fittest and evolution.
Until Jesus walked the streets under Roman rule during His time, women and children were viewed as objects to be used. They were viewed as property. They were viewed as a fraction of what men were worth. Then the gospel came and permeated people’s lives and declared all of that to be wrong. Why do you think we read about Jesus encountering the outsiders, women, socially marginalized, and oppressed that just gets the religious Pharisees so upset?
One must understand that it was Christianity that deemed the unworthy worthy. How else are you to get the idea that one is worthy outside of God’s declaration that one is worthy?
Fourth, it has been said that ‘religion in the United States contributes $1.2 trillion each year to our economy and society.’ One of my favorite authors writes that ‘sociological studies… reveal that in almost any city or community in the United States the amount of charitable giving, volunteer hours, and nonprofit service to needy groups generated by churches and religious bodies could never be replaced by government services without a massive increase in taxes.’ – Timothy Keller in Making Sense of God
Under this same point, let’s also take a look at who are the ones that stay in hostile and dangerous places when all else have left? Who are the ones who risk everything (their safety, finance, security) to serve the downtrodden? Who are the ones that send the most amount of relief aid to those who are in desperate need?
Sure, there have been plenty of bad things done in the name of Christianity but does one stop going out to eat altogether because of a bad experience at one restaurant? Does one get upset at soap companies because there’s just so many dirty people in this world? Of course not!
It is extremely easy to find bad if you wanted to, but let’s not forget to look at the good and beauty all around us and unveil who is behind the good and beauty we see. It really isn’t turtles all the way down. Eventually, you’ll arrive at a Creator God who’s behind it all.
Fifth, Christianity is not about grasping unto power. It’s about humility and meekness. It’s about doing things that the world sees as making no sense. With that said, I believe that amazing, transformative things can and will happen if we simply acknowledge the bad that has been done in the name of Christianity and apologize on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
I find that the world can actually be quite forgiving if we simply apologized and not try to excuse the crap done in the name of Jesus. Just own it and press forward. Now, this isn’t the same thing as reparations for the past. I have not given this much thought to actually form a solid stake in this.
My point is that we must model for the world what the gospel is. We must show the world what it means to fall down and get back up again. We must model for the world what repentance is.