THE FOLLOWING IS DERIVED FROM AN E-MAIL MESSAGE, ABOUT MAY 23, 2011, WHICH I
SENT TO A GROUP OF ALUMNI OF A SCHOOL WHICH I MYSELF ATTENDED:
I have been largely silent in communicating with this e-mail group. More recently, however, I have sensed a need to add my comments on this topic.
It might not be easy for you to read this message. It is not easy for me to write it--particularly after what has (and has not) happened over the past weekend.
As a Christian, who seeks to present Christianity in a loving way, I--and many others like myself--am disturbed by the fact that many people who seem and/or claim to be Christians are actually, unfortunately (and needlessly), giving Christianity a bad name (try Googling "giving Christians a bad name").
From Harold Camping, with his flawed rapture/end-of-the-world predictions, to the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas, with its un-Christlike hatred, many of these somehow apparent Christians have not only led astray many genuine Christians. They have repelled many others from coming to any kind of "Christianity" (whether proper, loving, Biblical Christianity or not).
That makes it harder for me to share this faith--in its proper form--with others, inasmuch as I am obligated to do so (www.roarbush.com/readme [please note - the message is long, and I put it together likely around the late 1990's]).
Perhaps the best that I can do for this e-mail group is quote some verses right from the Bible itself (Christian churches are supposed to adhere to this book, but many deviate from it).
In Matthew 24:36, Jesus Himself said, in regard to what many refer to as "the end times", the following:
"But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."
Furthermore, He said in Matthew 24:44:
"So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him."
I'd like to emphasize those last six words. Despite all this, Harold Camping's group, in its rapture speculations, has run to the contrary. And this has, thanks to plenty of exposure, brought on a big embarrassment to Christianity. I fear the net effect being this: Many non-Christians being turned off to Christianity (whether in genuine form or not) all the more. So, the Gospel-sharing task among genuine Christians, despite the welfare intent for their audience, has gotten harder.
One of the problems that I and other Christians have to deal with is many non-Christians lumping nearly anything labeled "Christian" into the same one teaching. Therefore, we have a major uphill battle to demonstrate that not all "Christianities" are the same.
Let's look at Matthew 7:21-23, where Jesus said:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'"
Throughout history, God has somehow been given a bad name by groups of people that were supposed to serve Him. Ezekiel 36:20 provides an Old Testament example:
"And wherever they went among the nations they profaned my holy name, for it was said of them, 'These are the LORD's people, and yet they had to leave his land.'"
There are also many incidents in the Middle Ages of church persecutions being unjustly done "in the name of Christ". A lot of them were committed by many who seemed and/or claimed to be Christians, yet they already had some foundational beliefs that disagreed with the Bible. Furthermore, many of these atrocities were done against several Jewish people, thus giving Christ a bad name among Jews (and this "hits home" with me, due to my own Jewish background).
These days, a number of "religious" people (whether "Christian" or not) are going around inflicting hate upon homosexuals. The sad result is many gays and lesbians shutting themselves off real hard from any loving outreach efforts by genuine Christians.
While it is true that Christians themselves need to "hate the sin", they are still supposed to "love the sinner", not hate him/her. This sin-triggered hatred of the "professing Christian", along with many other kinds of human hate, has resulted in too many non-Christians perceiving Christianity as a hateful movement. So this faith gets a bad name--and a hateful one at that. That contradicts the loving characteristics of true, genuine Christianity. Yet, many non-Christians are lumping genuine, loving Christians with "so-called Christians" that are hate-laden. Several non-Christians become so fed up that they have lost the will to distinguish the genuine from the phony here. So when a genuine Christian tries to lovingly present the Gospel to a non-Christian, this potential recipient immediately turns him/her down with a "you-are-one-of-those-hateful-preachers" reaction.
The fact remains that hating other people does not have a place in genuine Christianity. 1 John 2:9 says:
"Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness."
Now, some may take this to refer only to literal brothers or sisters, but a good contextual study can lead towards more broadly interpreting "brother or sister" as "fellow men/women" in this case. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Himself told His listeners to love their enemies (Matthew 5:44). Furthermore He said to His disciples in John 15:12:
"My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you."
Sadly, many churchgoers have neglected this to various extents, thus resulting in big "turn-off" reactions by non-Christians.
Now, I need to state here is that no Christian in this world, even a genuine one, is perfect. I myself have sinned too, even in love-lacking ways. But as real Christians grow in their faith, their sinning--human hatred, false prophesies, sex scandals and all--should decrease, and they should generally be moving in the direction towards where God wants them to be. In Matthew 5:16, Jesus said:
"In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."
This is a life-long journey that needs to result in--among other things--giving Christianity a good, loving name, particularly as non-Christians view it. The efforts here are not always easy. What should Christians do? Seek God's help (particularly through prayer) in regard to such efforts. This "seeking" has been underused, but it needs to be used more and more.
Inasmuch as there are political wishes for a country to be more morally compliant--just like a few decades ago--I suspect that too much priority has been placed on this, while too little priority has been given to salvation. Too many times in the church, our natural instincts, rather than our spiritual influences, take hold of us so much that we become more worried about a country's moral decay than about the still-lost status of many souls. Christians need to pay more attention to the realization that mere moral compliance (including, for example, abstaining from abortions and homosexuality) does not save souls, but it is trust in Jesus that does. Unfortunately, too many in the church have focused their efforts on a morally-compliant society (likely in hopes of national prosperity, this perhaps being triggered by Old Testament mentalities in regard to ancient Israel). But in doing so, we have too much glossed over soul-saving needs, yet this is where we need to focus much more. God is not going to be satisfied with one who simply gives up a vulgar lifestyle--in order to, for example, satisfy a politically-minded church--and yet still does not come to a saving faith through Jesus. And I suspect this to be a major problem with the "religious right". Where's the salvation?! Yes, moral obedience is good, but not good enough by itself.
Sadly, many are those, both outside the church and even inside, who have bought into the "being good enough to get to heaven" mentality. Paul, one of Jesus' greatest apostles, in Ephesians 2:8-9, stated:
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast."
I could go on and on. But I felt a need to at least write what I have written here.
A number of you reading this may have unpleasant reactions to what I have written (my regrets for turning you off, despite my efforts to the contrary). I have strived to write with love motivation (as opposed to morality/national-prosperity motivation) on this topic, sensing a burden to do so. If you have carefully read my message up to this point, I thank you for your patience. Regardless of how my message was read, my prayer is for the sake of the well-being of all of you in the long run (and that includes eternity).
(Scripture quotes were taken from the New International Version, a popular, modern, English Bible translation.)