They will know we are Christians by our Love….
During the Roman Empire, the emperor tasked a person to go “study” the Christian sects that were rapidly multiplying across the empire. They had reached the size to get the attention of the emperor and provincial governors. He naturally was worried if there was an subversive plot brewing that would lead to open rebellion in every corner of the empire.
The report that came back was different than any of any people in history. Before you read it, my challenge is to stop – reflect and weigh what it says. See how they are known, what ethos, DNA, character, priority, posture they had in the empire…
Now, in the lands of the free, how are we known by our host cultures/societies? Be you Yank, Pom, Kiwi, Ozzie, Canook, Pike… what would they say about us?
Christians are not distinguished from the rest of mankind by country, or by speech, or by dress. For they do not dwell in cities of their own, or use a different language or practice a peculiar life . . . but while they dwell in Greek or barbarian cities according to each man’s lost has been cast, and follow the customs of the land in clothing and food, and other matters of daily life, yet the condition of citizenship which they exhibit wonderful, and admittedly strange . . . every foreign land is to them a fatherland, and every fatherland a foreign land. They marry like the rest of the world, and breed children, but they do not cast their offspring adrift . . . They exist in the flesh, but they live not after the flesh. They spend their existence upon earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws, and in their own lives they surpass the laws . . . In a word, what the soul is in the body, Christians are in the world.
~ Hastings, Adrian. A World History of Christianity. (Eerdmans Publishing Company: Grand Rapids, MI, 1999), pg. 26
Mahandas Gandhi made a profound statement in his days leading India to independence:
A religion that takes no account of practical affairs and does not help to solve them is no religion.
I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.
We must change this perception, and it will take time, and it will take sacrificial labor on our part – not in program, not in glitz, not in top-down, but bottom up, incarnational presence of Jesus in the lives of people to HUMBLY serve, love, know and care.
This is actually much harder than pre-Christian societies. We have built up a resistance and it is harder than a society which has not frame work for Jesus. Some missiologists and pragmatists say we should focus our attention, therefore, on the pre-Christian cultures as they respond faster in more numbers – in other words, higher and larger ROI.
On the contrary, and vehemently do I oppose this for this reason first: IT IS OUR FAULT! The western post-Christian societies in which we live are antagonistic to our Gospel because of who we have are, have been and how we’ve engaged them, not like Jesus at the well, or Jesus with the prostitute, or the masses, but our arrogant, paternal, enmeshed into host cultures where our values are more worldly (Babylonian) than like Jesus. We have much to repent of. Secondly, they are our people. Thirdly, if we must be pragmatic and think ROI… the western fiscal role in missions is declining because the church is not as generous, individually or collectively, as it was in the past. We are more narcissistic and self indulgent than in any time in history. In short order we will see a huge decline in global mission because we’re losing our own homeland.
We do not need an imperial investigator to write about the church today – in the west anyway. On the whole, they have little use for us – find us of no practical contribution to the problems staring them in the face, find us part and parcel with the FOX news hounds… they see us as directly contributing to the political toxic nightmare we have contributed to and helped create and propagate and do not smell Jesus when they encounter us, but rather people of the world “fighting for our ‘rights’ and to win the arguments” rather than to humbly imitate Jesus in deference and sacrifice.
Lord have mercy.
Christ have mercy.
Lord have mercy.