Remember Who They Are
AUGUST 25, 2021
We believers really do not have to be as irritating as we often are.
We do not have to defend secondary truth. We are often wrong in our political, theological, and social views. We should be sensitive to the culture in which we have been placed. And we should model the important truths of forgiveness and love everywhere. In other words, there are biblical attitudes and beliefs that should keep us from being insufferable—sometimes.
But not always.
I have a friend who says that anybody who makes his or her living with religion will lose either their religion or their livelihood. While that is quite cynical, there is some truth to it. Let me tell you something that is almost always true: Christians who care too much about what others think of their faith are in danger of losing both the faith and the friends. If you want to lose friends and irritate people, just believe, say, and live the truth of the Christian faith.
I have a close friend who, when he became a Christian, worried about his friends and how they would react to his newfound faith. I told him that that was the least of his worries. I said, “God will take care of that for you. You’ll find that you have some real friends who will think you’re crazy but will still be your friend . . . and the others will leave you alone.”
Christians should never be surprised to discover that some people do not like them for no other reason than their Christian commitment. Frankly, if I were not a Christian, I would not like Christians much either. If Christian truth is true (and it is), it is not good news to people who want to be their own god or worship one more to their liking, who see themselves as the center of the universe, who believe that morality is determined by vote, and who see heaven as something that everybody deserves (with the exception of Hitler).
God has revealed to us his love, grace, mercy, and sovereignty. We did not get to vote on the truth he revealed. Then, God commissioned us to go out into the world and stand for, speak, and live out that truth in our lives. We should remember that our message will not make some people happy. There is always a battle in which we are called to be engaged. The issue is not whether we will lose friends and irritate people. The issue is, which friends and which people?
But there is more than the truth. The problem is that there is the love, too. We Christians have been loved without reservation or exception, and now we have found that we can love without reservation or exception. Truth and love are a pretty scary combination for Christians who want to be safe and never to offend. Of course, you can believe the truth and forget about the love part. But that’s not a very pleasant alternative.
Let me suggest that believers do what they have been called to do: go out into all the world. The world is sometimes antagonistic and angry, but God calls believers to love people, love God, and speak truth. That sounds so simple and easy, but it is not. Just the opposite—it is really hard. Jesus said, “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26).
I thought that needed to be said. So now I have said it, and I feel better.
The most important thing to remember about Christian truth is that it really is good news to people who really do need to hear some good news.
Non-Christians are not enemies. They are just like you.
There is a story about a gas station attendant who was approached by a newcomer to the town, and the guy asked the attendant what the people were like in the new town.
“What were they like in the place you lived before?” the attendant asked.
“They were jerks. I’ve never lived in a place I disliked more. Nobody cared, nobody spoke to anybody, and nobody went out of their way to help anybody. I’m glad I don’t live there anymore.”
“Well,” the attendant said, “I’m sorry to tell you this, but you’re not going to like living here much better than that place. People here are exactly the same.”
Later on, another man, also a newcomer, came into the service station and asked the same attendant the same question. The attendant asked this man about what the people were like in the town where he had previously lived.
“Oh, they were wonderful,” the newcomer said. “In fact, we hated to move. We made so many friends there. They were friendly and kind, and always willing to help. We loved living there.”
“Then you’re going to love living here, too. The people here are wonderful. You’ll like them a lot . . . and they you.”
There is a sense in which the Christian call makes speaking truth to the world an “us” and “them” project. But when we take that too far, it can truncate our witness. As is often said, if all you have is a hammer in your toolbox, everything starts looking like a nail. Once we believers demonize “them” and fail to remember their sleepless nights, the guilt that haunts them, and the pain they experience, the hammer becomes our weapon of choice.
Remember that they need what you needed. The only difference between you and them is Jesus. We had very little to do with that. We still do not.
Heaven is real. It is a place where we will not be insufferable, nobody will make fun of us, nobody will reject the truth we believe and speak, nobody will walk away, and nobody will debate us. The arguments will be over, the derision will be stilled, and the rejection will no longer exist. We will have all of eternity to share war stories, and we will have the mother of all parties.
Until then, let’s tell the truth to as many people who will listen. We really want a big crowd at the party.
Taken from Steve Brown’s new book, Talk the Walk