Have you ever noticed a certain result and assumed the “cause”, only to find out that they were completely unrelated?
When Christianity is thriving, its success will not be marked by financial or political prosperity… not in the lives of those ascribing to it, nor in the affiliation as a whole. Rather, you will see hearts being humbled, individuals respecting authorities, and love abounding. We may see Christian’s lives marked by prosperity, but let us not make the grave mistake of attributing perceived cultural success to the recognition of Christ or the beliefs of His followers. Conversely, we shouldn’t assume that all Christians are suffering from persecution or poverty as a direct result of their choice to live for Christ. Those affects do not have the direct causation we would normally ascribe.
I feel as though I need to insert numerous caveats to what I wrote just now; otherwise, we will end up swimming in a sea of anecdotes and miss the point entirely.
- Yes, some Christians suffer for their beliefs.
- Yes, some Christians are prosperous due to their beliefs.
- Some Christians do evil things and those same Christians will do equally great things.
- Etc., etc., etc.
This is the problem. We have to say EVERYTHING to explain SOMETHING, but end up saying NOTHING. One thing is certain… we have many questions about the legitimacy of Christ. And none are answered convincingly by the cultural, political, or personal attributes of His followers. All I plead with you right now is to take an objective look at what Christ actually says to draw your conclusions.
I’m sorry that we Christians have set an inconsistent example upon which you draw your conclusions. But the blame does not rest solely on Christians. A culture blinded by its own propensity for suppressing the difficult or uncomfortable is equally liable. Many will leverage Christian stereotypes and incorrect theology to prove their point or justify their actions. Unfortunately, it is at their peril. It saddens me, but also reiterates the urgency with which Christians must not only deal with the misconception, but also set a better example through their lifestyle.
Christian movement does not produce results normally ascribed to a prosperous society.
In fact, life with Christ is far less circumstantial than we would assume.
And that is ok.
We as a society need to completely revamp what we deem to be the natural effects of following Christ. And Christians need to be on the front lines proclaiming this GOOD NEWS… because that’s truly what a life of this devotion becomes to those who have seen it first-hand. The early church in Acts gives us a glimpse into the actual results of Christian movement. What were some of the characteristics?
The Holy Spirit came over believers in power… And outsiders saw them as drunken lunatics.
See… Acts 2:1-13
Early apostles felt the urgency and boldness to speak truth in love. Many were saved… YET, others remained unconvinced.
See… Acts 2:14-41
New communities were formed, devoted to teaching, fellowship, sharing in meals, and prayer. They met together routinely, sharing ALL of their possessions, belongings, and money… and God grew the community day by day.
See… Acts 2:42-47
The movement was met with severe and devastating opposition… yet, Christianity made its most unprecedented growth during this period.
See… Acts 8:2-4
In light of this… do Christians and Non-Christians alike know what Christian movement looks like? Hint: it’s not whether Christian principles make their way into public policy.
Rather: it’s a people so moved by the work of Jesus in their lives and others that no public policy is actually necessary. At some point, we need to stop assuming that circumstantial attributes are the only results of Christian movement.
The marks of a flourishing society are found in the lifelong pursuit of Christ, not in the results of having found Christ.
In Jesus’ recitation of the Lord’s prayer, the phrasing is “…on earth as it is in Heaven…”, NOT “…in Heaven as it is on earth…” This subtle distinction highlights God’s intent for the flourishing of humanity… not that Heaven be a reflection of Christians on earth… rather, that earth is a reflection of an existence in constant fellowship with the Creator.
The early church didn’t seek to be a solution to ailing governmental structures or economies. Societal success wasn’t the ultimate aim. At best, it was an indicator to the spiritual health of individuals needing restoration. Early Christians sought no other end, but that of attributing all glory to the suffering servant named Jesus.
This was in the midst of internal strife due to the diversity of those who came to know Jesus, as well as external pressure from existing powers and principalities that wished for the extermination of a rapidly growing movement.
So what’s my point?
Christ should not be disregarded due to the moral, ethical, political, <fill in the blank> success/failure of those who claim to believe in Him. I believe in Jesus. And I am a hopelessly mistake-prone human in need of daily grace. Chances are, so are you.
Awesome! Let’s take this journey together. The sooner you allow for your own hypocrisy, the more objective you are able to approach the Gospels. Because the Gospel can ONLY be good news to those who actually NEED it. It turns out… that’s every single one of us.
My greatest desire is to be a reflection of the earliest church in my everyday life…
- Filled with the power of God
- Boldly and lovingly speaking truth
- Supporting and supported by a selfless community
These are the traits of Christian movement in scripture. If you rightly recognize the failures of Christians attempting to meet this standard… bravo!… you also recognize the standard! Now come alongside those struggling Christians to investigate its truth and impacts in the lives of those on both sides. I think you’ll find you have a lot more in common than initially assumed. I think you’ll also find just how compelling and contagious a genuine movement of people after God truly is.
So… are you ready?