The hardest part of being a Christian is taking action because an action is prompted by belief. We do what we believe (did anyone else have a father who was fond of the saying ‘actions speak louder than words?). But why is that hard? Isn’t it natural to do what you believe?
At first, it is. That’s what being a child is all about. But then you learn about consequences and pushback. Consequences are the result of acting upon bad or faulty beliefs and pushback is often the result of acting on right beliefs. There seems to be a legitimate price to pay for acting on wrong beliefs and an illegitimate (but just as painful) price to pay for acting on right beliefs because someone won’t like it. Consequently, the temptation is to cease all action and just go-along-to-get-along. We think: “Maybe my belief is wrong and I’ll suffer for acting on it or maybe my belief is right…and I’ll suffer for acting on it! So I’ll just believe what I want and do nothing. Yeah, that’s the ticket. Then everyone will leave me alone and we’ll all be happy.”
Except that just doesn’t seem to exist in reality.
Doing something almost always entails the possibility that there will be consequences or pushback from somebody. And the biggest delusion that much of modern-day Christianity is under is that the most important thing to God is that His church (the people of His kingdom) be liked. If you want to be liked then you stay away from doing things that people may not like.
If you want to be liked you don’t talk about obedience. If you want to be liked you don’t demonstrate conviction. If you want to be liked you don’t walk in faith. If you want to be liked you have to hide or camouflage your disagreement or disapproval. If you want to be liked you have to abandon the pursuit of holiness (and that is the ultimate dumpster fire…see Hebrews 12:14). In other words, if you want to be liked you have to nod in agreement about…everything.
But that’s impossible, isn’t it? Adam and Eve agreed with God about the rules in Eden and then they agreed with the serpent/Satan about God holding out on them. Judas agreed to follow Jesus and then he agreed with Satan and the religious leaders to betray Him. It didn’t work out very well for Adam and Eve or Judas. It never does. Somewhere down the line, you have to learn to do what someone won’t like. Solomon likened it to iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17). It’s grating. Tiny fragments of iron are being brutally sheared off in the process.
Doing defines being.
Churchgoers really ought to have this figured out by now. Jesus said, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). Clearly, what is said does not create the state of the heart. Rather, it reveals it. The action defines the condition. Wasn’t that the whole purpose of the Ten Commandments? Not to create a righteous human being but reveal what was already within. As Paul puts it, “For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law” (Galatians 3:21).
One of the silliest things I’ve ever heard said (and I’ve heard it quite often) is “Well, God knows my heart.” My first thought is always “And you are comforted by that?”
That brings me back to the first sentence of this blog. The hardest part of being a Christian is taking the action that a regenerated heart requires. It is a given in this sin-laden world that letting the light of a redeemed soul shine will be met with all kinds of opposition.
I am astonished that so many churchgoers truly believe that the church is not the place to bring up politics or the issues that face the country today. I want to say to them, “Ladies and gentlemen, what is that thing up there on the wall (or on the altar)? It’s a cross! It would have no message or meaning today had Jesus decided that His job was to be well-received and liked.” Moreover, He stood squarely on the side of the prophets. What was their job? To bring to light the sin(s) of the nation! How many of them were liked? Jesus said of the holy city:
Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! (Matthew 23:37)
I understand that no one wants to be demeaned, ridiculed, hated, and reviled (including me). But we are not told we should be “cherishing the truth in love.” No, it’s “speaking the truth in love…” (Ephesians 4:15). It’s not “love the light within” but “let your light shine before others” (Matthew 5:16). Jesus didn’t promise His disciples that once people found out they were Christ-followers they would be loved and appreciated. No, my Bible says, “you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake” (Matthew 24:9).
If you want to be accepted and liked and not have to deal with unpleasant situations and people then continue to live a lie. Pretend you believe that whatever anyone wants to do is none of your business. Make sure your church stays out of politics. Convene a meeting with other like-minded people in your church to make sure the pastor knows preaching on anything that some might take offense to is off-limits. Just keep working on making sure your church grows by giving people the things that they want (how is that working out in government?). Keep going to public events and believing your words and actions aren’t really speaking like a megaphone to people about the true state of your heart.
Doing defines being. I don’t know any other statement in the Bible that makes it any more clear than this one:
Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done (Revelation 22:12).
You are what you do. And you will be forever.