This series addresses the current Chick-fil-A controversy. Yesterday I wrote about how our confusion with influence and power has dissipated our energy and focus as Christians. Today’s post looks at how this dynamic has distilled our message. But not in a good way when it comes to what those who are still without Christ hear us.
The television celebrity impressed me deeply. I couldn’t help thinking that if he and I had grown up together or had served together in the military, we would have been good friends. I liked him in spite of all the rumors about his lifestyle. He joked about being a “backslidden” worshipper from his childhood church. God brought our lives together for one fascinating afternoon when he introduced me to his media world and I talked with him about the history of Church of the Open Door.
Just before our day ended, he looked off and asked of no one in particular, “When did the church become so mean?”
I said, “We’re not mean, why don’t you come here and give us a chance?”
He laughed uncomfortably and said, “I might just come and visit you some Sunday, Ed.”
I prayed for him and we shook hands. As I watched him drive away with his cameraman, his question haunted me.
On the drive home that night, I turned my radio dial to Christian talk radio. Appalled by the snarling arrogance of the host, I prayed that the man I had met that day wasn’t listening. Whether the radio host knew it or not, his “We’ll show those sinners when this bill gets passed,” and “Just wait until God deals with these idiots,” sent a message to those outside of God’s grace: God’s on our side and He hates you.
The Bible teaches that God is on the side of the righteous and emphasizes that ultimately our side will win. But our victory will not come through favorable voting returns, but at the return of Jesus Christ to rule and reign on earth.
The Bible does not teach that God hates sinners. The New Testament says that the message of the church that “[God] has reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18).
If God hated sinners, those who are not reconciled to Him, this verse tells us He would have to start with us. Instead, He loves sinners and sent His Son to die in order to reconcile sinners like us. To us, the reconciled sinners, He has given this ministry of reconciliation, “that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:19).
We’re not called to be bitter prophets shouting condemnation at the world. Those who teach with condemnation allow their confusion between influence and power to trap them in the hopelessness of the Old Testament. We’re “ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:20–21).
Every time we feel like demanding our “rights” as citizens in ways that might make Christ’s love sound mean, we need to pause and remember that we’re aliens and strangers in foreign territory. When we go to our Father’s house and return with His Son to make this world our home, we will have all power because we will be ruling and reigning eternally with our king—Jesus. Until then, we are ambassadors whose primary influence comes through His eternally powerful message: I love you. Be reconciled to God through Me.
What we really want, if we’re listening to Him, is to watch His grace rescue those we meet in this alien land. And since we want to see people like the television celebrity in heaven, we should think less about our rights here on earth and more about the right way to heaven.
The way for them is the same way we discovered—through Jesus’ love. That’s the message I want to proclaim, a message that would cause unbelievers to look off and ask, “Why are Christians so kind to people like me? How could it be that Jesus loves someone who lives the way I live?”
Once you understand how our unhealthy emphasis on power is affecting our message, you wonder why we are so hard on some sinners and so easy on others. My next post will help you wade through that part of being Christian and American.