Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor and writer who ended up sacrificing his life as he protested the Nazi regime in his homeland. Many of the things he wrote are uncomfortable for modern Christians to read. Sometimes, we want to coast along, joyfully celebrating our own Salvation, and ignoring the evil around us. After all, the ultimate victory is already won in Christ, isn’t it?
I write a lot about the power of prayer. And I stand behind what I write. But a life of prayer and Bible Study that doesn’t result in actively living out and spreading the Gospel is a life of lukewarm and selective obedience. This is not to say that we should skitter around trying to earn our Salvation with random acts and self-righteous crusades. But we must have the courage to “come out of the closet” as Christians in a dark and unfriendly world.
What does this look like? Does it mean wearing a badge or getting in people’s faces with “the Truth.” Perhaps. But mostly, it means every day living out the kind of love and truth that Jesus demonstrated. Jesus didn’t march in protests, hand out pamphlets with convicting messages, or start arguments to humiliate atheists in front of crowds. But He didn’t back down in the face of arguments and tough questions asked by His opponents. He ate with sinners– but He didn’t wink at their sin, or send them away reassured that they were “good enough” to please God. He went where God sent, spoke God’s Truth, and DID God’s work.
Jesus wasn’t a writer; He wasn’t a professor of Theology, or an elected official. The Pharisees were constantly frustrated with His lack of “credentials.” But their frustration came because Jesus spoke with the kind of authority they could never achieve– Jesus was authentic. He spoke, not from cold and lofty intelligence, but from wisdom and love. And Jesus didn’t just speak. He served. He listened. He lived out all that He spoke. He “courageously and actively” DID the will of the Father.
Jesus prayed and studied scripture. Jesus spent time alone communing with the Father. He spent time in rest. He spent time being social with His family and friends. But in every activity, He wove in the Truth of God’s word. And crowds followed Him. They wanted to listen, even as He spoke uncomfortable truths. And some of them came to love Him. Others came to hate Him, and even kill him.
We can’t be true followers of Christ and not risk being mocked, and hated. We WILL be misunderstood, laughed at, persecuted, ignored, and inconvenienced. We should not invite this with obnoxious or arrogant behavior. But we must not shrink away from it when it comes at us, or try to avoid it by being silent in the face of evil and injustice.
One of the recent charges leveled against Christians is that we meet evil with “thoughts and prayers” but little action. We must be wise and careful with such charges. Often, the taunt is thrown at us in an effort to get us to take a specific, ungodly “action” INSTEAD of praying. But we must honestly examine ourselves and ask what Godly actions SHOULD I be taking to make a difference? What actions should I be denouncing as ungodly, even if they are popular and seem to be “right?” And what must I do to defend the power of prayer in the face of ridicule?
One of the other charges leveled against Christians is that we are “intolerant.” Again, we need to be wise and careful in answering this charge. Are we quick to judge others, while giving ourselves a “pat on the back” for merely avoiding a particular sin or sinful lifestyle? What is if about our life and work that makes others see us as “intolerant?” Are we exclusive and prejudiced in our interactions? Or are we humble in presenting the truth of God’s word? Do we speak from a need to defend our own actions or from a desire to help others? Are others offended by our words and actions, or by the truth of God as it convicts them?
I pray today that I would be courageous and active in LIVING the Christian life, and not merely writing about it.