Wednesday, June 17, 2015

When Will We Stop Making God Look Bad?

Crusaders, in the Name of Christ, avenge the killings of fellow Christians.

On a Dr. Phil show, a man professes to have surrendered to Christ but is exposed as hellishly abusing his wife and child.

Countless Catholic priests molest children, especially boys.

Years ago, a leader of a nonprofit for persecuted believers is exposed as having molested a ten-year-old girl.

A pastor's wife is found brutally murdered and her murderer ends up being her husband, the pastor.

A well-known Christian family condemns homosexuality and later, one of their sons is exposed as molesting family members and a five-year child many years ago.

A man lures girls to a compound, tells them they are "the Bride of Christ" and convinces them to submit to his sexual favors.

A man, in the name of Christian leadership, pressures his mentally ill wife to have five children, whom she murders in a delusional state.

A well-known megachurch pastor denounces homosexuality but is exposed as having had a homosexual relationship with another man.

A famous megachurch pastor charges viewers to send him prayer requests and destroys those requests and pockets their donations.

Multiple televangelists make millions preaching the Gospel and adopt extravagantly wealthy lifestyles for themselves.

Over and over, people picket controversial funerals outside a famous church.

People hold up signs that say things like "God hates fags," picketing a "gay pride" event.

Getting closer to home, many of us attend worship services weekly but do not put what we hear in practice.

I can go on and on and I'm sure more of these incidents will come to mind later. But all of these incidents, and all others like them, share some things in common. First of all, all of these tragedies make our holy, perfect Savior and God look bad. Second, all of these tragedies create victims whose trust is violated and whose lives may never be the same. Third, these tragedies create much grief for true Christians who are seeking to be faithful to Christ and to create prejudices against them. Fourth, all of these incidents hinder the cause of Christ on Earth and turn people off to the Gospel. I'm pretty sure that people in the modern Church in the West, both Christians and non-Christians, survey all of this and decide that all followers of Jesus are hypocrites. No doubt all of this has contributes to the rising numbers of the "Nones" (those who claim to have no ties with religion) and the "Dones" (those who leave the organized Church).

I'm not sure who said it but it is well-said: "These Christians will have to start acting saved before I will believe in their Savior."

The other day, the wife of a person whose webpages I visit daily and who has a thriving cross-cultural ministry to the Muslim world, praises the Iraqi Christians she has been honored to know, praising them for their love and that they are known by all for their love. In all my research of persecuted brothers and sisters in Jesus, I can't help but take note that so many of them and in the face of their hardships, are known for their love. You do not read or hear of tragedies like we hear of here in the West, going on in closed or hostile lands where faith costs a lot.

What does this has to do with having religious freedom? You may wonder.

This is my opinion. Here in the West, faith does not cost us severe, physical persecution. We are free to practice our religion or faith. In the United States, Christianity has been woven into the culture from the beginning, at least from my understanding. In this country, over 70 percent of all Americans identify as Christians. Though it is getting more and more unpopular to identify as a follower of Jesus, coming out as a Christian will not get us arrested, will not cause authorities or militants to burn down our churches, and will not put us in any danger of bodily harm. But we are paying a hidden price for our wonderful religious freedoms in that anyone can feel free to identify as a Christian, simply because they may have been baptized as infants, have been confirmed, raised a hand in a meeting, said a sinner's prayer, or have walked forward in an aisle. Many of these people may be culturally Christian and may not be followers of Jesus in the Bible sense. Therefore, without the power to overcome sin, they cannot stop sinning. But, true Christians still struggle with sin and we are all capable of the worst of sins if placed in the wrong environment or having the wrong temptations.

In closed or hostile lands where following Jesus is costly, there is little or no temptation to identify as a Christian unless one is serious about Jesus and is willing to pay the high price of discipleship. Christians who face severe persecution in those lands, of course, are not perfect and still sin, but their temptations lie in the areas of staying true to Christ in severe persecution and they easily stay focused on God. Our temptations are many and our foes, materialism, consumerism, relativism, humanism and individualism, are far more subtle and tempt us to hope in things other than God. Thus, you hear of all these scandals in the Christian community and in the Western Christian Church. So what we we to do?

Jesus gave us a simple command: "Watch and pray that you do not fall into temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41, NIV). .

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