Have you ever felt pressure from those around you not to bring your faith into the public sector of your life?
We have been told for years that it is impolite to discuss politics or religion and yet it is these two subjects that really make a difference in people’s lives. The doctrine of tolerance that has been presumptuously and thoroughly pushed upon society demands that all view points are valid and that we should honor and respect people for who they are and what they believe. This sounds so harmonious on the surface. The Bible makes no distinction between male, female, wealthy or poor (Galatians 3:26-28) but what tolerance has turned into is an attitude that demands, “don’t challenge my view point, don’t disagree with me and never ask me to change”. Many Christian people have blindly followed along with our humanistic and secular culture’s demand to make faith a personal matter. The problem with making faith a personal matter is that Jesus is not just Lord of our personal lives; He is Lord of our lives.
The Apostle Paul compares faith in Christ to a marriage between husband and wife (Ephesians 5:22-32). Can you imagine having a wife or husband that it was politically incorrect to discuss? Can you imagine being asked to live as though you were not married in your public life when in fact you are married?
When you are married it does affect every area of your life. Marriage changes your worldview, it changes your priorities and it changes your life (completely). On the other hand marriage does not affect your ability to perform your job. It does not exempt you from your civic responsibilities to vote, pay taxes and obey the law.
As believers we can no more privatize our faith than we can privatize our marriages. Faith in Christ is not an opinion nor is a set of religious talking points. Faith in Christ is a relationship with the living God and that relationship impacts every area of life.
There should be noticeable differences between the lives and lifestyles of those who are Christians and those who are not. The New Testament speaks repeatedly about living a life that is honorable, righteous and that is filled with good deeds.
Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.
For the Lord’s sake, respect all human authority—whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right.
It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you. For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. Respect everyone, and love your Christian brothers and sisters. Fear God, and respect the king. (1 Peter 2:11-17)
It is always easier to be anti-something than it is to provide an actual alternative. Far too often Christians are categorized by the issues we support and by the issues we oppose. Society wants to be able to draw a circle around us and then keep us in that circle. We do the gospel a great disservice when we allow faith in Christ to be equated with conservative stances on social and political issues. When we do this it causes the topics of discussion in the public arena to be centered on the issue and not the gospel.
Christianity will not be spread through our protesting. The gospel of Jesus Christ is most effectively spread by believers whose lives display the fruit or results of their relationship with Jesus Christ:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Am I advocating not speaking out against the things in society that are contrary to what the Bible proclaims is right and righteous? No. I am advocating living the gospel before our unbelieving friends, family members and co-workers in such a way that when we speak the truth of God’s Word it can be received.
In Romans, Chapter 2, Paul accused the Jews in Rome because they proclaimed standards of righteousness that they themselves did not live.
You who call yourselves Jews are relying on God’s law, and you boast about your special relationship with him. You know what he wants; you know what is right because you have been taught his law. You are convinced that you are a guide for the blind and a light for people who are lost in darkness. You think you can instruct the ignorant and teach children the ways of God. For you are certain that God’s law gives you complete knowledge and truth.
Well then, if you teach others, why don’t you teach yourself? You tell others not to steal, but do you steal? You say it is wrong to commit adultery, but do you commit adultery? You condemn idolatry, but do you use items stolen from pagan temples? You are so proud of knowing the law, but you dishonor God by breaking it. No wonder the Scriptures say, “The Gentiles blaspheme the name of God because of you.” (Romans 2:17-24)
We can all point to public moral failure from Christian leaders over the years that have caused God’s name to be blasphemed by those who don’t believe. We cannot use fallen preachers as scapegoats for the privatization of Christianity. Have the publicized scandals brought shame to the body? Sure they have, but the lives of our fellow believers are plagued with the same issues (they just don’t make the evening news).
- Divorce rates among Christian marriages and non-Christian marriages are virtually identical1
- One in five women having abortions are “born again” Christians or Evangelical church goers2
- Fewer than 10% of churched families pray together other than at mealtimes3
- Only 8% of Senior Pastors claim to have the gift of evangelism4 and only 5% of Christians make sharing their faith a part of their lifestyle5.
Our greatest challenge is to bring more than words of faith to the world; we must bring Jesus to the world. In order to do this we must not only preach a gospel that is doctrinally sound but our lives and lifestyle must reflect what we say we believe.
If unbelievers are going to reject the gospel we preach (and they will) they should do so because they refuse to believe the gospel not because our lives disagree with the gospel we preach.
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. (1 Peter 3:13-16)
If we are living what we believe we can earnestly proclaim the gospel to those who do not believe. There will be those who respond in faith and accept the Lord Jesus and there will be those who reject the message of the gospel. If people reject the message of the gospel let it be because they are rejecting Jesus, not because of blatant hypocrisy in our lives. If we are passionately following Jesus and living a consecrated life there will still be those who reject the gospel when we share it, but…
- It will not be because we feed the hungry and care for the poor
- It will not be because our lives consistently manifest the fruit of the Spirit
- It will not be because we are ethical and honorable in our business dealings
- It will not be because our marriages are strong and our children are well behaved and successful
Hopefully my point will be heard through this and it is simply that our life and lifestyle should provide us a platform to share the gospel with those who do not believe. Bringing our faith into the public arena means that our lives will come under the scrutiny of those around us. They will be looking for evidence of what we are proclaiming in our living. They will be looking for a difference between our lives and theirs (and the differences should be attractive). Christianity is more than “THOU SHALT NOT” but our lives should definitely demonstrate the “THOU SHALT NOT’s”. We should also be manifesting the character of Christ and a life filled with good deeds that come as a result of loving Jesus.
There is nothing wrong with a metallic fish on the back of your car, Jesus t-shirts, Christian coffee mugs, dove lapel pins, or WWJD bracelets. These are nice ways to let others know you are a Christian but our lives have to be more than a bumper sticker for the Lord; we are His body.
Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone. (Colossians 4:5-6)
Let’s bring this together with a few bullet points:
- Refuse to allow anyone to intimidate your faith into a private matter
- Study the Bible so that you can truly have a Christian worldview
- Live a life of holiness and faith that is filled with good deeds
- Unashamedly share the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ with those who do not believe
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)
- George Barna, Revolution: finding Vibrant Faith Beyond the Walls of the Sanctuary, (Wheaton, Illinois: BarnaBooks; 2005), 35
- “Abortion Common Among All Women”, the Alan Guttmacher Institute, 2004, http://www.guttmacher.org/media/nr/prabort2.html
- George Barna, Revolution, op. cit., 35.
- A Profile of Protestant Pastors in Anticipation of ‘Pastor Appreciation Month’, September 25,2001, www.barna.org.
- Going Public with the Gospel (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2003), p. 94.