Monday, September 24, 2007

Christ’s Followers

Some people point to the bad things done in the name of God, and condemn all religion as evil and a curse upon humanity. It is my opinion that there has been a lot more good done by people of faith and in the name of God than evil. People usually point to the Crusades and the Inquisition as examples of how bad Christians are (and I can think of a lot more than those). But the good that has been done throughout history far outweighs the bad, in my opinion (although there has still been enough bad, sad to say).

I can think of two examples of the good done by the Church. For much of the past 2,000 years, it was the Church and various Christian organizations that provided care for the sick, orphans, and the needy. It was the Church, especially monastic orders, which preserved western civilization and classical literature during the time when much of Europe was being overrun.

You may ask, then, why has there been so much evil done in the name of God? Why don’t people follow the teachings of their faith that emphasize “love thy neighbor” and forgive one another, which in one way or another are major principles in most religious traditions?

It’s because people are evil and have a sin nature. Some say people are born good and evil society influences them to sin. That’s a ridiculous statement, because what is society made up of? People! If the people are good, society will be good. If people are sinners, society will be evil. Christianity teaches that we are born with an inclination to sin, a sin nature. It is like a genetic flaw, there from birth.

When you truly become a follower of Christ, your inclination to sin should become significantly diminished over time, and you should become a better and better person because you are allowing the Holy Spirit to work in you and conform you to the image of Jesus Christ (called sanctification). This involves submitting your will to God’s will, and no longer wanting to do things your way.

Also there are many people out there claiming to be followers of Christ, but they really haven’t truly committed their lives to Christ. They go through all the motions, but they are what the prophet Isaiah wrote in Isaiah 29:13a: The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (NIV) They give people of faith a bad name because of their behavior. Of course we also have to realize that nobody can truly judge what they are – only God knows the heart.

Then there are those who are followers of Christ but are misguided, in my opinion. They are legalistic and judgmental, trying to save the world by condemning it. They seem to forget about Jesus and what he taught, and prefer fire and brimstone over grace and restoration. That doesn’t mean we don’t fight against evil, injustice, and oppression when we find it, but that we have to be careful how we do it.

An unbeliever will never come to faith if he or she judges Jesus based on his followers. We are imperfect, flawed, disobedient, and self-centered (and those are the good ones!) We have to look to Jesus himself, the author and perfecter of our faith, and what he taught. He, and he alone.

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