The fellow posting to an online forum devoted to Christianity made the following observation:
"The communication that comes to me from Christians, I would estimate is 10% Heaven, 90% avoiding Hell. This would also go for other aspects of Christianity. I hear more about avoiding sin vs love and compassion. I hear more about Jesus dying than Jesus living, I hear more about fighting evil, than the good news."
If this writer, who later called himself an atheist, had such a picture of the Body of Christ, I had to post a reply. And, so, I wrote:
"Dear VJ - This is a terrific observation: 'I hear more about avoiding sin vs love and compassion. I hear more about Jesus dying than Jesus living, I hear more about fighting evil, than the good news.'
"Two ideas come to mind. Years ago I read a book that pointed out that we are sin-centered Christians rather than Christ-centered. So, like going on a diet and trying to count calories and cut out our favorite treats makes us be food-centered, exactly what we DON'T want to be, so by focusing on sin, we can't help but slide into it. (Instead, Christ-centeredness keeps our eyes on Jesus and lets HIM deal with the sin issue.)
"The second is a quote from the Reformation's Martin Luther (I wish I had the entire quote in context): 'Sin boldly!' I don't want to put words into his mouth, but the impression I took from it is that we will accomplish nothing if we are worried about getting our shoes dirty. If we have to wade in the mud to accomplish Kingdom work, well then, so be it. It reminds me of Jesus offending the Pharisees because He healed a paralytic on the Sabbath.
"If your estimate reflects actual statistics, then the church is missing the point. You've probably heard the quote, 'You're so heavenly minded you're no earthly good.' Sadly, we can be so hell-minded (without a clue what that actually means) that we either try to scare folks into the Kingdom, or we turn them off from becoming acquainted with the Lover of our souls.
"Our job is supposed to be to proclaim the good news, like the Christmas angels did. We are to pray that God will open a door for that Gospel message. We don't even need to pray that people will accept it! The Word is powerful in and of itself and will accomplish God's purposes. In fact, we're apt to even get in the way of the Holy Spirit, rather than 'helping' things along.
"To me, that is a very freeing concept. The longer we 'walk in the light' with Jesus, the greater grows our love for Him and for the people of this world, especially those who still wait to hear.
"When the church gets our mission straight, then will come to pass, 'Thy Kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.' Even so, come Lord Jesus!"
When it comes to sharing the Gospel with our neighbors, we have opportunities today that our grandparents never dreamed of. In fact, we have more "free speech" than our founding fathers could have imagined when they blessed us with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights under which our nation is governed.
For someone who loves to write, I relish diving into discussions I have found on the internet. To be sure, you will run into the verbally abusive hate-mongers. They are a challenge, but they help teach me to turn away wrath with a soft answer. But, when I discover a seeking soul, as I believe VJ to be, then I rejoice at the "open door" Jesus has given for getting out the Word of Life.
You can imagine how VJ touched my heart when he posted this reply to my attention:
"I would bet that if more Christians understood God as you do, there would be fewer Atheists."
"Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should." --from Paul's Letter to the Colossians 4:2-4 (NIV)
Copyright 2008 Edy T Johnson
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