RETURNING TO PURE CHRISTIANITY

PURE CHRISTIANITY-DOING GOOD

This is an open letter to Christians and those who value the principles of the Christian Faith. Christianity in the Developed World is losing ground, that’s clear. The reasons though are not quite so clear.  I think, we Christians somehow, have gotten away from the basic idea and ideals inherent in Christianity. I’d go so far as to say the main reason Christianity in the developed world is losing ground is the message is not perceived as being relevant.  Society questions the relevance of Christianity in a DEVELOPED WORLD where essentially everyone who wants food or shelter can obtain it for free. And a world where fun and glitzy things entertain and keep people occupied doesn’t seem to need “church-clubs” to go to on Sunday morning. Christianity’s ideas and principles have been valued and revered for at least 5000 years. The life style has stood the test of time. Now, in the last fifty years, many question the need for this institution. My contention is the message of Christianity is every bit as relevant IF, AND ONLY IF, the message is presented with true compelling advantages. That relevant message is not being enunciated loudly enough or clearly enough.  Admit this, the message of a paradisiac heavenly life is not as appealing as in the past, unless one finds himself in the lowest economic levels of society.  Materially, a heavenly paradise is apparently within reach of most people. They see affluence and they see people enjoying it. “I can have my paradise now, I don’t have to wait,” seems to make sense. However, once our neighbors understand and see with their own eyes the relevance of the Christian life-style, a life of faith begins to have an appeal. That’s the SINGLE SIMPLE MESSAGE for this treatise. We can enhance the relevant appeal of Christianity rather easily. But first we must be clear what we’re offering and how we can offer it in the most efficacious way.  Please allow me to explain my discoveries before coming to any conclusions.

Understood, our goal is not just numbers of people flowing into our churches, I can understand why some believers couldn’t care less whether their Faith is popular or not. They retort, “Christianity is not supposed to be the most popular anyway.” But that’s not the point either. I consider Jesus and the Father and all believers part of a family and I don’t appreciate my family being talked about in negative, disrespectful terms. I would think anyone who considers herself a close friend of God and Jesus would feel the same way and want to do something to highlight the Lord’s reputation, even if the masses may not wish to participate in the movement at the moment. Scripture makes is quite clear what we should be doing.

We can start by asking a simple question. What is the essence of the appeal of true Christianity?  As I mentioned, our developed society can already offer a paradise of pleasure now, Heaven is not as appealing as it once was. And the idea of avoiding punishment, even torture, after death, in fact, is an idea that now turns people toward revulsion. A god who tortures is reminiscent of Hitler and Taliban Terrorists, that’s revolting. Those teachings have an element of truth to them but they are NOT the way to draw people to a cause.  And while the essence of Christianity is LOVE, that term “love “has become a trite meaningless word for some. I’ve been hearing of love since the Nineteen Sixties and Seventies but it’s not the love first modeled by God and then by Christ, who went so far as to suffer as a martyr for us.  People want to see that love and not just hear about it.  And how do we show love? By ACTION. If it is a given that Love is that essence of our Faith, then by DOING GOOD acts we actually show what love really means.  I think, somehow, we’ve gotten away from the basic ideas that make Christianity so special and appealing.  Until we as a community start overtly and emphatically showing that love by clearly visible action, our message of spreading the Good News will be hampered. Here’s why. If I were to ask, “What is the first thing that comes to mind when I say the word ‘Christianity?’ what’s your response? If you’re a devout believer you may say “Jesus’ coming”, or even, “God’s love.” But that isn’t the first thing that comes to the mind of a non-believer or even a person brought up in a Christian home but no longer active. Their response is going to be anywhere between, “Conflict, negativity or even hatred.” All Christian institutions must do a better job of proclaiming enthusiastically and emphatically that our faith is based on God’s love and Jesus’ love not primarily to bring conflict.

Both as a sociologist and as a Christian I have carefully studied the trends over the last twenty-five years in the US. The percent of the population who are no longer Christians has gone down at least 15% in the last decade. Similarly, the number of “Nones,” those who don’t have any particular religious affiliation has gone up at least fifteen percent. (Pew Research) In fact, the term “Nones” wasn’t even in use a decade ago, it had to be invented to describe the phenomenon. But this can be changed, if we don’t wait too long. The fact that those we lost as Christians are now “Nones” (meaning have no affiliation presently), and not having become atheists, indicates that the vast majority of those leaving the Church don’t have any particular hatred for their previous faith, they just don’t see any particular reason to stay affiliated. Interestingly the number of atheists and agnostics (see Pew research) as a percentage of the US population has increased only very slightly over time proving there is not a new and vast dislike for Christians, just a new LOSS OF RELEVANCE. And I want to stress that point: Christians are leaving the faith because they just don’t feel going to church and claiming to be Christian is not relevant to them; they don’t perceive Christianity is helping them or giving them any advantage in living their lives now.  That’s what we believers want to see turned around. And it can be done. Please give me a moment to prove that point.

I don’t have to dwell on identifying the reasons why this loss is occurring, just ask any “None,” he or she will tell you. I can say from my research and anecdotal evidence (just talking to people) our message from Jesus is not as appealing for the masses as it once was. The two main issues I have noted is that many people (1) Do feel Christianity is not as RELEVANT in the modern world and (2) feel Christians come across as HATING anyone that doesn’t believe their way. However, scripture makes it quite clear what we should be doing and the Bible is replete with verses which admonish what is expected of us as followers.

So, where do we start to enhance the relevance and the appeal of Christianity to the developed world. (Christianity is already doing very, very well in Third World Countries but that’s because people there have their primary needs being met by Christianity). Our Developed World really doesn’t know what it wants. We must get them to thinking… You may appear to be happy now, and that’s great, but what happens if you were to lose your job or your marriage begins to unravel or, God forbid, you or one of your closest friends was confronted with a life-threatening illness? Those things will happen to most of us happen sooner or later. Christianity’s message is to confront those issues ahead of time before they occur. Christianity will give satisfying answers to life’s questions. You’ll learn to cope with any hardship or adversity that can arise before it ever happens. Do or will you want to become part of a united effort to do good and give meaning to life? Do you want to have more than maybe just one friend you can trust, actually many friends you know will put your welfare as important as their own? Among believers, you’ll find that. In a nutshell, you can learn the simple steps to insure you have a fully satisfying life now. And if you don’t think you need that now, it’s guaranteed a time will come where you will need some of those benefits. Remember, when that time comes, you’ll know where to turn when you realize you need something more. These are just some of the benefits, and there are many, many more, Faith can provide for those who think they have it all. And if you aren’t interested now, I won’t pester you. You will know when they need help but Jesus tells us what we should do in the meantime…

When thinking about this I was reminded of a Bible passage that has always struck me by its simplicity and subtle meaning. The simple statement is recorded in Acts 10:37-38. Here Peter, the apostle, was recounting the activity of Jesus to a group of new converts and he noted, “You know what has happened…how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how HE WENT AROUND DOING GOOD and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.” Peter could have said much more but he summarized Jesus’ ministry so simply as “He went around doing good and healing all…” To be able to put everything about Jesus’ coming into only one simple phrase seems unusual. So much more could be included but Peter thought this was a concise introduction to Jesus. At the very least I would expect we, as Jesus’ followers, want to be spoken of and introduced in the same manner and terms as our master was introduced to a crowd wanting to learn more about Christ.  Our society should be saying of us, “These followers of Jesus, whatever you think of them, they go around DOING GOOD.” And that phrase is used not just a few times throughout scripture. That same simple wording is repeated time after time.

Remember, this is, in fact, part of the message Jesus taught. One of Jesus’ first directives to his followers was his encouragement to have a small part in acknowledging God in their lives. Matthew 5:16 records his directive, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your GOOD DEEDS and praise God your Father in Heaven.” Jesus here tells us this is a major part of our mission. There really is nothing we can do for God, He’s completely self-contained and needs nothing from us. But, at the very least, as a token of our gratitude to His magnanimity, we can induce others to praise God. The way we do it, as Jesus suggested, is by emphasizing our “GOOD DEEDS,” motivated by our following God’s example. As I see it, isn’t that the best, the most efficacious act of solidarity we can offer? How often have I had a salesman tell me his product is the very best, a vacuum perhaps, and yet I question his sincerity. Admit it, he has a vested interest in giving his rehearsed glowing testimony. However, when I say I’m not interested at the moment and yet I find the salesperson does something kind for me, my attitude toward him is transformed. I had this very experience in a department store. I was walking through a department store through the appliance section and a refrigerator caught my eye. I asked the salesman a few questions about the new capabilities advertised. I had no intention of buying anything at the moment so I said, thank you” and moved on. However, as I walked away, he came running after me to say I had dropped several papers. I was surprised he had made the effort to come after me. He had no obligation. But I couldn’t help but think afterwards, “If I do decide on a new refrigerator, I will make it a point to come back to this store and look this salesman up.” He was a worthy ambassador for his store. In the same way, I’d like to think I’m a worthy ambassador for my Father’s family, God’s Kingdom. I would hope that my neighbors could see by my actions that I was motivated to consider their welfare, not because I had been forced to act benevolently but because I truly wanted to help. That’s what Jesus has taught me to do. So how can I best act? Jesus’ advise, “Do good deeds.” That’s easy enough. I just have to be cognizant of opportunities that arise to do good. I am hoping for a time when every church spends as much or more effort encouraging doing good deeds as opposed to emphasizing the don’t-do tenets of our faith or what’s wrong with fellow believers and even non-believers, for that matter.

Very interestingly, the Apostle Paul uses these very same terms, “Doing Good,” when writing to the various churches hoping to encourage them. Look at Romans 2:7, “To those who by persistence in DOING GOOD, seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.” He’s quite clear what he wishes of those Roman Christians. They were to continue “doing good” and persist in that practice. Paul singled out this one project as the work incumbent on all. You will find in almost every letter he writes; he memorializes similar terms. When he encouraged all to keep the faith, he always included the same injunction to do good. Especially clear is his invocation at Galatians 6:9. There he avers, “Let us not grow weary in DOING GOOD, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” And he says the same at 1 Timothy 6:18. There he goes so far as to command, “Command them to DO GOOD, to be rich in GOOD DEEDS, and to be generous and willing to share.” His implication is that this is not a choice, it’s a command, an obligation for all Christ followers. Then Paul goes on to clarify by an example that Doing Good are “Good deeds” and that one such deed is being generous. Have you ever had the experience I had during a time of financial need? A fellow church member, when hearing I was in need, came up to me and sympathetically offered me the funds I needed without asking me to sign any contract or payback with interest, adding nothing but saying, “Here’s what I understand you need.” Nothing about payback. This person was not even a close friend, he observed someone in need and was moved to help. What a “good deed” done to me that was.

Note, too, coupled with that mandate we just mentioned (1Timithy 6;18) and in the previous chapter at 1Timothy 5:25 Paul amplifies why those deeds are so important. He uses a phrase reminiscent of Jesus’ words we read before. He observes, “Good deeds are obvious.”  In other words, people can plainly see “good deeds.” They are clear and unmistakable. As Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) This is a large part of our ministry as Jesus’ followers. We’re mandated to spread the “GOOD NEWS.” What better way to display that Good News than by action? As Paul said, deeds are “OBVIOUS” and as Jesus put it, it’s like shining a bright “LIGHT.”

I don’t want to belabor the point but in almost every one of Paul’s letters he invokes similar terms. 2Thessalonians 3:13, “not to tire out in doing good.” And Ephesians 2:10, we are “created to do good works.” 2 Corinthians 9:8, “Abound in good works.’ And in 1 Timothy 2:21 he stresses we Christians “were prepared (by God) to do good work.”  Even Hebrews 10:24, though probably written by Paul, nevertheless gave the injunction, “To spur one another to good deeds.” You will notice, too, how conspicuously scripture does not have to explicitly enumerate what those “good deeds” need to be. We read only a few times where good deeds are mentioned in conjunction with “generosity.” We all know inherently what Good Deeds look like.

There are many ways to show the Love of God. Scripture does not have to list them all.  We all know inherently; we’ve all been beneficiaries to such kindness ourselves. I remember when we had young children; there were times when serious matters arose and we needed babysitters for the kids.  Friends and neighbors would often remind us, “If you ever need someone to watch the children, call on us, we’d be happy to help out.”  Such kindness turned out to be life-saving at times. And we don’t have to go far to find occasions to do good. Going shopping for a neighbor who is infirm. Just listening to a friend who has gone through a harrowing experience is a good gesture. Even praying with someone in the midst of a difficult time will be most appreciated.  And the point is, there is no reason to mention you’re a Christian, that fact has its own way of coming out in later conversations. The goal is to make it a habit of doing such deeds and a reputation of kindness and caring will follow. Acquaintances will come to know you are guided by a higher standard and will equate your doing good to your Christian way of life.  Then when the circumstances are right you can mention your motivation to show empathy is animated by the example of Love shown to you by the Lord and those who acted lovingly toward you, with godly inspiration. I remember a while back someone went out of his way for me. I can’t remember what it was now, but after I thanked him profusely, he simply said, “This is nothing, I’m glad I could help you. I’ve been blessed so often in my life I feel moved to do what I can for others.” Those few words, “I’ve been blessed,” clued me into a better understanding of such acts. He was a believer and I thanked God for his appearance in my life. In fact, since then I’ve often followed his example of deflecting credit from myself as he, a stranger, did to me. I now say, as he did, “I’m glad to help, I’ve been blessed often so I can’t help but want to help others.”

I’ve quoted frequently here from the works of St. Paul and noted in most every letter he wrote he mentions the obligation of doing good, in those very words. Note, though, that several other apostles, who were Bible writers, said exactly the same words, almost like a melody repeated over and over in a piece of music.  Here is the admonishment from James, brother of Jesus. He teaches this, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his GOOD LIFE, BY DEEDS done in humility that comes from Wisdom.” (James 3:13) He couldn’t be clearer on what is incumbent on believers, especially if they are seeking to gain and display Wisdom, a coveted trait of God. Deeds done in humility are to be enfolded in a “good life.” And that phrase, “A GOOD LIFE,” isn’t that exactly what most people would say they want? One of the traits of such an inviable life is doing deeds with humility. I hope my thesis is starting to ring true to you. Among the most important things we can do to follow Jesus is to do good, those good deeds will go a long way in recommending Christianity to unbelievers and perhaps change the negative connotation the term “Christian” has for some.

To stress this point, listen to Peter, as he too repeated that same motif in the music of Christianity. He writes, “Live such GOOD LIVES among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may SEE YOUR GOOD DEEDS and glorify God on the day He visits us.”  There, you see it again, “Good Deeds.” By their actions, and not only by their words, believers were preaching the Good News to the world, the pagan world of that time.   All these verses have convinced me of the primary importance of displaying ACTS of LOVE, acts of love endorsed by our Father. These verses have moved me to give priority attention to looking for opportunities to do good for others.  The three apostles, whose words have been handed down to us, were united with Jesus on what the Father wanted his children to do. I don’t think, at this time in church history, we are putting the emphasis where it belongs. I feel the number one priority is loving God, neighbor and showing that love by doing good deeds of kindness and love, as godly human beings, and preaching the Good News by both word and deed just as those pillars of the church mandated. As Peter summed it up, given that our life course is mapped out for us by the Lord we must, “Lead such good lives.” As if to say there is nothing better one can do with his or her life than mimic Jesus in “walking around doing good.” At the same time, we will be living such good lives that we can’t help but be satisfied with the legacy we leave behind. If a godly person were looking for a life course to pattern her life after, she could not find a better model.

The invocation, “Live such good lives” states it all in a nutshell. If we care about the life course we model foremost, other doctrinal issues such as predicting the exact timing of Christ’s return, or what the “Rapture” really means, or when the Thousand Year Reign is to begin, pale in comparison.  I’m not saying these issues aren’t important, they are. I would think more important for us as individuals is to resolve in our own minds and hearts how we interpret such doctrinal issues. But don’t use our interpretation of scripture as a basis for determining whether we allow someone into our company based on interpretation of such esoteric verses. Scripture makes it clear how to distinguish Christ’s followers. We read, “By their fruits you will know them.”  My view of scripture tells me a primary criterion as to whether one is a follower of the Lord is seen in his actions. Their fruits belie their talk. Fruits of the Lord, acts of genuine kindness and empathy, are what we should be applauding more so than an innovative interpretation of a Bible verse as if that interesting exposition is the be all or end all.  Some Christians do come across as if they are claiming, “My interpretation of a verse is absolutely correct, there is no need for you to disagree with me or attempt to amend my conclusions.”

Finally, here are two verses I think will help convince us what we must do. When we read James, please don’t start a controversy on what he meant by the term “religion,” just read these words generically. The Apostle James made this blanket statement, found at James 1:27. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this, to look after orphans and widows in their distress and keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” In the apostle’s own words, and unprompted, he confides that what the Lord wants of us is acts of kindness and love. Can you think of anything more loving than looking after infants and children who don’t have a Father in the home to provide materially for these helpless little ones?  A single parent may have to work to provide materially for the family but that leaves the children without a full complement of parental guidance for all the emotional and loving care they need just as much as the material needs. These deeds of kindness will have both immediate and long-term benefits to the kids. The point is there is no interpretation needed in understanding what James meant. The needs have been exactly the same for thousands of years, orphans and widows require assistance.  The beauty about a church family is they are the first to know when there is a need. They can offer immediate comfort and stability, being present to help the beleaguered family in transition. They can even make sure the family is receiving all the social service benefits they are entitled to. And the church can provide the emotional support that social services may not perform. These services are expected of all humans to offer, but at times only spiritual individuals will step up to the plate to offer assistance. James avers that’s true religion.

The other part of this verse may require some interpretation, the part about “keeping oneself from being polluted by the world.” Bible writers often speak of “the world” in negative terms. This idea can take many different forms. This is exactly what we were talking about earlier. Parts of scripture need interpretation but difference of opinion on one part of a verse should have no effect on the other part, in this case, the part about “widows and orphans.” I know fellow Christians may have a different view than I about keeping oneself separate from the world. For example, my staunch Fundamentalist brothers go much further than I do with this phrase. To some, the only way to avoid being polluted by the ungodly is to separate completely as in an isolated community. If that’s the way they feel, that’s their prerogative. However, they have no right to insist that all must follow their personal interpretation. Some Quakers take a very staunch position. Who am I to say, “Hey, that’s all wrong!” Rather than take exception, I say, “God bless them.” And by the same token, most of these Quakers would never insist I must follow their lead.  They take care of “widows and orphans” perhaps better than my church could but we both are living literally about the first part of the verse.

Similarly, some in the good old days (I don’t know if they were so good after all), had placed a moratorium on playing cards or dancing as their interpretation about being “polluted by the world.” Fortunately, most would consider that extreme behavior now but I know one or two individuals who still take that view, but they don’t insist all the congregation follow their lead. The problem only arises when he or she insists all must endorse his or her position. Stating her position and conscientiously living accordingly is her prerogative.  This verse is a perfect example of what I was talking about earlier. Some parts of scripture require little or no interpretation. We all can easily follow those directives. However, phrases like “Not being polluted by the world” will have hundreds of possible interpretations. And many such positions could be argued conscientiously to be accurate. I would say, follow what you sense is truth here but don’t insist your viewpoint is the only correct one. I like to ask an insistent person, “Are you telling me you have all the answers?”  I remind these over-confident believers not one person I have asked that question to has said “yes.” I believe the Bible is inspired but personal interpretation of scripture is not. So, I’ll continue on my path of what I know to be conscientious service but will always being open to a clearer picture for answers.

There are many such subtle ways where Christians are forced to detour from their resolved course. We must be vigilant to discern when we are deviating from the Mission set for us of spreading the Good News and modeling what Goodness in Action really means. Most of us don’t realize that’s just what the opposition has forced us to do without our even realizing it! We’ve got to get back on track! That’s a discussion in itself we’ll have to take up in detail at another time. But suffice it to say here, we have been adroitly out-maneuvered by our detractors. For example, with regard to the traditional position most Christians take on homosexuality, we have allowed ourselves to be put in the position of being accused of being intolerant. However, in reality we Christians are the ones now being treated intolerantly! This has been accomplished by the opposition forcing traditional believers to accept or even advocate the homosexual agenda by legally punishing those who hold a view that has been traditionally held for thousands of years and has stood the test of time. It’s time we wake up and realize what has happened and admit the tables have been turned on us. While some Christians have indeed shown intolerance to those living a different life-style and have rightly been called intolerant, now we are feeling the bigotry against all believers. This can easily be rectified by refusing to argue our position on a doctrinal level until we can get back on a level playing field. Persistently force our enemies to admit, or at least helping society in general to see clearly, Christians are now the ones being treated with intolerance.  Christians are now the ones losing freedom of speech when one cannot respond with objections to the now popular new sexual orientation. Whenever the issue arises in public, don’t take the bait to try to defend the traditional Christian position, it falls on deaf ears. First, simply call attention to the bigotry shown us by others calling us bigots and haters when, in reality, that’s how we are being treated by others. State clearly, we welcome anyone of an alternate lifestyle into our fellowship, as long as they don’t strive to cause divisions. We’re not forcing any to change their viewpoints against their will. We are only asking for reciprocal respect by allowing us to hold a view that is not the most popular one at the moment, without being labelled as hate-oriented. I’m certain many of us have other possible suggestions on how to respond in a non-threatening manner which we’ll want to entertain in future forums.

 

Truly critical is the necessity that doctrine not separate Christians from being united in positions on core doctrines and fulfilling the essential of spreading the Good News by word and acts of Doing Good and showing love. We must applaud any and all efforts to bring glory to God as Jesus, Paul, Peter, James and other church fathers had encouraged. While the Bible’s directive to be “unpolluted by the world” is important to apprehend clearly in our own minds, the Bible is not explicit with details here. Let us be willing to give a little leeway in interpretation. Instead, pray for personal guidance as to how we individually might see our Lord leading us. For unity, it may be important that a church- congregation have a stated position on issues such as “Gay Marriage.” Yet at the same time, they must welcome into their company those with an alternate view, as long as controversy does not threaten unity. The goal is to get closer and closer to religion that is “pure and undefiled” before our Father.

One last point before I close this discourse. As we started out our discussion, we noted that from time immemorial historical characters close to God have always been noted for the same Christian attitude, long before Christianity ever got its name. The final verse I want to highlight is one from the Old Testament, and as we’ll agree is not really “old” after all. One of the so called “minor prophets” provided words in summary of what he was inspired to stress was the Lord’s direction to people during his time in history. And it was a critical time indeed. Micah wrote some time before 700 BC, the Northern Kingdom of Israel was about to be annihilated, never to rise again. And the Southern Kingdom including Jerusalem would be ransacked in the not too distant future. And Why? Micah proclaimed this upheaval was caused because the two Kingdoms had stopped seeking the Lord’s guidance. Micah’s illuminating words mimic the tone of Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount. Micah 6:8 is simple and clear, “He has shown you, oh man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” In one verse Micah asked and answered the Sixty-Four Thousand Dollar question with three requirements. The question, “What does God require of us?” He avers it is simple, not complicated and certainly not strenuous to follow. Just in the previous verse, God in effect says, “Do you imagine I’m asking you to do something so extreme as to sacrifice your own children like some of the neighboring Pagan Kingdoms do? No, this is all I’m asking of you. To act fairly and justly toward your fellow man, to show mercy to those suffering, and to act with humility toward both God and man.” That’s it, so simple. Exactly similar to what we read from Jesus and the Apostles. God hasn’t changed. Those simple edicts are easy enough to remember and act on. No question what acting justly means, no question what showing mercy means. And while acting with humility can be interpreted in an extreme manner, the sense of context belies the intent that walking with humility need not be a difficult task. I’d like to think the Lord is proclaiming that worshiping God means following some simple guidelines, a morality that human nature senses are reasonable. Yet God, through Micah, was judging those who purport to be his followers as if to say, “You people, hypocrites, are so wrapped up in your own selfish pursuits you can’t even make time for simple kindness or love. It’s only right that I withdraw my protection I’ve surrounded you with and now you’ll be on your own. You can predict, can’t you, what the super powers around you will do to you?”

It seems clear God’s message to each of us individually today is exactly the same as then, the same seven hundred years before Christ’s coming and the same during Jesus’ presence and thereafter as the apostles recounted. The Lord’s burden on us is really no burden (Jesus own words). Everyone knows what fairness is, everyone knows what mercy is, we all know what it means to look after orphans and widows. In a phrase, scripture sums it up by saying “Do Good.” My contention is that Christians could be much more dynamic in inspiring young people and those disappointed with the Christian Faith by publicizing our activities which prove we are doing good TO ALL and FOR ALL regardless of their nationality or life station. When we do an outreach at one of the state prisons, publicize it. When our church collects a thousand pounds of food for the local community pantry, advertise it in the local newspaper. When we sponsor a public-school clothing drive be sure the whole town is informed. You get the picture; our motive is not necessarily advertising our particular church but spotlighting what our Christian Faith is doing for the community.

I began this treatise by asking what is the essence of Christianity and what do people now say about believers. I mentioned that the essence is Love and the unfolding of God’s Love toward humanity. In simple terms, that’s what it’s about. However, when asking the proverbial man in the street the same question, if he’s not a believer he’ll probably say, “When I think of Christianity I think of conflict, judgement and hatred.” If that is true, regardless of whether the media is to blame or whether Christians themselves are to blame, we should feel ashamed and want to do all we can to rectify this negative perception, it reflects negatively on our God. I’ve attempted to show that if believers really want to recommend and showcase Christianity and its activities as a source of accolades to God and Christ, we must make some changes. We have what appears to be a ­­­ final opportunity here. We are not attempting to make Christianity popular for popularity sake. We just want to put Christianity in its best light. Scripture says the way seekers of truth will discern what’s true is…” By their fruit you will recognize them.” Can we say now, that we believers are giving evidence to recommend our way of life?  Some are, but many are not. I have also attempted to make a case for accepting that actions which are of the “doing good’ variety are the actions we’ll want to display in our lives. We can’t force our neighbors to become believers, when they experience life’s problems they need to know where they can go for help. Be patient. Do the only thing that can help them before they admit they have a need. That’s to do good and model what a happy, satisfying life following Jesus looks like. I hope this piece will serve as a first attempt to galvanize all in God’s company to do our part to recommend “the Good News” about Jesus’ presence by making “doing good” a priority.  We want our neighbors to think Christianity stands for caring, kind acts, true love for humanity. To me, an exemplary believer is not one who is skilled in defending intricate doctrine for a possible slightly more accurate interpretation of a verse. To me, the exemplary believer is she who arranges her life in such a way that her actions display what Jesus is all about. I hope you will personally put this into practice as a priority in your own life.

And equally important, I hope you will remind fellow church members of the practice of “doing good” as a priority in their efforts to spread the gospel message. From my research and my dialog with believers and un-believers alike this is among the first actions needed to turn around church perceptions. If we can first stop arguing amongst ourselves about intricate doctrine in minute detail or how to respond to social issues, then we can spend the majority of our efforts in showing love and kindness. Let’s not argue amongst ourselves but act to display what true Christ-like love is. I contend we will see a reversal in popular perception of our cause. We can’t eliminate HATRED TOWARD our kind actions but we can minimize perceived HATRED BY our kind actions. Let’s stress the positives of our Faith. Resolve to be ambassadors of the Father’s and Jesus’ love toward all with the hope observers will, in time, allow us to tell them more about the incredible provisions our Lord has prepared for their welfare.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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