Saturday, August 09, 2008

Are we offended by sinners?

Think about that question. Am I, as a good church going Christian, offended by the sinners I interact with every day?

The Jews of Jesus' time certainly were. Not only did the completely write off the Gentiles as lost but they considered the Samaritans unclean. They worshiped wrong, said the wrong things, did the wrong things. It was so ingrained in the Jews that they would rather travel AROUND Samaria than through it.

Who would you rather go around than deal with? What bothers you so much that you flee from it?

Most Christians I have met from the “Holiness” spectrum of things seem to spend most of their energy staying away from “worldly” things. By that I mean anybody outside of their church. If a sinner cusses, they get offended. If they make a bawdy joke, they get offended. If another Christian doesn't live according to their “holiness” rules they get offended.

It's not just the far wing either. The problem is, too many of us sit in our little comfort zones. We get used to hearing only "Christian-speak". No one smokes, no one drinks, no one cusses, every one is perfect. When we are forced, and it does sometimes take force, to go out among the "unwashed", do we take the Light with us? How many times have you seen Christians out protesting some show, song, book, or movie for being too whatever? They are offended by something that they will probably never see in the first place but want to make sure that others, sinners, don't get to see it either. Because then everything will be fine...if only the sinners, and everyone else, lives just like us.

A while ago a couple in Pennsylvania were taking a city to court to remove a billboard that deeply offended them. What was this billboard about, you ask? A porn shop? A strip club? Some atheist group? Nope. Sheetz Gas Station. Why? Because the sign read “Crispy Frickin' Chicken”. Let me spell this out clearly: this is NOT being light. This is being a moralist. This is trying to impose your beliefs on others not for their good, but for your's. Removing this sign does not get anyone closer to accepting Jesus. Removing this sign does not move anyone further away from Hell. All it does is piss people off or cause them to mock you, and your faith, for being a whiny little brat.

Jesus was never offended by the sins of the ignorant. He never condemned the woman at the well, the tax collectors, the whores. No, he condemned the priests and religious folk of his day for trying to follow the Law the way it was written (the letter of the law) while ignoring the whole point of the Law. That's what this guy is doing. His moral laws say cussing is wrong and so is fornication. There fore, all references to such things are to be done away with. Meanwhile, he's ruined his ability to witness to any number of people who hear about this. How many people may end up in Hell because they won't hear him, or another Christian, now because he's just another "religious kook"?

There are times to fight. Clearly, there are times to stand up and call sin sin. Cursing, foul language etc. is at best a gray area. Like drinking, gambling, smoking, rock music; I don't think you can make a case from the Bible that it is SIN. Not helpful, yeah, probably. But sin, no. Yet these things deeply offend so many Christians, not just when it's in the church, but when their lost neighbor does it. Do you know why the guy across the street gets so drunk he can't walk? Because he doesn't have Jesus. Do you understand why the girl down the road sleeps with every guy that she can? Because she doesn't have Jesus. Do you know why the guy at work is so full or bitterness and rage? Because the world has stomped on him, spit on him, left him broken and bleeding and he needs Jesus.

One of the Christians highest callings, maybe THE highest calling, is to warn people of the judgment to come and point to Jesus as the ONLY way to escape from that judgment. To do this, we need to get out of our little buildings and go into the world. It means to not have only Christian friends but to have friends that wouldn't set foot in a church if you paid them.

How can we be "in and not of the world" if we are so offended by the world we can't stand to be around it?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

I don't know exactly when it started. Right around the turn of the year, I think. I came across a video on Youtube called "Hell's Best Kept Secret". It's from a series of videos called "The Way of the Master", which is also a TV series though to be honest, TBN would rather you see "Your Best Life Now" than this show, which airs at about 2 am.
It's hosted by Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron...yes, THAT Kirk Cameron.

God had been speaking to me, I believe, before that. "Be Fruitful." How God? How do I be fruitful? Go to church? Listen to "good" music only? Never have a glass of wine with dinner? Tithe?

"Do the work of an evangelist."

Ah, crap. I have a saying that I'm fond of: I'm really more of a preaching to the choir sorta guy...

Then I saw a video about doing just that, going out to the Lost and telling them the Good News. I was convicted of my own sinfulness, even while doing the "right" things, and that no one was out telling people that they were lost and had earned Hell but God, in his love and mercy, had made a way for them to escape.

So, I bought the book "The Way of the Master". That only made things worse. It convicted me like I had never been convicted before. I was sinful. Even as a Christian, I was every bit as sinful as the Lost. I had lusted after women, I had stolen without even realizing it (making copies of software that I never bought etc), I had lied. I needed to repent.

I bought the book "Why Revival Tarries". The author is right, we need to pray more, not just for revival, but for everything. He was also wrong on this one count: we can pray all day but if no one does the work we're still in sin.

God commissioned US, you and me, to go out into all the world and make disciples for Jesus. Every time we shrug off the urge to walk up to a stranger and tell them about Jesus we sin. Every time we fail to tell someone we know the truth about the sin in their lives, like living together, we sin. Every time we separate ourselves from or are offended by the very sinners God came to save WE SIN. That's a whole post in itself.

So here it is August. In a week my church starts the Way of the Master Basic course on evangelism. It gives you some tools to break the ice and start THAT conversation without having to beat someone over the head. I am reading "Radical Reformission", the idea that we need to be out among, friends with the lost in their culture, but different from it. Just like we do when missionaries go to Africa. We don't try to make them all white American suburbanites we meet them where they are...where Jesus met us.

I've said all this to get here: I have sinned. I have sought the approval of man before that of God. How? By being afraid of the rejection from folks if I tell them about their desperate situation and The Way out. I have chosen, repeatedly, to be liked or, at least, not disliked, instead of telling warning people to flee from the wrath that is to come. Are there people in Hell right now because I was afraid of them? And by that fear, ashamed of Jesus?

I never thought I was ashamed of Jesus. If anyone asks me a question about Him, I answer directly. I admit to being a's no secret. Yet, every time I refuse to tell someone about Jesus I prove that I am, when the rubber hits the road, ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.

I repent. I have no idea how to fix that flaw in me, but I will. I will pray because Jesus is the source of our strength. But just praying isn't enough. I need to find concrete ways to force myself to do things I am uncomfortable doing. Hopefully, this Way of the Master course will help.

I may not be the guy standing on the street corner today. Or even tomorrow. I will get there, however.

Here's the part of the video that really got my attention, there's three other parts before this one and I encourage you to watch all four. Watch how the kid's attitude changes from mocking and light-hearted to serious and concerned. The fields are ripe, my friends, over flowing in fact. If you aren't telling people about Jesus, repent. I'm not talking about street preaching, I mean just talking to the people you interact with every day. Now. Before it's someone you love who dies without Christ.