Reason #2 – Christians in America don’t know what makes you a Christian
I think the second reason that some Christians are so mean – or act nothing like Jesus – is because we evangelize people the wrong way. By that I mean that we tell people that they are “Christians” if they have prayed the “Sinner’s Prayer”.
NOTE: This “Sinner’s Prayer” appears nowhere in the Bible, by the way. It’s just something we made up to make it easier to evangelize.
This brand of conversion is part of what’s wrong with the Church today. See, rather than to invite people to follow Jesus (become his disciples) and obey his teachings in their actual lives, we urge them to repeat after us: “Jesus I believe that you died on the cross for my sins and that you rose from the dead and that you are coming back to take me to live with you in Heaven one day. Thank you Jesus for your gift of eternal life which I receive today. Amen.”
Once we get people to repeat this prayer (or something like it) we tell them that they are now “Christians”. Of course, getting them to pray that prayer isn’t so difficult if you start off by asking them something like, “Do you know that if you died tonight you would be in Heaven tomorrow?” or maybe even “With every head bowed and every eye closed, please just quickly raise your hand if you don’t want to burn in hell forever. I see that hand, thank you.”
And then we ask them to repeat that magic prayer and – voila – they will go to heaven when they die.
Of course, Jesus had a slightly different method. First of all he called for people to follow after him. Not too complicated. Might actually fit that on a bumper sticker. But then he added that if anyone wanted to follow him (become his disciple) they would have to give up just one thing – He called it “everything.”
“Those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” (Luke 14:33)
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
This is pretty different, I’ll admit. Notice that Jesus doesn’t ask anyone about a preference for burning in hell forever or not. Notice that he doesn’t ask them to repeat any magic prayers.
Nope. He just asks us to trust him with our entire lives and make an intentional connection to him our daily practice of faith.
So, if you’re going to call yourself a “follower of Jesus” you might just have to, you know, follow him and stuff.
It’s sort of the reason he said, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do the things I say?”
Yeah. Those two things sort of belong together, don’t they?
The Pray-a-prayer-so-I-can-go-to-Heaven-when-I-die sort of theology allows people to think that just because they participated in a ritual when they were nine years old, they can go ahead and live any way they want, and still believe they are “Christian” – which means “Christ-like”, by the way – even if they are not Christ-like and are not even attempting to be so.
Trust me, if you prayed one of those magic prayers a few years ago but today you are far away from Christ and you are not remaining in fellowship and relationship with Jesus, you’re probably not the sort of “Christian” that Jesus expected to inspire.
See, the problem is that we’ve turned salvation into a “thing”. We’ve over-stressed the fact that salvation is a “gift” and then carried that metaphor out to an illogical conclusion.
Yes, salvation is a gift from God, in the sense that it is free and you don’t need to deserve it. But it’s not a gift in the sense that you can take it (like a pair of socks) and wear it apart from the one who gave it to you.
That’s not how it works. Not at all.
But, as long as we remain in Christ, Christ remains in us. And we need this intentional abiding [daily living] in Christ, if we hope to receive all that Christ is or has to offer us.
Or, as the Apostle John states it:
“And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:11-12)
So, I hate to say this, but if you prayed a prayer just so that you could go to Heaven when you die, you might not be a Christian in the true sense of the word.
So, this would be why your life doesn’t reflect the heart and character of Jesus. That transformation from within that leads us to start producing the fruit of the Spirit – Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness and Self-Control – is only possible if we are constantly connected to Christ with every breath we take.
This is a daily practice. It’s a way of life; a way of being who we are in the world on a daily basis.
If we start to do that, we might just avoid being mean to others and that means loving others, forgiving those who offend us, and serving the people who cross our path, regardless of who they are and what they believe.
Try it! It’s better than life!
[END PART TWO]
Keith Giles was formerly a licensed and ordained minister who walked away from organized church 11 years ago, to start a home fellowship that gave away 100% of the offering to the poor in the community. Today, He and his wife live in Meridian, Idaho, awaiting their next adventure.