I suppose I am simple-minded, but I prefer that good guys and bad guys be clearly identified. In old westerns there is no confusion. The good guys wear light clothing, are polite and caring, and don’t shoot to kill unless absolutely necessary. The bad guys never comb their hair, wear masks, look for a fight with anyone, and don’t think twice about killing innocent people.
Star Wars movies follow the same basic rules. Luke Skywalker and Hans Solo are personable, loyal and brave. Darth Vader is evil to the core. Well, maybe not to the core since he is redeemed at the end. But you get the idea.
Yet, in these and many other classic films, someone evil is always trying to pass himself off as one of the good guys. He does it to gain the trust of the angry and disenfranchised, and to use them for his destructive purposes. It seems there is always someone around gullible enough to fall prey.
At the risk of sounding nostalgic, I remember a time when the church was the good guy and the world was the bad guy. I don’t mean to suggest everyone loved the church. For as long as I can remember people have attacked the church, and complained about preferential treatment for Christians. But for the most part, the church was a friend of the community. In fact, people moving to a new town wanted to be near schools, shopping centers and churches.
Things have changed. Now neighborhoods sign petitions to prevent churches from building nearby, Christians are mocked regularly on television and social media, and a church building is a lightning rod for social activism.
Please don’t think I am not aware of some things the church has done to deserve its new status. Televangelists and abusers did their part to get us here, as well as protesters who have spewed out hate in the name of Jesus. If you are a follower of Jesus do you join me in cringing when a newscaster sticks a microphone in front of a Christian who is fighting for a cause? We truly are our own worst enemy.
On the other hand, I am convinced we have given away too much ground to those who hated the church to begin with. The sins of the church are unfortunate opportunities for those who reject morality, or wish to eliminate biblical values from our culture to go for the juggler. It would be different if the rhetoric was delivered logically. But for the most part the arguments against godly truth I hear are nothing more than deflections. People accuse the church of being unloving and hypocritical. They say, “Who are you to tell me how to live my life?”
Worst of all, believers in Jesus that are held accountable by brothers and sister in Christ, employ the same tactics. They speak recklessly against the household of God and forget the people they are degrading are redeemed by the same blood and covered with the same grace.
I am very aware people who don’t worship Jesus do some very good things, and people who do worship Him do some very bad things. But the Bible is pretty clear in drawing a distinction between those who are for God and those who are against Him. John writes, “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” (1 John 4:2-3)
It is not my desire to live in a world where the church isn’t held accountable, no more than I want to live around others who aren’t held accountable for their actions. But before we make the church the proverbial whipping post for everything we don’t like about our world, we need to think it through. While the church has failed at times, the majority of educational institutions, hospitals, and relief organizations began as Christian missions. It is also presumptuous to claim a world where no one tells us how to live is going to be better. History tells us civility is based on one of two things: a moral belief that guides our actions, or an oppressive government that demands our obedience. It is no surprise when the former lapses the latter fills in the void.
My point is that even as Christians we can lose sight of our core commitment to Christ. We might say we just want to worship Jesus but we don’t like His church. But how is this possible? How can we say we love the groom and kick His bride to the curb? Falling in with the world and attacking the church, or even relegating the church to a necessary inconvenience, is just another way of justifying a life where Jesus isn’t really that important anymore. This is the spirit of the antichrist of which John writes. It is what it is.
“Wait a minute. I’m confused!” Possibly…or perhaps it is time to define for ourselves what we mean when we say we love Jesus.