RSS

Category Archives: World Religions

Why People Don’t Like Christians – Part 1

Christians aren’t very popular these days. Never have been, really. This is no mystery, for people who have called themselves Christians have given the world plenty of reasons for a less than favorable review.

ghandi-quoteOne of primary reasons people don’t like Christians is because they think us to be hypocrites. We regularly fail to live up to the high standards to which we aspire, and about which we preach. We compound the world’s frustration when we lobby to see those standards embraced by everyone (e.g., championing “family values”, even political legislation) when we do such a poor job of living them out ourselves.

Genuine Christianity, however, is not hypocritical. In fact, it is the only faith that isn’t.

You see, all other religions are built on the idea that we must muster up a righteous life in order to please God. In all other faiths, the assumption is a) we are good enough to live right, and b) we are committed to living right. I can, and will. If you truly can, then claim you will, and then don’t … that’s being a hypocrite.

(And some people think this is what Christianity is: A group of people who have decided to live as the Bible describes, and who tell others they should, too. Sunday services, then, are a combination ethics class/pep rally, designed to motivate people to get it together. Then, when they go out and live poorly yet again during the next week, the world brands this approach to religion as a failure. And they’re right.)

But genuine Christianity, rooted in the teachings of Jesus and the other manning-quoteBiblical writers,is totally different.

We believe that man is not good enough to live right. God describes right living in the scriptures, and affirms in those same scriptures that it’s unattainable. Sadly (for us), He also said that only the righteous are compatible with heaven. We can’t, and won’t. Wait … we can’t do what we need to to get to heaven? What hope do we have?

This is where Jesus comes in: He lived among us as the one and only man Who lived a righteous life. (Have you ever heard someone say something bad about Jesus?) He then told us how if would be possible for us to be righteous (and get to heaven), too. Quite simply, He has to do it … in us. This is what Christianity refers to as the Holy Spirit – God Himself, living in us, being righteous through us. Jesus refers to this phenomenon as being born again in the Spirit. He can, and will. It’s the only way. And this is totally different than any other religion.

You may say, “so, if Christians have God living in them to be righteous through them, why are they still so lame?” You’ve got us there. We ought to be living our lives at a very high quality, but often look no better than our neighbor, and sometimes even worse. A few reasons why:

  1. Counterfeit Christianity abounds. As I already mentioned, there are many people practicing “a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Tim. 3:5). Sadly, they claim to be able to live well, but can’t. They’re hypocrites. I’m afraid this group makes up the majority of Christians in our churches today.
  2. Appropriating divine empowerment is a discipline. Theologian J. I. Packer says this: “The agent of [making us live well] is the Holy Spirit who works in us to make us will and act according to God’s good pleasure. Again and again we need to go down on our knees and admit our helplessness and ask to be empowered … If this sounds easy, it shouldn’t, because [it] is a battle. We never have our hearts entirely set on the things of God, so that even if our actions are right by external standards, our hearts are never quite right. It is struggle and conflict all the way.” The Spirit is available and willing, but we must “walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16ff) in order to experience Him at work in us. And we often don’t.

This is why we are supposed to gather as a church. It isn’t primarily get a coffee, get emotionally “fired up” through faux rock-concert experience, and to recommit our hearts and minds to a series of best-intention propositions dispensed by a life coach. This approach to church will never fail to produce hypocrites.

No, church is so much more than that! We gather in the presence of God to recalibrate our spiritual relationship with the God Who can lead and empower us to live well. That’s why we confess our sins (primarily the sin of not living in the Spirit in the days prior), hear His Word (Heb. 4:12), receive empowering grace through His ordained sacraments, and experience the Holy Spirit through the yes-x-no-bettergiftings all our brothers and sisters around us.

People who practice this type of Christianity (e.g., real Christianity) are still fickle, still bumble, and will still likely disappoint the non-believing world by their less-than-Jesus-like lifestyles. But they’re not hypocrites — at least in the traditional sense. They know that they’re in a battle (“struggle and conflict all the way”), and they make no claims that they’ll bat 1,000%. They are not too surprised when they fail. Still, they forget yesterday, and press into today, prayerfully clinging to the God Who can bear the fruit of righteousness in them now.

On behalf of Christians everywhere, I apologize for the poor examples given by people who call themselves Christians, but are simply powerless moralists. I don’t like them either.

dont-like-selvesMy encouragement is for all to look beyond those poor representations of an incredible faith. See instead the real deal, the substance of genuine, classical Christian living. I am sure that, if our churches were full of these humble, prayerful, fruitful people, that Christianity would have a much better name in our world. You might even be interested in joining their ranks.

– EO

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Good Mourning, Lord.

“They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead.”

In Luke 8, we read the story of Jesus raising a dead girl to life. Because she was dead, her home was surrounded by mourners – professional mourners, doing their culturally-dictated job of weeping and wailing in a public fashion to give a corporate voice to the community’s sadness.

But their hypocrisy was uncovered when Jesus said, “She is not dead, but asleep.” How quickly these veneer-thick mourners went from lament to laughter.Their mourning, perhaps conceived with good intentions, was pretense, not pity.

imageYesterday, a shooting rampage in a gay Florida night club left over 50 people dead … in the name of the attackers’ version of their Islamic faith. For the past 24 hours, I have watched and read the litany of mournful statements and posts. We are all incredibly sad that such a thing could happen right here, on American soil. I know the sorrow is very real for some (though I suspect that some of the “mourning” has been a veiled attempt at theo-political correctness – some pretense rather than pity).

But, it got me to thinking. In Christ, there is “neither Jew nor Greek”. As a follower of Jesus, I am an alien and stranger here on earth. I know many from the U.S. will balk at this, but I’m convinced that I should be WAY more committed to the Kingdom of God than the country of my geography and ethnicity. And my heart should bleed as much for the nations as for any isolated locale. I don’t at all begrudge people for mourning the Orlando shootings. But I don’t think Jesus is sadder about our national tragedy than He is about similar things happening all over the world. If we truly have a heart like the Savior’s … then why don’t we mourn for the nations?

iraqIt got me to thinking, which got me to doing a bit of searching … and I’m afraid I ran into some extraordinarily depressing news. Do you realize how many tragedies like the Orlando shooting have happened in 2016 alone? Over 130! … I’ve made a list of terrorist acts with double-digit death counts (there are more than twice as many of these where less than 10 were killed). I’ve posted them below … and I offer these thoughts:

  1. I think the Homeland Security leadership has done an admirable job in this country – that we don’t show up on this list until June 11. This is especially true considering how much we are loathed by the most violent of terrorist groups.
  2. Do we look at the numbers next to countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, and figure that, well, that’s just part and parcel of the situation, and is to be expected? Or do we mourn for those losses as well?
  3. Why do we pray so little? These attacks show no sign of stopping. I think we all know that prayer matters, makes a difference, etc. In light of the incredibly awful situation we find ourselves in these days, how can we ever get through a day without crying out to God for His mercy?(My biggest question.)
  4. How do we mourn for all of these people? So much unspeakable tragedy … so much anguish. Is it easier to just rent a movie and numb our minds to these realities? Or do we believe Jesus enough to emotionally and prayerfully enter into the brokenness, and help carry these international burdens?

 

“It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart” (Eccl. 7:2). Lord, teach us to love our neighbors, and mourn with those who mourn. Really.

– EO

3-Jan Iraq 15
7-Jan Libya 60
1-Jan Iraq 12
11-Jan Iraq 20
11-Jan Iraq 100
12-Jan Turkey 12
13-Jan Pakistan 15
13-Jan Cameroon 12
15-Jan Somalia 63
16-Jan Burkina Faso 30
16-Jan Syria 300
17-Jan Afghanistan 14
17-Jan Yemen 10
19-Jan Pakistan 10
20-Jan Pakistan 20
22-Jan Somalia 20
25-Jan Scameroon 28
25-Jan Syria 23
26-Jan Syria 29
26-Jan Afghanistan 10
27-Jan Iraq 55
30-Jan Nigeria 86
1-Feb Afghanistan 20
3-Feb Syria 15
8-Feb Iraq 300
9-Feb Nigeria 60
13-Feb Nigeria 22
17-Feb Yemen 13
17-Feb Turkey 28
19-Feb Cameroon 24
21-Feb Syria 57
21-Feb Syria 134
22-Feb Afghanistan 14
25-Feb Iraq 15
26-Feb Somalia 14
27-Feb Afghanistan 13
28-Feb Iraq 78
28-Feb Somaila 30
29-Feb Iraq 40
29-Feb DRC 13
2-Mar Syria 18
4-Mar Yemen 15
6-Mar Iraq 61
6-Mar Syria 14
7-Mar Pakistan 10
7-Mar Tunisia 17
13-Mar Ivory Coast 19
13-Mar Turkey 37
16-Mar Pakistan 15
16-Mar Nigeria 22
18-Mar Syria 11
19-Mar Egypt 13
20-Mar Iraq 24
22-Mar Belgium 32
25-Mar Iraq 41
25-Mar Yemen 26
26-Mar Iraq 18
27-Mar Pakistan 72
4-Apr Iraq 14
7-Apr Syria 23
8-Apr Syria 175
9-Apr Yemen 17
9-Apr Philippines 18
11-Apr Afghanistan 12
19-Apr Afghanistan 64
21-Apr Iraq 250
23-Apr Iraq 45
24-Apr Nigeria 30
25-Apr Syria 16
29-Apr Iraq 14
30-Apr Iraq 38
1-May Somaila 22
1-May Iraq 33
2-May Iraq 18
2-May Iraq 17
3-May DRC 38
4-May Syria 15
5-May Syria 12
5-May Iraq 25
9-May Iraq 16
10-May Afghanistan 11
11-May Iraq 17
11-May Iraq 64
11-May Iraq 13
11-May Yemen 13
11-May Syria 45
12-May Yemen 15
12-May Syria 49
13-May Iraq 16
13-May Iraq 11
14-May Syria 20
15-May Iraq 14
15-May Iraq 15
15-May Yemen 47
16-May Iraq 21
17-May Iraq 101
18-May Iraq 25
20-May Afghanistan 11
22-May Syria 12
23-May Yemen 45
23-May Syria 184
25-May Afghanistan 11
29-May Iraq 25
29-May Iraq 12
31-May Afghanistan 17
1-Jun Somalia 16
1-Jun Iraq 13
3-Jun Yemen 18
3-Jun Iraq 18
4-Jun Syria 40
4-Jun Nigeria 32
6-Jun Kazakhstan 10
5-Jun Syria 38
5-Jun Iraq 13
5-Jun Iraq 400
6-Jun Iraq 11
7-Jun Iraq 65
7-Jun Turkey 11
7-Jun Iraq 10
7-Jun Syria 20
8-Jun Afghanistan 16
9-Jun Iraq 12
9-Jun Iraq 12
9-Jun Iraq 19
9-Jun Syria 54
10-Jun Libya 32
10-Jun Iraq 30
11-Jun Iraq 10
11-Jun Afghanistan 14
11-Jun Syria 20
11-Jun Syria 49
12-Jun USA 50
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Love Ya, But You’re Not Family

The common religious “logic” these days is that all religions are different versions of the same thing – and attempt to be right with the one God. Whether Christian, Muslim, Jew, or whatever else, we’re called to “coexist” with an understanding that none of these expressions are wrong, and that they are intrinsically the same.coexistI spent some time reading the Koran tonight. Just chapter 9. I admit to not being well-versed in this text … I had just heard that chapter 9 would be an interesting read. And, I’ve been encouraged to consider this book as a set of sacred texts that are just another version of the eclectic enterprise that is human religion.

But is it?

9.5 – “Slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush.”

9.14 – “Fight them! Allah will chastise them at your hands, and He will lay them low and give you victory over them.”

9.29 – “Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah.”

9.30 – “Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah … Allah (Himself) fighteth against them. How perverse are they!”

9.31 – “They have taken as lords beside Allah …the Messiah son of Mary, when they were bidden to worship only One God.”

9.33 – “He … sent His messenger … that He may cause it to prevail over all religion, however much the idolaters may be averse.”img14

9.36 – “Wage war on all of the idolaters.”

 

9.41 – “Go forth, light-armed and heavy-armed.”

9.73 – “Strive against the disbelievers and the hypocrites! Be harsh with them. Their ultimate abode is hell.”

9.80 – “Ask forgiveness for them (O Muhammad), or ask not forgiveness for them; though thou ask forgiveness for them seventy times Allah will not forgive them.”

9.111 – “Lo! Allah hath bought from the believers their lives and their wealth because the Garden will be theirs: they shall fight in the way of Allah and shall slay and be slain … Rejoice then in your bargain that ye have made, for that is the supreme triumph.”

9.113 – “It is not for the Prophet, and those who believe, to pray for the forgiveness of idolaters even though they may be near of kin (to them) after it hath become clear that they are people of hell-fire.”

9.122 – “And the believers should not all go out to fight. Of every troop of them, a party only should go forth, that they (who are left behind) may gain sound knowledge in religion, and that they may warn their folk.”

9.123 – “O ye who believe! Fight those of the disbelievers who are near to you, and let them find harshness in you, and know that Allah is with those who keep their duty (unto Him).

These texts are a far cry from the Biblical call to love my neighbor. To turn the other cheek. To not live (or die) by the sword. To pray for and extend forgiveness. To be the servant of all. To sacrifice.

With all due respect … we are not family. The God depicted in these texts is not the God that was revealed in Jesus the Christ. It is ignorance of both sets of texts to tell me they should be compatible.

(These texts are also obvious examples of how violence and terrorism can be extrapolated easily from the Islamic texts. I know many Muslims claim that their faith is peaceful. But you have to be theologically creative to purge the obvious violence from these teachings.)

The practical, relevant difference between this text and the Bible should not be missed: As Christians, we are to serve, love, and pray for those who don’t believe as we do. Our hope is that we “might win some” (1 Cor. 9:22). So, yes, Christians are the ones, the unique ones, who are called, and even equipped by the Holy Spirit, to COEXIST with all peoples. We don’t believe in universal salvation … but social cohesion, mutual honoring, and a peaceful society?

My family is all in.

– EO

 

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,