Consider This by John Fischer
HOW SHALL WE THEN LIVE?
Has anyone noticed how Christians today are becoming known for all the wrong things? They are being credited for bombing clinics, shooting doctors, heading up armed militias, and are often put in a category synonymous with the Aryan race.
Shortly after the Harvest Crusade last summer (an evangelistic outreach to southern California), an article appeared in the editorial section of the Los Angeles Times which in essence said: “We know what’s really going on over there in Anaheim Stadium. They call it an evangelistic crusade, but it’s really a crusade to gain more supporters for the Christian right.”
Now even though most Christians know that the only agenda at an evangelistic crusade is the eternal destiny of human souls, and even though we know the local church on the corner is not rushing to take up arms, still, these perceptions are out there, and they are prevalent. However they came to be–whether Christians are to blame or the media–it makes no difference. The perception of Christians as hostile and dangerous to society is commonplace, and we live in a world where perception is everything.
The apostle Peter would be deeply troubled over this negative attention believers have gotten in the world, for in his first letter to the scattered churches of the first century, he called them to an entirely different kind of reputation. He tells Christians that their lives should be lived out in the public arena in such a way that “those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (I Peter 3:16). In other words, live in such a way, in your neighborhoods and communities, that those who try and put you down will be the ones
who end up losing face.
How does one earn such a critic-silencing reputation? It comes from a kind of service to one’s neighbor that cannot be denied. “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” (I Peter 2:12). What could these good deeds be except that they are deeds from which everyone, including critics themselves, benefit?
What if a critic tried to put down Christians and then found out it was a Christian spending extra time with his son as a coach with the neighborhood little league team that taught the boy confidence? What if a critic tried to put down Christians but kept running into them working overtime at all the social agencies in town? What if a critic tried to put down Christians and found out it was a Christian who was her children’s favorite and best teacher in grade school? What if a homosexual spent his whole life putting down Christians and then discovered that one of them now visits him regularly while he’s dying with AIDS? What if a CEO tries to put down Christians and then discovered a respected leader whom she admired in the Chamber of Commerce was a Christian and a noted philanthropist in the community?
These are the kinds of things Peter is speaking of. He wants Christians to have a reputation that lends credibility to the gospel. He wants Christians to not only be bearers of the gospel, but bearers of good deeds as well: “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good” (I Peter 3:13)?
Jesus healed all who came to Him, and not all who were healed stuck around for the sermon. Was Jesus doing this merely as a means of getting people’s attention, or was He concerned about each person’s life as a human being made in His image? Did He ask them first if they planned on believing His teachings, or did He simply heal them because He was moved with compassion over their pain? So what if they never accepted His message of salvation and all Jesus gave them was a few more days, weeks, months, or years of life before they ultimately lost it all? Was it important to Christ to improve their life for a few “worthless” moments? Apparently so.
Right now, Christians appear to be at war with society. This is not a war God asked any of us to wage. He is the fighter of our battles. We are to be building bridges to the world for the sake of the gospel, not walls to shut the world out and weapons to hurl at it. The world needs to see Christians as those who are busy among them, working to remove poverty and hunger, concerning themselves with the environment and the quality of life for every human being. This is our Father’s world. When His land is scathed for reasons of human greed, it breaks His heart. Christians need to be moved by the things that move the heart of God.
Christians today need to work toward improving the lives of all people, not just those who are fellow believers. Building a new reputation in the world as caring servants is a job for all believers, and Christian artists and singers can use their influence both to set an example for other believers and to create some new images. A lot could be done to change the prevailing image if the world could see pictures of Christian artists shingling houses, touring rain forests, visiting the sick, doing free concerts in prisons, making contribution to the arts, and bettering the
communities where they live. Anyone can rag on the religious right, but it’s kind of hard to rag on Mother Teresa.
The only way to undo a bad reputation is to consistently exhibit a good one. Words can only be silenced by actions. Christians need to make sure by their behavior in the world that if people reject them, it is only the gospel they are
rejecting and not anything else.
“Live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king” (I Peter 2:17).