Robin J Johnson
In a recent news report it was said that a man who recently converted to Islam had his house broken into and was allegedly beaten, as the punishment, for drinking alcohol with friends. It was reported by 7News that the man had stated, “Islam is a beautiful religion and he hoped what happened did not distort people’s view of the religion”.
My intention is not to debate the rights and wrongs of Islam, but I must admit to be surprised to hear someone describe it as “beautiful”. Thinking of this I can’t help but ask, would people be as quick to say, “Christianity is a beautiful religion”?
From my perspective it is certainly “beautiful”. In fact I would say “awesome”. That perspective, of course comes from my experience and relationship with God. I am a man truly blessed.
A bright future
I have the privilege to travel, see amazing things and meet many awesome people. I am encouraged by what I see. The future is bright. At every turn I meet someone new who is doing an awesome job serving Christ and bringing glory to God. It may be a new Christian band, a group of young people taking the Gospel to the streets, a youth group hungry and passionate for Jesus, a young man or woman leaving home and family to travel to a distant country to serve Christ, an ordinary person making a stand in their work place or a group of believers worshipping together at the risk of their lives in a nation whose government is determined to stamp out the Church and put an end to the expansion of Christianity.
I often feel envious seeing and hearing the many awesome things others are doing. Praise the Lord!
Nevertheless, even if I didn’t have this privileged position, if found at home living an ordinary life as most are, doing the normal day to day stuff, as I do too, my claim without a doubt would be the same; “beautiful”.
However, it appears that a large number of “Christians” are caught up in their own negativity. They do not seem to share the same optimism. There seems to be too much complaining going on. Even in the midst of great blessing, some are just simply blind to the awesome things going on around them.
To be honest, I am tired of hearing about what is wrong with the Church, all our short falls and failures. Why don’t we rejoice in all the good things, focus on the victories while not neglecting what we can and should improve on?
Much of the Church seems to have a systemic problem of low self esteem and a poor self image. When believers and leaders alike have this view it is reflected in a message that is constantly calling the Church to repent. We are continually being told to repent and turn away from our sinful ways, idolatry, selfishness etc. If that is what we are doing, then we do need to truly repent. However, I believe that much of this kind of message comes from a marred image they have of the Church. This message seems to suggest that we are not quite good enough, yet, for God to come and bless us. Do they not understand or have they not grasped the extent of God’s grace; HE has abundantly provided? (Without a doubt there needs to be a message of repentance and this will be addressed in a future article)
Our brokenness and frailty is before us daily. If I was to focus on that, then I would never jump on another plane, hold another crusade, or dare speak to another person about my “beautiful religion”. I choose to see who I am in Christ and glory in the grace of God, while pressing on to know HIM more and attain to all HE dreams I can be (Philippians 3:12).
Railing on the negative does not produce the fruit of righteousness that we all wish to see. We should be busy building up each other; exhorting one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24). Let us live lives that others will want to imitate and together live godly lives like Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:1).
A while back I read an article attacking certain aspects of church life and various people in authority. It was evident the person was writing from a wounded spirit and though what was written contained an element of truth, it was not helpful, nor did it edify. The only ones who would have shouted “Amen” were those who carry similar offenses. Sadly, it may have only helped to endorse others faulty thinking. Therefore, the message would not bring about healing or change.
Our “beautiful religion” image is also not greatly helped by the way we deal with the issues of life and how we express our displeasure at a sinful world.
Yes, there is a whole lot of “bad stuff” much that needs to change and improve in our world. Nevertheless, simply shouting at the darkness, railing on those “in sin” does not actually produce a whole lot of transformation. We too are “sinners” saved by the grace and mercy of God.
While preparing this article, I received an excellent piece from Charisma Online, written by Francis Frangipani, where he refers to this group of people. He writes:
“They rage at the depravity of the ungodly and protest the audacity of the wicked. They pound the pulpit and the pavement; they are both vocal and visible. Yet their ability to transform their culture is, for the most part, neutralized by their negativity and rage. They are dismissed as judgmental extremists. Most sinners simply cannot endure the harshness of their approach”.
There is a day when God will choose to bring down HIS judgments. In the mean time, it is God’s kindness (goodness) that leads to repentance (Romans 2:4). Why are we so consumed by portraying an angry, hostile God?
“God is sheer mercy and grace; not easily angered, he’s rich in love. He doesn’t endlessly nag and scold, nor hold grudges forever. He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve, nor pay us back in full for our wrongs” (Psalm 103:8 – 10 TMSG)
We need a fresh outlook! One of hope, grace and mercy!
Exalt the Lord our God
The Bible instructs me to “hate evil” (Romans 12:9). This is so I can personally learn to live a pure and holy life before my God. I must however, “love sincerely” the still “unrepented sinner” for whom Christ died. Our hatred of sin and its destructive effect on lives should drive us to share with compassion, the Good News of Jesus Christ, that the sinner might find their only path to real forgiveness and true freedom.
Our goal is the transformation of our society, through every person embracing the great salvation which God has prepared in Jesus Christ. We, who know this God, need to demonstrate that transformation; show in our lives daily HIS power and love at work within us.
If we spent more time talking about the glorious God we love and serve; extolling HIS virtues, praising HIM, exalting HIS name and declaring HIS majesty (1 Peter 2:9), we might just make HIM sound a little more inviting and discover that people want to know more about this one true, glorious and living God, the author of our salvation; our “beautiful religion”.
All this is nothing compared to you, O God.
You’re wondrously great, famously great.
Who can fail to be impressed by you, King of the nations?
It’s your very nature to be worshiped!
Look far and wide among the elite of the nations.
The best they can come up with is nothing compared to you.”
Jeremiah 10:6 & 7 TMSG