“As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – Jesus (John 13:34-35)
“All oppression in Western civilization has been caused by Christianity” is an opinion that seems to have been gaining popularity in recent days.
When considering such a sweeping statement involving the world’s problems over the past two thousand years, we need to start by:
Defining the terms. What exactly is meant by “Christianity”? – Is it an organized religion loosely based on a few selected Bible verses? A political establishment made with the word “Christian” attached to it to give it credibility? A cult wanting to lure the gullible away from the truth to their own warped version of “truth”?
Is the stated opinion referring one of these, or to the words of Jesus of Nazareth: “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.“?
Defining terms makes a huge difference in the validity of what social media celebrities post every day. And latching onto one interpretation or the other can have far-reaching consequences. An impressionable person hearing a confident, authoritative tone of someone denouncing “Christianity” will readily respond, “Yeah! That’s right! #*&% them!” And the next guy in a Jesus t-shirt who tries to talk to him about the claims of Christ gets blamed for every evil from American slavery to the Spanish Inquisition.
Of course, before hearing this universal condemnation, chances are most listeners have had some kind of experience with what they would call “Christianity.”
One person may have spent his early childhood in poverty with an abusive, addicted parent and then been taken in by Christian foster parents, who later adopted him and gave him a loving home and a bright future. Such a person, hearing Christianity equated with oppression, would write off the statement as nonsense.
On the other hand, another person may have been abused multiple times by someone belonging to a church, and those in authority may have refused to believe one of their members had done anything wrong. That person would agree wholeheartedly (and understandably) that “Christianity is evil!”
So, I repeat, defining “Christianity” is extremely important in evaluating statements made by the enemies of the Church.
(We also need to define “the Church.”)
I propose that the logical approach is to go back to the Founder of the faith – Jesus of Nazareth – and see what exactly He taught. It only makes sense that Christ should be the one defining “Christianity.”
Jesus had many teachings, but He said there were two commandments that summed them all up:
Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind. And love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-40)
The child adopted by loving parents has seen these basic commandments being lived out through his family and their social circle.
The child being abused in a church has not. Destroying a child for one’s own gratification could not be considered loving by anyone’s definition. Which begs the question:
If that person had been practicing the opposite of what Jesus taught, why would he be considered “Christian” by any stretch of the imagination? He may call himself a Christian, but that only makes him a liar on top of everything else.
Religious hypocrites have been around since Jesus denounced them Himself, and probably long before that.
The Greek word for “hypocrite” means, literally, “play actor.” In a typical Sunday morning service one can usually find good people who believe in Jesus and are doing their best to follow His teachings – and people who are play-acting. (In other words, both Christians and those who are only pretending to be Christians.)
Ironically, many people reject Christianity based on the behavior of people who aren’t Christians!
The Church, as defined in Scripture, however, is not a building but a body made up of true believers in Jesus Christ world-wide. It has nothing to do with bricks and mortar, politics, or organizations. It does have to do with people who admittedly are sinners, have realized that they are, and have repented. They have accepted Jesus’ atoning death on the cross as payment for their sins and the promise of eternal life. Out of gratitude they are trying to live out their faith through love for God and others.
Are Christians perfect? Certainly not. Are they better than they were? By the grace of God, yes. This is the true Church, the “Body of Christ,” and God alone knows every one of them by name.
He also knows who is play-acting, and unfortunately history is full of those who attach the sacred name of Jesus onto every form of evil – no wonder people are confused!
If you saw a movie about Mother Teresa and later heard about something destructive, immoral, or illegal done by the actress who played the lead role, you wouldn’t judge Mother Teresa by the actions of the person who had pretended to be Mother Teresa! So why do people judge Jesus’ Church by the actions of those who are only pretending to be part of it? Can they not tell the difference?
Here’s how to differentiate between true Christ-followers and the fakes:
Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep my commandments.” And what are His commandments?
Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Visit the sick and imprisoned. Love your neighbor. Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you,” among others.
So, if someone you encounter is consistently hateful, cruel, spiteful, and selfish, with no regard for the less fortunate (or anyone else), if that person claims to be a Christian, (s)he is a liar. (I John 4:20)
I say “consistently,” because Christians have bad days like everyone else. But the Holy Spirit doesn’t let us be content with living contrary to Christ. Repentance, apologies, and forgiveness are a regular part of life for a true Christ-follower.
So, I submit for your consideration that the words “Christian” and “hypocrite,” by their truest definitions, are mutually exclusive.
Prayer: Jesus, the world is confused about who Your people are, and they spew hatred toward Your Church. Help us not to add to the confusion with an un-Christ-like response, but rather to reflect Your light by loving our enemies and praying for those who hate You, that they may grow to love You as we do, in Your name, amen.