Friday, November 6, 2009

How Christians SHOULD Be Engaging Non-believers

Because so many non-Christians have had bad experiences with (possibly) well-meaning (but sorely mistaken) Christians, I wanted to quote from Paul's letter to the Romans (in the New Testament) to show how Christians SHOULD be viewing those outside of the church. To support this quote, I also have another from a well-known conservative Christian leader.

While Christian moral standards will surely differ in numerous respects from a non-Christian one, we are not placed in a position to judge those outside of the church, especially since we are just sinners who have been saved by a merciful God. Because God saved us when we didn't deserve it, we are not above anyone, and in fact have been forgiven so great a debt that we should be out there trying to lovingly bring non-believers to Christ. That's why Paul says Christians should view themselves as in debt to non-Christians to share the Gospel. Here is how I think Christians SHOULD look at non-believers if they want to be consistent with the Bible--

"I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise... For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed..."

Romans 1:14-17

“Think of a cultured despiser of the Gospel... They hear the Gospel and like the Greeks, they say, 'foolishness.' Now, in our day, in America , our conservative lifestyle and our biblical orientation is in danger of being so politicized that our fundamental response to people like that is disdain, not debt. Test yourself right now. You watch the television, you look at political speeches, you walk the university campus and see how some may be dressed or whatever, and rising up out of your heart is not the feeling, 'I owe them grace,' but, 'yuck...' That's not Romans. That's not the Bible. If you come to the world with one colossal, well-argued 'yuck' upon your house, you won't win anybody to Jesus.”

-John Piper, in the sermon “Not Ashamed of the Gospel” (06/14/98)

The message of the Gospel is not that Christians are perfect people who should look down on outsiders (those Christians who claim it is are living a hypocritical life). The message is this--that even though our sins separated us from God-- the very source of goodness in the universe, He made a way for us to be in fellowship with Him again. He did so by taking the infinite debt we owe Him and placing it on His Son. He can forgive us totally even though there is NOTHING we have to offer Him and even though we have no way to pay back what we owe Him from our self-centered disobedience. God made a way-- not us. So the next time a so-called "Christian" tells you that you need to do such-and-such to be saved, feel free to call them to task for distorting what their own Bible teaches.

"But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known...This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement."

Romans 3:21-25


  1. What if I said to you (as a former Christian myself) that I think the concept of depravity nothing more than a psychological remnant of a pre-historic mind? I also think it leads to self-hatred and sado-mashochistic complicity, not enlightenment, morality or grace. I don't think you are an idiot. I think you look to prove myth as fact and seek systemic revelation from ancient story. I don't see you as any different than an Imam or Buddhist Monk or Catholic Priest. Nothing in your biblical knowledge, when focused on its literally conclusions of end-times and after-lives, helps deal with modern moral dillemmas.

  2. Thanks for the response, Chuck! I don't mean to shift the question over to you, but I'm curious to see how atheism can deal with any moral dilemmas, modern or ancient. It in fact, if it is consistent with itself, ignores the existence of them altogether. On the other hand, Christianity deals with the very real problem of guilt. Many psychologists try to convince us that we should simply stop feeling guilty about the horrible things we do and are, and simply embrace our inner rapist, pedophile, or murderer (I acknowledge that I'm exaggerating here, but it does seem to be the logical conclusion one would reach through the rejection of morality). Christianity has another solution-- you are a sinner, you have done bad things, but the source of goodness Himself has provided a way for you to be forgiven so that you don't have to live in guilt anymore.

    I acknowledge that some Christians focus so much on the world to come that we don't focus on making the world we have a better place, which is unfortunate. But is assuming that there will be a better world to come necessarily evil, especially if we do our best to make a positive mark on this world and help others?