By Edwin Crayton/Opinion
It may come as a surprise to many people, even inside many churches, that Christians are on a rescue mission in the same way that those fighting global warming are on one. When Christians warn others about sin, we are not judging. We are practicing a form of love. You see, believers do not want to see anyone go to hell, so we are warning those who are on the wrong road to make a change, a kind of U-turn. Our Lord called it repentance. The reason some people may not get this, is because popular media images of Christians today portray us as being always against something. The movies, TV and Internet are alive with stereotypes of Christians as narrow minded and judgmental. And to be honest, part of the problem is with us, believers. I heard a pastor say, we don’t spend enough time telling people what we are for. We do not evangelize about heaven as much as previous generations of believers did. So, we are therefore defined by media and those who are hostile towards our faith. Yet, Matthew 28:19-20 makes it clear. In those verses, Jesus gave all of his followers one main job: spread the gospel to all the world and teach them the ways of the faith.
Why does it seem most Christians aren’t doing this then? Well, the truth is kind of embarrassing. Jesus asked his followers to change the world and well, the opposite happened: the world changed many in the church. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the church endured great persecution under the brutal Roman Empire. Believers were burned alive, fed to lions as people cheered. They were crucified. But then something amazing happened that many felt was God’s intervention. Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and ended persecution. The church became allied with the state. This had a big downside. The church became comfortable and priorities changed. In his insightful book, The Story of Christianity, Historian Justo Gonzalez describes that period and what occurred, He wrote, “When the church joins the powers of the world, when luxury and ostentation take hold of Christian altars, when the whole of society is intent on turning the narrow path into a wide avenue, how is one to resist the enormous temptations of the times? How is one to witness to the crucified Lord, to the one who had nowhere to lay his head, at a time when many leaders of the church live in costly homes, and when the ultimate witness of martyrdom is no longer possible? How to overcome Satan, who is constantly tempting the faithful with the new honors that society offers?
The takeaway from Gonzalez’s observation is that comfort is one of the enemies of the church then and I would add, now. Comfortable people do not change things. They try to keep things just as they are. As I mentioned in part one, a lukewarm spirit has descended on many in the church. This spirit has weakened enthusiasm about God and spreading His Holy Gospel. Hence the term “global lukewarming.” The problem is, casual and lukewarmth do not work when the situation is urgent. Imagine if you will, seeing someone you love about to walk into the street, unaware, right in front of speeding car. Would you hesitate to scream “Watch out!” Or would you casually say, “Well, that’s his (or her) problem. Who am I to judge?” Yet. Many of us who claim Christ do just that. We commit a sin of omission by either avoiding evangelizing or avoiding even discussing any topic that would make others “uncomfortable”. Do we not realize that we are called to at least warn people of the danger of not obeying God, and the equal danger of not having a right relationship with him (Ezekiel 33:8-9)? As a result, evangelizing to nonbelievers has become a lower and lower priority in many churches. In fact, a 2016 poll by the Barna Research Group revealed that although 74% of Americans say they are Christians, only 26% agree with the statement, “I have a strong responsibility to evangelize to others.” In an article in Christianity Today from July 22, 2020 David Roach claims, “Bible reading dropped during social distancing”. The article made the point that this adds to the decline that had been occurring already. Add to this, a report on National Public Radio headlined “Covid 19 is taking a toll on American’s mental health”. Does this mean we have fewer people reading God’s word, meaning they are unaware of what he requires of them and we have fewer people who claim the be Christians willing to share the soul-saving word of God with those in need? Perhaps many of us are too distracted by the so-called culture wars between conservative Christians, liberal Christians and nonbelievers. That’s the cultural conflict in the Western World over moral values and pollical ideals. Well, the Bible does speak of a war between the forces of good and evil. But it’s a spiritual war between Satan and God for souls. Ephesians 6:12 reads: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” This war will not be fought with physical weapons. It will be fought with spiritual weapons: love vs hate. Obedience vs disobedience. Faith vs. hopelessness, etc. The enemy Satan has always tried to fool humans into abandoning our relationship with God. He wants people to disobey God and disconnect from him. He knows that when we do this, we are pushing God away and that leaves us unprotected. This leads to damnation. In this war, we do not want to kill those who oppose us. Actually, we Christians want to see them saved. We want to see them accept Jesus as savior and Lord so they can live with God eternally. They are not our real enemy: Satan is. He is blinding them with lies, sins dressed up to look like rights, and false freedom, so they can be doomed.
Love. It is a unique characteristic of the Christian faith that we seek to love our enemies and see them saved. But the issue is that many who claim to be Christians have not even enlisted in this war to save souls. In fact, many do not even know that this is a main purpose of the Christian faith. How do we change this? Well, we Christians can learn some things from looking at the fight to save the planet from global warming. There is an urgency there that unfortunately, you do not see among many who say they believe in Jesus. The anti-climate changers know that time is short and that direct-action matters. They evangelize their message to all who will listen. They persist. They have passion. They are not lukewarm.
Yes, it is a vicious war and yes, the devil lurks, looking for opportunities to destroy every human being and see every human being damned to a miserable eternal existence in hell. He hates us all that much. The stakes are high. Evil does not stop because we do. It takes no vacation. It grows when it is unopposed. Evil isn’t content to stay overseas or in places where we dare not even drive at night. It wants to enter your home, your life and that of your children and other loved ones. It wants your soul and theirs. It wants to torture them forever in in a fiery, merciless hell. Opting out of the war will not work either. There is no neutrality—no Switzerland to flee to. Whoever God does not get, Satan gets. Lose the global warming fight and we lose the planet and lives. Lose the spiritual war and we lose souls. Every time a person dies, they go either to live with God, or with Satan (John 14:6). Pray to God and submit to his will. Read your Bible. Follow the instructions. Then enlist in the greatest rescue mission in the history of human existence. While you still can, because, the clock is ticking.
“When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.”
“If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club.”
–Dr. Martin Luther King, Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963