“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” Romans 1:16 NIV
Christians should not be ashamed of the truth. We should not compromise on the essentials of what we believe the Bible teaches and their implications for life, joy, health, and eternity- heaven and hell. What is more distressing is how often we are not ashamed of the ways in which we act contrary to the gospel. Often we act, or react, without grace towards those who have differing views. We end up fighting or arguing with fellow Christians in a manner that brings disrepute on the name of Jesus. Granted, every Christian is a sinner who has been declared righteous by God- as Martin Luther put it, we are simultaneously justified and sinful, “simul justus et peccator” So the fact that Christians act in hypocritical ways is no surprise. Every week in church there is a gathering of people who recognize their need for Christ and admit they have sinned against God in thought, word, and deed- perhaps doing so even on the way to church that morning!
But what really burdens me is the fact that as Christians we do not show much repentance (or shame) over the ways in which we act contrary to the gospel. This was especially true in the lead-up to the recent presidential election and its aftermath. (Of course, remember that the media, in general, often misrepresents extreme behavior as “The Christian, Evangelical position” which further muddies the waters. But in my own words, this is what is on my heart for my fellow Christians:
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation…
- But I am ashamed when I hear Christians tell offensive and insensitive jokes about non-Christians, or about those of a different race, culture, or socioeconomic status.
- I am ashamed when Christians resort to personal attacks or accuse one another other of not being “true Christians” based on whom they voted for. (Often refusing to speak with one another, or worse- getting into fights.)
- I am ashamed of my own tendency to shrink back and not speak up, instead of seeking to reconcile and make peace with another brother or sister.
- I am ashamed when, knowing that I have the joy of the Holy Spirit, I decide to be rude or short with a clerk at the store.
- I am ashamed when I hear people gossip under the guise of a “prayer request”, and I have done so myself.
- I am ashamed when I see accounts of Christian leaders prone to lying, violence, sexual sin, belittling of critics, and manipulation.
- I am ashamed when Christians shout “the truth” in a hateful, unloving way.
- I am ashamed when I hear servers at restaurants tell me they do not like working Sundays because they know the “after-church crowd” tends is generally rude and gives lousy tips.
- I am ashamed when Christians in mostly white, affluent, conservative churches are motivated more by fear than by an active love, concern, and desire to know their neighbors and people who are different than they are.
- I am ashamed that Christians are being “discipled” more thoroughly by Fox News, CNN, NPR, and Glenn Beck than they are by Jesus teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.
- I am ashamed when churches and Christian organizations lower their standards in order to accommodate certain voices and not risk offending the majority opinion.
- I am ashamed of the conduct of ministers who pray “a-men and a-women” simply to make a statement, appease people in a political setting or to make a name for himself. (The word translated ‘Amen’ in English bibles is from the Hebrew word אמן which means “so be it.” The word has nothing to do with gender.)
I am ashamed when I see these situations, because all of them bring the name of Jesus into disrepute. As Christians, we do not represent Jesus Christ well in many areas. Is God not powerful enough to transform these areas of our lives- areas of speech, love, fear of man, generosity, and giving grace? I believe He is.
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation. But if these examples of sin are often the case, is God not calling us to repent? Does the Spirit not have the power to transform hearts and bring humility along with courage? Does he not call us to examine our own hearts and see if we are acting in accordance with the Holy Spirit and Christ’s teachings? Have our hearts not become lukewarm- content to sip tepid water instead of drinking from Christ’s cool, refreshing spring of eternal life?
Deliver us, O God. Give us the gift of repentance. Open our eyes to see the ways in which we have knowingly misrepresented or brought shame on the name of Jesus. Unite our hearts as fellow Christians to treat all people with dignity and respect, no matter their views on secondary issues. Give us your eternal perspective so that we do not act in myopic frustration towards the society around us. Restore to us the joy of our salvation; let the bones that you have broken rejoice again. You are good, and you are great, and your greatness is unsearchable. You are rich in love and slow to anger, gracious and merciful, not wanting any to perish but to come to a knowledge of the truth that Jesus is the Messiah. Not for us, but for your name’s sake would you bring revival in our generation? Amen.
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 NIV