What is our job description as Christians? What are we supposed to about in this world? It’s a question that’s most appropriate at this time of year, especially with Christmas only a few days away. If you’re a Christian yourself, would you say that we’re here to reach people for Jesus? To teach them to obey all He has commanded? If you’re not a Christian, I’m willing to bet you’ve got a different perspective. You’d probably say we’re here to make people “moral,” to impose our beliefs whether people like it or not, to restrict the rights of others in order to make sure our own are protected, to tell people how they can or cannot live or even where they should and should not shop this time of year based on which companies support which lifestyle. There’s an element of truth to a lot of that, sadly more so than most of us are probably willing to admit. What’s even worse is that quite often we as Christians don’t even see this. What we think we’re up to in this world, and what we end up doing instead, can be two very different things.
In the last month alone I’ve seen various Christian groups do everything from publish a list of which companies support Christian beliefs and would therefore be OK for us to shop at (I really wasn’t kidding when I mentioned this one) to openly rejoice that Trump is “God’s man in the Whitehouse” and that they now have the means to politically remake this country back into something resembling what it used to be. These efforts have produced a sadly predictable impact on those who disagree with. One article I found earlier this week online asserted that there really is no difference between Christianity in the U.S. and ISIS in the Middle East. Both groups discriminate against those who disagree with them. We just haven’t escalated to killing our opponents (yet). As harsh as that comparison may be, I actually find it hard to disagree with.
We’ve forgotten, I think, that Jesus Himself said His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). Instead, we fight to protect and preserve the political kingdom that we live in, so to speak. We fight to protect our rights, and we fight to ensure that ours is the dominant voice in society, because that’s what God would want, right? (Just look at the whole “War on Christmas.”) And so we pat ourselves on the back for defending the faith, all the while winning “victories” that do little than drive people farther and farther away from Jesus.
So what, then, are we to be about as Christians? Lately I’ve gotten really into the TV show The Last Ship, and there’s a scene in the first season that really sheds light on that question. If you’ve never seen the show, the premise is that this plague has killed off 80 % of humanity. This Navy destroyer has this scientist on board, along with the means to (maybe) create a cure, and the crew has to stay alive long enough for that to become a reality and then to share it with the world. Midway through the first season, there comes a point where the crew has lost focus. For many, their own survival has become their top priority. To get them back on track, the Captain plays radio broadcasts the ship has picked up from people who have so far managed to survive the plague. These people are lonely, hopeless, and desperate, and you can hear it in their voices over the radio. These people, the Captain reminds his crew, are their problem, and the hope of a cure that the ship has onboard is their solution. Their job is to protect it.
As Christians, we carry within us a very similar hope. We have life, real life, in Jesus (John 7:38). The tragedy is that so few of those we interact with ever see it. We are surrounded by broken, hurting, desperate people, and within us lives the One who can bind up the brokenhearted and heal the hurting, and yet they’d never know it. Maybe we’ve become so focused on the Great Commission and the Great Commandment that we’ve forgotten what it means to be the light of the world. Maybe it’s just easier to stand back and preach. I don’t know. What I do know is that either way the end result sucks. Another article I read recently asserted that Christmas would hold more hope if we took Christianity out of it. I wonder if we’ll be able to get past our beliefs to hear just where that comes from.
The people out there don’t need our beliefs, or our standards, or our morality. They need to know that we care. That God cares. They need to see us engaging with the brokenness around us, not preaching at it. They need to see us reaching out in love and in respect, no matter who the other person may be or how strongly they may disagree with us. The church, I’ve also read recently, is known for going to war culturally, against the wrong enemies and for all the wrong reasons. You want a battle to fight? Fight to engage. In fact, that’s not a bad summary of our job description, either. Show up. Engage. Spread hope.
So this Christmas, and every day of the coming year, bring life to those around you. Share hope. Reach out in love, and engage with the broken and the hurting. Maybe then we’ll get back to being the light of the world.