When Non-Christians Look for Christ in Us, What Do They See?
By Grace D Williamson
“The hypocrisy of the church drove me away from the church altogether. When I left I told God that if He could show me one Christian who loved, I would come back and submit to His will.”
For ten years Josh lived in slavery to sin: “I worked for Satan, and only my physical body found any comfort in this life. My soul ached with the sin that I was committing.
“God stayed beside me, unwilling to give up on me. I met several Christians and tried to talk to them about God. They all had the same answers: ‘You should come to church and talk with my pastor.’ This is all I ran into. I wanted to talk to them.”
Ten years after he made his bargain with God, Josh finally met a sincere Christian. She eventually spoke to him about Jesus. Josh realized God had answered his prayer to see genuine faith working in someone’s life. Convicted of his sin, he gave his life back to Christ.
But what if the girl had been afraid to speak of her faith? What if she, like every other so-called Christian Josh had encountered, shrugged off his questions and pointed him to a distant pastor?
Christ has called us to be ambassadors for the Kingdom of Heaven. Christians, however, can often drive unbelievers away from the Lord.
Paul accused the Jews of the same thing: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (See Romans 2:24.)
How can God’s people blaspheme His Name?
Before Paul called the Jews blasphemers, he wrote, “You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?” (Romans 2:22-23)
We blaspheme God when our thoughts, attitudes, or behaviors contradict the Name we claim to live by. We fool ourselves into thinking we are righteous because we go to church, uphold the law, and tout morality. But if our actions contradict our claims, we are no more righteous than anyone else.
How does this affect our witness?
Unbelievers are not as oblivious as we would like to think. They’re watching. They know when we speak hypocritically. When we wrongfully pass judgment. Or when our lifestyles contradict the commitment we have made to Christ.
To people that see Christians living a lie, God must be a hoax. Their faith is nothing if it fails to influence their lifestyles. Their hope is a mere delusion, and the church is just a social club for the delusional.
If, however, they see Christians living out truth, they are more likely to believe in the Name they bear.
Seeing Christ’s reflection in someone has immensely more impact on a nonbeliever than any sermon given by a stranger in a pulpit. When Christ said, “You are the light of the world,” He wasn’t speaking to pastors on a payroll or special outreach organizers. He was speaking to all His disciples.
Don’t get me wrong. Pastors fill a vital role in the church. The New Testament calls for carefully chosen leaders. But Christ’s body is strongest when every member is active.
Church administrators throughout the decades have fine-tuned Christ’s body until it has become just like any other social robot with its employees and programs. Yet even with our structure and payroll, we’re eating the first century church’s dust when it comes to evangelism.
The book of Acts tells how, in an age before the postal service, radio, aviation, and Internet, the Name of Christ spread throughout the known world in a matter of years. First century Christians industriously spread the gospel without a large building and carefully planned outreach programs. They didn’t even have a church office, an outreach staff, a decorating committee, a children’s ministry supervisor, or a mission board.
How did they reach others?
Individuals spoke about their faith. Apostles healed the sick and preached to anyone who would listen. Priscilla and Aquila discipled Apollos; Apollos went on to publicly proclaim the gospel to his fellow Jews (Acts 18:18-28). Peter healed Aeneas, and Aeneas became a witness to the people of his town (Acts 9:34-35). As each person found Christ, he showed Christ to the next person.
Spreading the gospel through preaching, helping the poor, and encouraging our brothers and sisters in Christ is a natural outflow of salvation. If we receive Christ, it follows that we will reflect Him to everyone in sight.
But in the American church, this reflection is fading. Individuals aren’t taking it upon themselves to fulfill Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19-20: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…” We would rather leave this Great Commission to professionals.
But when Josh was curious about Christianity, he didn’t want to talk to another expert. He wanted to talk to a person like him who had once worn the scars of sin. He didn’t want to hear a sermon. He wanted to see the Lord’s grace at work in a sincere heart.
We get comfortable in our pews and forget that the gospel reaches beyond church doors. We forget that nonbelievers are watching us. They want to see Christ. What are we showing them?
(Photo by Imago Photography)