As Christians, sharing our beliefs and faith with others is something we’re not asked to do, but something we’re required to do by Christ himself. We do this hoping others will embrace him and have a life beyond the one we know. We do it so they will learn who Jesus is, what he stands for, and to give them hope unmatched by anything here on Earth.
But sharing our faith is not something to be taken lightly. It bears a responsibility that should be handled with care. Yet, there is a group of Christians who aren't being careful and it’s damaging the reputation of God and his church. I call them “Irresponsible Christians”, and today's post is for them.
I know what an Irresponsible Christian is because I have been one. I remember times when I was quick to judge and condemn those who chose not to believe as I do.
One of the biggest mistakes we can make as Christians is to become so convinced that we’re right about a conviction that we damage the spiritual health of others. Christians aren’t only doing this to those who aren’t believers; they’re doing it to each other. I’ve seen this happen first-hand.
My wife and I were once members of a small church. We loved our pastor and all the people there; we regarded them as family. I often met with our pastor for lunch and even joined a life group for men that met once a week. My faith grew more during that time than ever before.
Then, one day, something changed.
It started when our pastor became convinced that the church should go in a different direction. This new direction would challenge members to do more. It would mean devoting extra time during the week and being more aggressive about bringing non-believers to weekly meetings or Sunday services. The pastor backed his message with scripture and books from Christian authors. He was passionate about his message, and though it seemed to be on-point, my wife and I were troubled by it.
At first, we questioned our motives and prayed for God to show us where we could be wrong. Were we being lazy? Were we unwilling to do what Christ called us—believers—to do? Did we want our faith to be convenient, not letting it get in the way of other things we wanted to do?
A feeling of guilt set in. We started feeling bad about ourselves. Perhaps we weren’t “good” Christians after all. Anytime you start questioning the pastor, you can’t help but wonder if you’re on the wrong side of God’s will.
Still, something wasn’t quite right. Even after asking God to show us what we may be missing, we couldn’t make sense of it. Something kept telling us that we weren’t wrong but we continued to feel bad about what was happening.
Out of God's will?
The tension mounted and the situation became tedious. While I couldn’t prove it, I believe my wife and I became targets of some of our pastor's comments during his Sunday messages. Paranoia? Maybe, but I doubt it. Soon, it became public knowledge that we didn’t agree with the new direction our pastor intended for the church. Other members—even ones we thought were close friends—started to distance themselves from us, partly because the pastor was telling them we were a cancer to the body of Christ.
Then one day, about two months after the whole episode began, I received a call. It was our pastor, and the point of his call was simple. Essentially, he said, “I’m calling to tell you that you’re out of alignment with God’s will.”
Fortunately, not long before I received his call, I got clarity from God about what was going on in our church. Had that not been the case, I would most likely have responded in a way that would have cast me in—shall we say—a bad light.
Instead, I stayed focused and remembered what God had shown me. I was able to present the case for why we didn’t agree with his new direction and why I believed my position was Biblically sound. Of course, he didn’t like my response. The discussion became heated and ended abruptly.
That was the last time we spoke.
Immediately after that call, my wife and I decided to stop going to that church and any other church that chose to force the convictions of a single man on its members without a solid scriptural basis.
So what flaw did God show me in this pastor’s doctrine?
Our pastor wasn’t wrong because he taught that we should share the message of Christ. He wasn’t wrong because he taught that we should invite non-believers into our Christian lives. He wasn’t wrong because he believed we needed to be diligent and intentional about our faith. The Bible advocates all of these things.
But he was wrong because he determined what being a true Christian looked like and expected everyone else to duplicate it.
Our pastor was so convinced that he was teaching truth that he refused to listen to another perspective and rebuked those who didn't agree with him. Whether he was aware of it or not, he condemned people who didn’t share his convictions.
He believed that doing certain things (works) was proof that someone was a real Christian. Yes, the Bible teaches that the evidence of a Christian life will be revealed by the fruit it bears. But he was providing church members with a set of rules and guidelines that he expected them to follow and that real Christians would comply. In his view, not following suit meant you were a cancer to the body of Christ.
I don’t believe our pastor was an evil person. I don’t believe he was manipulating people on purpose. But I do think he was deceived into believing that he possessed some special spiritual insight and that others should come into alignment with his agenda. Without knowing, he exalted himself into the position of judge and jury.
This problem isn’t limited to pastors and has become a virus infecting Christians from all walks of life. We already know that Christianity is coming under more persecution than ever. Our world is becoming more free-minded by the day and Christian beliefs are increasingly viewed as out-dated. The outline for living that Jesus Christ gave us is becoming distorted by a society looking to accommodate its beliefs.
Sadly, some Christians are helping people make those assertions. The Bible refers to the word of God as a sword, which can be compared to the modern-day gun. Having a gun can provide security. It can make you feel safe when you go out at night. It can be used as a defense in the face of danger. But, if the owner of the gun doesn’t learn how to take care of it and use it responsibly, it can be deadly. The same is true for God’s word.
The Irresponsible Christian can do damage in other ways, too. It isn’t limited to judgment and condemnation. We can fail people in every way imaginable—lies, affairs, abuse, bullying, gossip, the list goes on. We’re human after all, and failing is part of being human. But I still believe one of the worst things we can do is lead our attacks with the word of God, aiming and pulling the trigger without examining our motives or knowing that we have scriptural ground to stand on.
So what can you do about it?
Even the most careful gun owner can make deadly mistakes, and the same is true for Christians. We’re all susceptible to misinterpreting scripture or Christian principles. But there are measures we can take to help ensure we don’t harm someone else while we learn.
Here are a few verses to consider:
Matthew 7:15-20 says, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”
Galatians 5:22 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…”
Ephesians 2:8-9 directly relates to the story I shared about my former church.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
I remember when my life failed to bear fruit because I had my own agenda; I wasn’t helping other people, I was hurting them.
How about you?