There are many in the world these days who would like to silence Christians or get rid of them entirely. Some are Islamic or other religious fundamentalists who see Christianity as a threat to their power or influence, like the Pharisees or Romans in Jesus’ day. Others are offended by the exclusive claims of the gospel, especially Jesus’ declaration that he is “the way, the truth, and the life” and the only way to gain access to the Father. Still others don’t like the evangelical conviction that the truth claims and moral principles of the Bible should influence their behavior and choices. They believe it’s just a book among many books, and not worthy of special attention in an information saturated culture.
As I was pondering this the other day, I imagined how the world, and the whole course of history, would be different if the Christian church had never come to be. Jesus is the head of his church. He was quite clear that he wanted his apostles to spread his gospel everywhere, and he made provision by sending his Spirit to direct this momentous task. It worked. While there are still may be some people groups that have no Christians among them, their number is shrinking daily due to the power of communication technology. Wherever the gospel is taught and received simply and accurately, a portion of those who hear it will believe. That’s how it has been from the beginning.
The gospel of Jesus Christ changes individuals, families, cities, nations, whole civilizations. Devotion to Jesus Christ has inspired countless symphonies and songs, architectural masterpieces, paintings and sculptures. The United States of America and her Constitution are founded on a faith in an unchangeable, uncreated Creator who endows the “inalienable” rights we enjoy. How many hospitals would never have been built without the compassion of Christ burning in the hearts of his followers? What about universities, scientific discoveries, libraries full of scholarly work all birthed from a God-ordained hunger to understand life and creation? Isaac Newton himself held an absolute belief in the authenticity of the Scriptures and in the existence and lordship of an all-wise God.
Skeptics and atheists often claim that their morality is founded upon their innate sense of what is good and right. They hold to a Santa-Claus-is-Coming-to-Town view—they believe they are “good for goodness’ sake.” They suppose that when given the choice between serving their own interests and serving the interests of others, they will choose the generous, self-sacrificial path, because they are just better than most people. But I believe—and the Bible backs me up–that most humans will not do this when the pressure is on and their lives are at stake. There are exceptions, of course, when there is a cause big enough to inspire self-sacrifice. The most notable example is World War II, during which the cause of saving the world from fascist domination inspired true heroism. This is witnessed most often in military service members; I honor highly and would never minimize the ultimate price paid by those who fight in behalf of others, whatever their underlying motivation or belief system.
But for most of humanity for the last 2000 years, there is no other story that competes with the gospel of Christ to inspire creativity, courage, generosity, and self-sacrifice. If you disagree and can think of one, get in touch and I’ll be happy to listen to your argument.
Not everyone will embrace the way of Jesus. He stated as much. The tares grow up with the wheat. The goats live amongst the sheep. There is a broad way that most people take, and it leads ultimately to destruction. He said that very few find the narrow way that leads to life (Matt. 7:13-14). I wish this were not true, but it’s in the red letters, the words of our Lord.
The scariest thing for me is imagining a world in which no one chooses to follow Christ. I picture it as an unspeakably dark, cruel, unbearable place, with the light of God snuffed out. Jesus declared himself and his followers the light of the world. I take this to mean that without the presence of Christ living in and through his people, the earth would be shrouded in deep darkness.
If you are offended by Christ and his gospel, I wouldn’t attempt to compel you to feel otherwise. You have a right to your position. And you probably think me a fool for believing as I do. But I would suggest that whether you believe it or not, it is because of what Christ and his gospel have wrought that you have light to find your way, even to your very different view.