Know your Place Christian! /
Sometimes the church forgets its job. Sometimes we forget the order of things, and we get stuff all mixed up. I think that this normally happens out of a true desire to do right and to see things made better, but the best of intentions do not make actions right.
Very recently the State in which I live decided to end what is possibly the last of its so called “Blue Laws”. This was the only state in The Union in which there were no carry-out alcohol sales allowed on Sunday. None. Other states have some restrictions, but nobody else in the Union forbade you to buy a six pack of beer and take it home with you any time on Sunday. While most people either didn’t care about this law or were in favor of changing it, some were really upset about it being changed.
Before I go any further I need to point out that this law was a Prohibition hold-over. While a lot of people used to think that even moderate alcohol consumption was a no-no for Christians, most no longer think that way and I am not trying to argue that point. That law is simply an example for this article.
There are a lot of laws on the books that hold up moral standards. Whereas most of these laws do have religious roots, they are there for the betterment of society without necessarily enforcing what one person thinks God would want—you know, things like don’t steal; don’t murder; don’t lie when you are being a witness against someone in court.
“It is foolish, however, for us to think that we are supposed to get people who do not believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior to live as though they do.”
Regardless of whether a person is Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindi or Atheist, nearly everyone agrees that these are some of the base requirements for civilization. It’s hard to have a society that shrugs at someone coming in and murdering you, taking your stuff, and then lying about it in court.
Sometimes we in the West, where the majority of our laws are founded in a Judeo-Christian ethic, forget that making non-believers live lives we would find to be moral is not our place. It is also not our goal. Not exactly.
There used to be laws on the books making adultery, homosexuality, and cussing in public crimes. I am sure there are a lot of good Christians with the best of intentions that think they still should be.
It is foolish, however, for us to think that we are supposed to get people who do not believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior to live as though they do. They won’t. We will get frustrated that they won’t, and they will resent us for trying to make them.
The Apostle Paul pointed this out in his first letter to the church in Corinth. We aren’t supposed to look at the morally wrong way in which non-believers live and judge them for it. Nor are we supposed to shun them because their lives are not in line with our moral standards.
1 Corinthians 5:9-13. I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”
Of course, we must be careful when we are associating with non-believers not to let their immoral behavior rub off on our behavior. This is a hard thing to watch out for while still maintaining relationships with those in the world. But we aren’t supposed to live our lives secluded from those who don’t share our belief in Christ.
So, what is our job? Where is our place? Jesus tells us what our job is as followers of His. He was asked basically this question by one of the teachers of morality in His society.
Matthew 22:36-39. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Our job isn’t to judge non-believers for what we consider to be “wickedness” in their lives. Our job is to Love God with all of our selves. Second only to that is that we love those around us as much as we do ourselves.
The real question that arises is in this second bit. How do we love our friends, neighbors, co-workers, and even family who are not Christians? I will give you a hint. It is alluded to back in the passage from 1 Corinthians. Right after Paul says that it isn’t his (or our) business to judge those outside the church, he says that God is going to judge them.
They don’t get off scot-free because they aren’t believers. It isn’t as though there is one set of standards for those who are Christians and a different set for those who aren’t. It is the same standard, but we simply don’t have any business trying to enforce that standard here on earth for those who don’t hold to it. But they will be judged—by God—at the end.
So how do we love our neighbor as ourselves? It is simple. Jesus told us that, too:
Matthew 28:18-20. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Want to show real love to your non-Christian friends? You won’t be doing that by leaving them happily ignorant in their sins. But teaching a non-Christian to obey the morality of Christ doesn’t work either. The order of events laid out by Jesus was really clear. Making disciples, baptizing them. Then teaching them everything that He commanded. It’s a simple recipe. Teach them of Christ. Teach them of their need for Christ. Then, when they have accepted Him, we teach them how he taught us to live our lives.
This isn’t designed to be a sneaky deal, as though you ask someone to join a secret club, but they can’t know the rules until they take the oath. But at the same time, we don’t try to make a person obey the morality of Christ before they are willing to accept Him. Can we teach them what that is like? Sure. The best way to do that is by showing them what that is like in the example of our lives.