It seems like every week there is a new scandal involving a Christian which leads to the understandable question from non-believers, “why don’t Christians act like Christians”. Whether or not non-believers are aware of the spiritual mechanics of the Christian life, they are very much aware that Christians should not do certain things. Therefore, there must be some dissonance for the non-Christian when they see a Christian act in such a way that is antithetical to the Christian life. So, non-Christian, this article is for you. This article will not justify the un-Christlike behaviour that you may have seen from celebrities or even from your friends and family, instead I seek to declare what the Christian is and why what they do doesn’t ultimately define them.
Sinfulness of man
The bible defines sin as lawlessness (1 John 3:4). The bible also tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). The glory of God can be defined as the beauty, majesty and worth of God that displays and declares Him as the supreme Ruler, Creator, Treasure and Lord of all things. Therefore we can conclude that sin is any action, speech or thought that will break the law or rule of God which in turn diminishes or detracts from His glory – namely seeing God as the supreme Ruler, Creator, Treasure and Lord. Now, every human in the past or present has sinned. David declares in the Psalms what is true for all of us “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). And sin entered the world because Adam and Eve rejected the law of God to do their own thing (Genesis 3). So, this does not mean that we are held responsible for Adam and Eve’s sin, what it does mean is that Adam acts as human kind’s federal head. Consequently, sin enters the world through Adam and as a result all his progeny are born into sin – meaning we have a nature that is against God. Not only that, but the world is under sin which explains, at least on a macro level, why we see so much wickedness and suffering in this world.
The Gospel Starts with God
Perhaps a friend or family member has shared the Gospel with you, or you have heard someone shout it in the middle of a high street. Maybe you have heard a version that declares you as a bad person that is en route to hell. Or another version that says God is desperate to know you and you’re breaking His heart by not receiving Him. I would suggest both of these versions have problems. The problem is that this gospel starts with you, in the bible the gospel starts with God. You see, the first book of the bible starts like this “In the beginning God…” (Genesis 1:1). This is fundamental because the gospel is not primarily about what you have done against God or what you can do for Him; instead, it is about what God has done in Christ for the world for His glory. The gospel is about God formulating a plan before time began that would send Jesus Christ (who is fully God) to the world as man, that He might reconcile the world back to God (cf. Philippians 2:5-11, 2 Corinthians 5:16-21). The gospel is about God dealing with sin and all of its effects, destroying the works of the devil (the enemy of God and man) and setting those captivated by the power of sin and the devil free (Ephesians 2:1-10). The gospel is not about what you can do for God, the gospel is what God in Christ has done for you.
Not Defined By What We Do
Now to be a Christian, one must simply believe in who Jesus says that He is and what He has said He has done (Acts 2:22-36). Once you believe that you are a sinner and that Jesus is the Saviour, you are now a Christian. What Jesus accomplished on the cross now applies to you, you are now a child of God (John 1:12, Galatians 3:26). This means that it is faith in the person of Jesus and His works (life, death and resurrection), that makes a person saved (a Christian) (1 Corinthians 15). What a person does once they are a Christian, is the outworking of their professed faith. This is where the dissonance occurs. Why do we see Christians who have this faith act in such a way that makes it appear that they do not? Well, two words may help with this: justification and sanctification. Justification means that when a person places their faith in Christ, they are clothed in Jesus’ righteousness, they are made right with God (Romans 3:21-31). No sin in the past, present or future separates them from God. Sanctification is the ongoing process of the Christian realising what their justification declares, namely that they are not what they used to be (sinners) but they are now changed (saints) (Romans 6:1-14). So when you see a Christian act in a way that is antithetical to Christianity remember this, their actions doesn’t nullify what Christ has done in and for them. It’s actually an opportunity to see what makes Christianity so glorious, God consistently gives us more than we deserve (Psalm 103:10).
Pain and Glory
Christians have done some damage to their witness, admittedly. I am not innocent in this area either. I have done things that non-Christians would be rightfully quick to exclaim “but aren’t you a Christian”. Sinful behaviour should never be justified. Sin doesn’t just harm the person involved but permeates far beyond the immediate reach of what the person involved intended. Whilst Christians will not be sinless on this side of eternity, they should be Christ-full. Meaning, in the day to day life of the Christian they should show that Jesus above all things is their pursuit. God’s grace (unmerited favour) is what carries the Christian in this life and the next. If you aren’t a Christian I invite you to come and know this grace that is found in the person of Jesus, I can assure you it’s greater than what I can try to describe in words.