I love the time I live in. I see so many positive changes in the church. Brothers and sisters more concerned with helping the poor than getting extra stuff. Different groups “laying down their arms” to try to get along with each other. True attempts to love our enemies, or turn the other cheek, or invite in the stranger. Some days it is humbling. At certain moments it is downright electrifying.
However, there is one trend that actually gives me pause. And perhaps it is just me. Maybe I am not seeing it clearly. What I have noticed is this: quite often I am seeing Christians willing to do so much wonderful ministry and service in honor of the way of Christ, but unwilling to mention Jesus.
Now, I am a big believer that we have often done evangelism completely wrong. We have been pushy. We have claimed to have in our possession the key to eternal life while acting like arrogant snobs. We have demanded belief in Jesus while refusing to live out his teachings in our own lives. We have been judgmental and hypocritical.
But as so often happens, our reaction has swung us far the other direction.
While it is Jesus that compels us to love and welcome and feed and serve, many of us have decided that mentioning Him somehow makes our service insincere. We don’t want to be seen as serving others just so they will convert. It is not that we are ashamed of Jesus, we just don’t want to be an affront to others by bringing Him up.
Yet, there are two truths I can’t avoid. 1. You don’t have to convert or come to church or follow Jesus for me to love and serve you. 2. But, if Jesus hadn’t radically changed my life, I wouldn’t be loving and serving you.
You see, while I understand our trepidation at how talking about Jesus colors our ministry, I can’t escape the fact that without Jesus, my ministry wouldn’t exist. He has saved me, changed me, healed me, and shaped me. If there is any good in me that comes out in actions toward others it is because of Christ. I am a selfish, prejudiced, judgmental jerk. That is who I am without Jesus. But I actually do try to love and serve those around me. Why? Because Jesus is changing me. It is not that Jesus “forces” me to love you, it is simply that He has changed me to the point I actually do love you.
This has nothing to do with our view of the after-life. You don’t have to be a “turn or burn” Christian. It is just unfathomable to me that I might give you money, or time, or hours of service, or even a significant relationship, but I would refuse to share the most valuable thing I have. This seems more selfish than not serving you at all.
Imagine you build a hospital. It is designed specifically for cancer patients. You make it more like home than a hospital. The needs of the family are looked after as well as the patient. Everyone who visits talks about it being the most well-run, loving, hopeful cancer hospital they have ever seen. There is only one catch…while the hospital possesses the cure for cancer, it refuses to divulge it. This would be insane!
I want the church to love the poor because that is what Jesus would do. I want us to welcome the stranger because that is a sign that the gospel it at work among us. I want my brothers and sisters to find radical ways to love our enemies and treat them as God treats us. And I want to do all of that because Jesus has a hold on me. He compels me. He moves me. He makes me unselfish and loving in ways I would never be on my own. And so, at some point, I want all those people we love and serve to have Him too.