The irony of this post is that the two groups of people it pertains to — those that attend church weekly who find correction difficult, and those who are unwilling to accept the gospel — are not going to read this.
But I think we could all do a better job listening.
Like a foghorn in your face, God’s eternal wisdom is blaring at you, yet you continue to avoid Him. You justify His providence, sidestep His instruction, prostitute His grace, and squelch His mercy.
The Jewish people that Paul addresses have a similar problem. They’ve had the entire law and prophets spelled out to them. The prophets have pointed to the existence of a Messiah, who presented Himself right before them, made His intentions quite clear, then followed through with what He said He’d do. He extended His love with extended arms.
Yet the vast majority of them clung tightly to their own version of righteousness. They disallowed any augmentation of their world view, maintained a stubborn disposition, and refused to acknowledge that anyone could save them, nor be better off, apart from their own efforts.
This is a harsh illustration, but it describes a lot of skeptics. Many will take up their stance on a foundation of doubt, then defend themselves from any remote opposition. For example, Richard Dawkins exhausts quite a bit of energy attempting to quell the purported delusion of religion — with great effort and passion, to his credit — yet many Christians would rather not waste their time going after him, for he stands on his own island, beckoning many others to join. To a lesser degree, many others do similar.
But this describes many Christians as well. We are not unlike the skeptic, building a stronghold and taking pot shots at anyone that looks at us sideways. I believe that a great percentage of the church today is unteachable, unwilling to confront error in their perspectives of the world and in their own lives. This statistically unfounded claim can be backed by inference: just examine how defensive we get on social media or news pages, and how quickly we become foolishly judgmental when others question our lifestyle choices.
This is what it all comes down to: what does the Bible say? We say it’s true, and we say we believe it. Intense care has been applied to preserve it, and a multitude of scholars have spent great energy to deliver it in an accurate format for us to read. It’s all over the Internet. It has stood the test of time, and is still read worldwide, translated into hundreds of languages. We know what it says: good pastors and Bible teachers even interpret it for us.
Here, I’ll even spell out a central piece of doctrine, a cornerstone of Christianity, if you will:
For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
I don’t think I can make it any clearer. Jesus saves all who call on Him. He alone is Lord. His wisdom is supreme.
Even in this, we still don’t listen. Millions of Christians across the country will lug their oversized Bibles to church every Sunday, their signet of authenticity, spend time looking directly at its text, and go home unchanged. Meanwhile, millions of others will not look in the direction of any steeple, perhaps once enamored by religion but spurned by its adherents, eventually becoming resolute in their own bitterness and defiance.
And this, above all else, breaks my heart every day.
Are you aware that you’re going to die someday, that your impact on others on this earth will only extend to what you’ve previously done? Worse, do you understand that people around you are going to die, good people that take their chances without Jesus, and that many Christians will refuse to engage in conversation with them because they’re afraid?
Indeed, some unbelievers will be obstinate to the grave, but I think it’s time to unplug our ears and begin the dialogue anew. This world is smaller than ever; let’s listen to each other, and then, more importantly, listen to God again. Perhaps we’ll hear something we’d forgotten, or even never heard before.