Two weeks ago I asked, “With all the promises of suffering God gives us, why would anyone in their right mind become a Christian?” We don’t follow Jesus to receive lots of money, or lots of “stuff”—houses, cars, clothes, etc. We don’t follow Jesus to make life go smoothly. So why do we make Him our Lord? Today I hope to answer that question, at least in part.
In truth, the benefits are tremendous—they’re just not always tangible. Instead of receiving material goods, we receive a Person. And not any person, but the God of the universe, the God who created us, the God who is perfect in every way.
I debated a long time about this book review. Should I write it? Should I post it?
The book has issues. The author often repeats herself, making the book much longer than necessary. The pain and anger that permeated her early life can be seen in her forceful and unapologetic approach. Her conclusions are certainly not politically correct. Many who read this book will be upset by her claims, and I hate making people upset. Yet, author Nonie Darwish presents both information I was ignorant of, and a viewpoint that I had not seen before. I think it’s important that others hear these facts and consider them carefully. Actually, I think it’s very important.
I’ve noticed a problem in the American church. Well, really there are lots of problems, but one has stuck out recently, and I’m as guilty as anyone else.
Somehow, we’ve gotten the mistaken idea that being a Christian is all about me. Being a believer—“following the rules”—is supposed to make my life better. For example, we believe that when it comes to money, we just need to follow Biblical principles and our families will prosper. Or, we believe that God will smooth the way and eliminate any problems or hardships from our lives.
You’ve heard it before:
- All religions are the same.
- Suffering is proof that God doesn’t exist.
- Christians are so narrow minded!
- Religion does more harm than good.
- A loving God would never send anyone to hell.
- Science has disproved Christianity.
- The Bible isn’t a reliable document.
You’ve run into these ideas in books or articles. They’ve issued from the mouths of friends or family members. You might even agree with some, or all, of them. Skepticism and atheism are oh, so trendy. Entire networks of blogs are devoted to dissing God and religion, usually with plenty of snide comments and a great degree of sarcasm. (I’ve often wondered why people get so snarky when it comes to criticizing other people’s beliefs.)
Christian church bombed in Nigeria. Muslim convert disowned by family.
We read the headlines, and try to imagine, but it’s very difficult to understand what it’s like to be in their shoes. We love to complain about the demise of Christianity’s cultural acceptance here in the U.S., but we really have no idea what it’s like to lose our home, our family, or our life for our faith.
One way to overcome this barrier is to read Christian biographies. The dialogue may be fictionalized, but the stories are true. As we immerse ourselves in the book, we begin to identify with the main character. What happens to them? How do they react? How would we react in the same circumstances?
When asked (in Matthew 22:36-38) which is the greatest commandment in the Law, Jesus replied “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ He was quoting Deuteronomy 6:5, but with a twist—Jesus added the word “mind.”
There’s a reason for this. When Deuteronomy was written, the concept of mind was included in heart and soul. By the time Jesus arrived on the scene, those meanings had diverged. Wanting to be sure that we understood our need to love God with our intellect, Jesus inserted the extra word. (And while Matthew omitted “with all your strength,” Mark and Luke made sure to include it.)
(This is the second half of my answer to the question, “What good has the church ever done for the world?” I posted part one last week.)
One way to see how Christianity has affected our world is to compare areas that have historically been Christian to areas where the church is largely absent.
Probably the clearest understanding of the difference the church has made, and is still making, in the world comes from a short article written in 1990 by missiologist Luis Bush. He describes a concept called the “10/40 Window”—a square box drawn on a map of the eastern hemisphere between 10 degrees and 40 degrees north. In that part of the world you will find the spiritual center of the major non-Christian religions (Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.) and the least access to Christian resources.
Of course, we’re talking about a generalization. There are glaring exceptions, such as the inclusion of Korea, a predominantly Christian country with a high standard of living, and the exclusion of Indonesia with its huge Muslim population.