Stepping Onto the Battlefield

In the book of Matthew, Jesus talks about the final judgment.

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

It is not an original observation to point out that Christians are known now more for what we oppose than what we promote. When I was doing my research for yesterday’s Hobby Lobby post, I came across countless opinion pieces and blog posts making the (reasonable) claim that Christians care more about the fetus than the woman carrying it, that our devotion to the life of that child ends the moment it’s born.

There are abundant errors in those claims, but what is maddening to me is that we’ve left ourselves open to that perception. We rant online about what we oppose, be it abortion, or gay marriage, or whatever hot-button political issue is in front of us. “I disagree with that because I’m a Christian.” Fine. But what do you stand for?

When we call ourselves “Pro-life,” are we so zealous in that claim that we promote life at every turn? Do we see to the needs of the people around us even to the point of being self-sacrificial? Is our love so  bright and abundant that it shines like the sun, or does it flash once like a firecracker, leaving only a noxious odor behind? Do we treat everyone we meet as though they were Jesus Himself?

If I meet a woman who chooses to abort, do I give her grace or condemnation? Do my thoughts and actions towards her combine in perfect harmony to say, “Whatever your past, Jesus Christ’s promise of salvation will never waver!” Am I being honest if I say, “Your past doesn’t matter to me, but I deeply care about your future.” Or do I smirk to myself and say, “At least I’ve never sinned as badly as this one”?

Our message needs to be as simple as it is uniform. We don’t offer condemnation, we offer life.

Face it, it’s easy to sit behind a computer monitor or a smart phone and tell someone how to live or what choices to make. It’s a lot more difficult to walk alongside someone in their heartache or terrifying desperation, when their future is collapsing in front of them and they cannot find a path through the rubble. It’s simple to moralize; actually meeting the needs of the hungry, sick, and lonely is infinitely more complex. But you can’t call yourself a soldier if you’re not willing to step foot on the battlefield.

Christian life is about meeting each other’s needs. The Apostle John asked, “If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”

Charles Spurgeon puts that idea another way. “If Christ is not all to you He is nothing to you. He will never go into partnership as a part Saviour of men. If He be something He must be everything, and if He be not everything He is nothing to you.” Your love, and your attitude, and your service towards the people around you demonstrates your love for Christ. With everyone you see today, the best thing you can do is to treat them as though they were Jesus Christ Himself.