If I were to tell you that this post was on heresy, coercive Christianity, martyrdom, and “Christianity by sword” would you be interested? These have been just a few of the topics brought up for discussion in my mission history class over the past week and a half. It has been interesting and sometimes discouraging to listen to the perspectives of my fellow students as we talk through these serious and consequential issues. The truth, as we have come to see, is that as Christians we cannot deny our history, both good and bad. No matter how we turn the coin we have to face the fact of the Crusades, the terrible destruction of indigenous communities, and the burning of so-called “heretics” were all real things that real Christians really did. If we face the truth, the history of Christianity ever since Jesus ascended into heaven hasn’t always been all that great, and that in itself can be pretty discouraging. It always makes me wonder, are we still getting it wrong? 100 years from now will Christians look back at us and shake their heads?
As we wrestle with these issues and what they mean for our context today a lot of varying opinions rise out of the discussion. I have to admit that I have trouble paying attention in this class, but when people start talking my ears perk up and a fire starts to rise in my soul. I am seriously passionate about some of our discussion topics. For instance I had quite a lot to say on evangelism, heresy, and what it means to acknowledge and move forward from our treatment of indigenous people. What can I say? I have preacher blood in me and sometimes I can’t stop myself. I find that the times when I speak up most though are when I see some of my classmates moving too far towards the middle. This, I believe, could be one place where today’s Christians are going wrong.
I understand that the history of Christianity has been full of extremes that we don’t want to repeat. All too often Christians have gone too far and the result has been traumatic. But at the same time I don’t think that means we should try to fix our past by being wobbly middle-grounders. There are some things, that are simply absolute.
Evangelism by words (not just actions) is absolutely necessary, not just a polite suggestion Jesus uttered to his disciples.
Heresy is still a serious issue, and we can’t just blame different opinions on different interpretations of Scripture. The truths of the gospel message are non-negotiable, and those who change that message need to be refuted.
The gospel message we portray to other cultures is seriously important and as my wise classmate put it, we cannot conform the message of Scripture to our lives, instead we are meant to conform our lives to the message of Scripture.
We cannot sit back and hope people recognize we are Christians and ask about it. We cannot allow people to change the gospel message to fit their needs. We cannot just sit back and believe that those who have never heard the gospel will find their way to Christ.
We have been called to the standard set by Jesus Christ and his ministry on this earth. We have been called to proclaim the gospel with passion and urgency, to hold our marginalized, indigenous, immigrant, impoverished, needy neighbors and tell them with certainty that they are loved, beautiful, worthy creations of the most high God. We have a duty, a privilege, and an honor to be strong-headed about the truth of Jesus Christ, to discern the teachings of God from the teaching of the world, and to reject the tiny whisperings of our culture that tells us we are being too extreme or too Christian-y.
Let me go ahead and say this in case any who don’t go to church or follow Christ happen to read my blog and get this far into the post: Yes, Christians have done a lot of crappy things in the past. Yes, people who call themselves Christians still do really crappy and stupid things. But do not let this define what you know as Christianity. And to the Christians, the seminary students, the church-goers: let us not fall prey to the mistakes of our pasts, let us not be lukewarm in order to make everyone like us, and let us continually return to Scripture to make sure that what we are proclaiming as truth really is truth.
I believe that there are amazing Christians at Fuller, in American churches, and around the world who are doing radical things for Christ. I am so encouraged by the work of my fellow seminary students, by their dreams, passions, and stories. God is moving in this world and if we all as Christians rise up to be different then the world will finally see that we are not our tattered past or our mistakes. We are followers of Christ, who will fall and fail, but who are loving, passionate, and committed to the only truth we can hold on to with certainty.
And this is truth:
That Jesus Christ, being fully God and fully man, came to this earth to die a brutal and painful death so that in three days he could rise again, therefore separating us from our sin and uniting us with our Creator. That through Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ alone, we can have new life. And that through Christ and Scripture we can come to know the most loving Father and Creator, who loves us despite our failures, who guides us with tough love, and who challenges us to be who he created us to be. And one day our Savior will return to be reunited with all who believe, and right will be restored to this fallen, broken, and messed up world.
And that my friends, is some seriously good news.