Monday, June 05, 2006

Evangelical Motivation

I often wonder why Christians are labeled as hypocritical or intolerant, especially when they promote, evangelize, defend, or otherwise share their faith with others. I hear the word "hypocrite" thrown around a lot when referring to "organized religion", specifically Christian. I will agree that religion is man-made and can become political, profitable, and quite removed from the true faith it is meant to practice. I actually try to avoid the word "religion" when referring to my faith for that reason. However, I believe Christianity, as a whole, to be uniquely targeted and unfairly labeled in this respect.

Are some Christians hypocrites? Sure. Are we all? Hardly. True Christianity is unique in that we believe salvation is attained by grace. We don't earn it and we don't lose it. We are given it. We recognize that we are imperfect and that all have sinned. We also recognize that despite our best efforts, we will continue to sin. But some people find that unacceptable. So many religions, especially pseudo-Christian ones, are works based in that one must do good works to "earn" their way into heaven. But that's impossible. I guess that’s why people are quick to condemn Christians. "I heard him say a curse word the other day, and today he's in Church...what a hypocrite!" What they don't see is the Christian hit their knees and express remorse and ask forgiveness for that sin. We have to constantly ask God to clean our slate because we keep fouling it up, no matter how many good works we perform. Our motivation for those good works is pure in that it is only to glorify him and not to earn something for ourselves. If I do something good for you, expecting that it will benefit me, then that act was selfish and thus not really a "good work" at all. But if I know that the good work is not necessary to my salvation and I do it anyway because I truly care for the person I'm doing it for and I do it to glorify God, then that good work was genuine.

We sin, not only with our flesh, but with our minds...not only with our actions, but with our omissions of actions as well. It may not be what we've done, but what we should have done that results in sin. It's a losing battle. We are forced to rely on the saving grace of Christ to purify us. It's like going to court and having adjudication withheld. We're still guilty, but God withholds judgment for those who have been saved by the cleansing blood of Christ. You see, God shares his glory with no one. Hypothetically speaking, if works based salvation were possible, then man would give himself credit for achieving admission into paradise and not God, thus denying God the glory and exaltation that he demands.

People seem to expect Christians to be flawless and beyond reproach. Although Christians are expected to aspire to be Christ-like in all we do, we will inevitably fail. We do good works, not to achieve salvation, but because of salvation. God moves in and our lives change, not to the level of perfection...not even close but we change none the less. We rejoice in our gift of eternal life and seek to share it with others. God commands us to do just that. We don't hold a sword to your throat and force you to proclaim Jesus King of Kings. A confession, under duress is insincere and against the free will that God has given us. Islam is spread by that force when evangelism fails, forcing its followers to lead pious lives out of fear of man's judgment, not Gods. We will tell you if you'll listen, but no one forces you to do so.

So what motivates us to evangelize? Is it because we like to be called hypocrites? Is it because we enjoy the finger pointing and labels that are attached to us because of it? No, no one enjoys those things. But how others think of us is of no importance compared to what God thinks of our obedience to him. It is our divine mission to evangelize and spread the good news to all corners of the earth. Though some Christians will, we are not really given the choice to opt out of that mission. It is up to the receiver to accept or deny Christ; we merely sow the seeds of faith and let them take root where they will. A man who says to a Christian, "You are marred by sin and thus your clothes are dirty and you are not worthy to tell me of salvation and eternal life." has missed the point altogether.