Week 4 (January)
"Well, all religions are pretty much alike anyway, aren't they? They're all striving for the same thing, so what does it really matter?"
I had been standing in the sanctuary foyer making small talk with a woman. Then, these words startled me. They startled me even more as I realized she was the church office secretary.
There, in the foyer, we continued to talk. As the conversation progressed, it slowly became clear that this church secretary wasn't a born-again Christian. Nor did she understand what it meant to be one.
There she was, however, working as a receptionist and secretary for a Church of the Nazarene. She had no idea there was a difference between religious forms and a transformed, authentic life in Christ. Yet, she was working eight hours a day for a church which names the reaching of the unsaved as one of its top priorities.
What had happened? Why had she never been confronted with a clear gospel message? Why had a local church, intensely interested in "winning the lost," not made a clear call to repentance those on its own payroll?
Has the "live-peaceably-with-all" of our Christian ethic become so distorted by the tolerant spirit of the age that it's considered out of place for a church to witness to its own employees? Has Satan successfully deceived us into accepting a live-and-let-live philosophy under the guise of "living peaceably with all"?
I can't believe that Christ would be satisfied with such a live-and-let-live philosophy. His life was one of aggressive searching for an confrontation with sinful people. Wherever He met people, without regard to who or what they were, He talked to them on their level about the necessity for radical change in their lives.
With Jesus, friendship evangelism never stopped with the adjective "friendship." It always went on to the noun "evangelism."
The religious leaders of Jesus' day hadn't understood that He could be -- and had to be -- both holy and evangelistic. Jesus was the pure, spotless, perfect Lamb of God. He was also the Savior who walked midst the din of the marketplace.
That's the kind of tension we also face. We are called to be separate, and yet we must follow Jesus into the streets, there to live and consort with sinners (although I still have my doubts about hiring them to run the church office!). We can go to the sinner as Jesus' disciples only if we go in His company, with His passion in our hearts to reach and win and heal.
Christianity is always in danger of lapsing into a Pharisaical mode. Therefore, we must be certain that our lives demonstrate the difference between religion and authentic life in Christ.
We who have grown up in the church have sometimes struggled with that. It can be easy for us to imitate religious forms without experiencing and living a real Christian life. Too often the world has quickly seen through us, and it has rejected our Christ.
May Christ never allow us to be satisfied with going through the motions. And may He never let us be satisfied with living and letting live. May it ever be clear to us that His call is to a live-and-convert lifestyle.
I wrote these devotional thoughts while we were missionaries in Italy. They originally appeared in the January 27, 1980 edition of Standard, a take-home piece for adult Sunday school classes.
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