Day 21: A faith that works – Part 7c

The proof of the pudding is in the eating

Bible References (NIV)

Devotional

Have you ever met a person who was truly angry at the Christian faith because of the hypocrisy of a church leader? It’s not uncommon, and it’s an easy anger to understand. However, what some of these critics of our faith overlook is that Jesus was angry at this very same thing — as also are we who are Christians. The actions of supposed Christians who don’t live as Christians are wrong. It is also we who are Christians who have the greatest right and reason to be offended, not the critic!

In history, terrible things have been done by people who wielded power in all organisations — including the church. However, when it comes to the church, there is a distinction in that the problem is not with the church or Christian faith — but instead with those people. To explain this point, the problem wasn’t actually with Christianity — but instead that these people weren’t Christian enough. It only takes a few minutes spent reading Jesus’ teachings to see this.

As an example, the Crusades of the Middle Ages were initiated by Pope Urban II in 1095 AD. He motivated the people to go and fight to reclaim lands across Europe, through to Jerusalem, with the promise of forgiveness of sins. This promise was a lie and was wrong!

However, this was wrong by what measure? Many overlook this question. This was wrong by the Christian measure! For example, if there is no God, the core value of our existence is the survival of the fittest — in which case shouldn’t defeating those who are weaker than yourself be applauded? If there is no moral law-giver there is no basis for any moral law — in which case what is wrong with killing people if it helps a ‘good’ cause? Is this not simply the ‘survival of the fittest’? Additionally, what if you were to discover that Christians had been overrun and subjugated across Western Europe in that time, and a growing number slaughtered if they didn’t convert to another faith? Would a response of at least some kind be justified then? The Crusades are objectively wrong only if human life has intrinsic value — as in the Christian value system. The Crusades are only objectively wrong only if there is a fixed moral law — as in the Christian faith. They are wrong because Jesus taught us to love our enemies — which makes the Church initiating a military retaliation more than out of place! The Crusaders went on to demand religious conversion with the threat of death in the same way Christians had been threatened — which is wrong in Christianity, even if not always in other religions. The promise of having their sins forgiven if they fought was also a lie that gave way to terrible violence. The Crusades were wrong — as measured by the Christian values system!

In today’s Bible readings, you will have seen that Jesus’ harshest teachings were not against the Romans — despite their terrible cruelty. They were instead again hypocritical religious leaders! As James warned in the Bible, ‘Not many of you should presume to be teachers because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.’

So, while critics of the Christian faith will continue to point to the ‘evils of the Church’, in truth the problem is that these people weren’t Christian enough. It’s an important distinction. God will judge the Earth. We must live in a way that honours him.

Video clip: A faith that works – Part 7c — 1:45mins

Reflection questions

  • What criticisms of Christians and the Church as a whole have you heard, and how might you respond to these?
  • What are some of the most positive and wide-reaching impacts of Christianity that you are aware of within history and our world today?
  • How are we to reconcile the great teachings of the Christian faith about love and selfless service with the bad example of selfish, greedy and sometimes cruel actions by some church leaders?

For prayer

“Thank you, Lord Jesus, for ensuring that your open condemnations of hypocritical religious leaders were recorded in the Bible. These give us a perspective to hold because we are all troubled and disappointed by the evils sometimes perpetuated by people who claim to follow you. Help us to hold a healthy perspective on this. Thank you.”

related topics

coming up in our next devotion

Day 22: A faith that works – Part 7d

If a loving God does exist and can be known, how could we test the truth of that? The answer is in those hundreds of millions of testimonies! When a person becomes a Christian a pattern follows. Their behaviour, character and attitudes mysteriously begin to change for the better!

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