back to Mainly for Non-Believers
When Christians become self-absorbed, concerned only about their moral fine-tuning (as if they were clients at a moral body-sculpturing club) they’ve forgotten the meaning of the creation and the revelation of God’s incarnation in and as Jesus Christ. Written all over the biography of God in biblical history is FOR OTHERS. And in the incarnation that message becomes focussed and eternal.
We’d insist that God’s "for others" expresses his own glory and that it’s aimed to lead us to glorify him. He must rejoice in the highest that he knows just as we must (P.T Forsyth) if we’re to be the best we can be. It is his glorious nature that is the ground for human greatness and that moral splendour is expressed "for others".
Karl Barth, the Swiss theologian, has taught us that the astonishing truth is, that God does not choose to be God without us. His moral glory involves the creation and redemption of the human family that it might live in joy-filled holiness and righteousness before him. It isn’t divine self-absorbed egotism.
And if Christians become self-absorbed, thinking only of their spiritual growth that they might enjoy deeper blessing from God, to that degree and in that way they are blurring the image of God they are called to reflect. For the church to gaze at itself ceaselessly and think little or nothing of the generations that come and go in an endless stream, they shame themselves and pass a judgement of "of little value" on their fellow humans throughout the world.
And all the preaching/teaching/writing that promotes such self-centredness is an abomination, however popular it is. Trust me when I tell you that many Christians are sickened by this sugary sweet diet that pampers the richly blessed and assures them (if only by default) that life with God has more in common with Tennyson’s The Lotus Eaters than with the biblical doctrine of election. It coddles and consoles and doesn't convict or call upward by calling them outward. Such preaching/teaching is an enemy of the kingdom of God and devalues the peoples of the world.
Non-believers would do well not to ground their case against Jesus Christ on the basis of a poor response from Christians. It’d be a mistake for Christians to lump all non-believers together, though in light of the millions that are plainly hedonistic they’re tempted to do that. The idea that all non-believers are sweet-spirited and lovers of truth is sheer and palpable nonsense and when the critic of the Church speaks, he is armed with materials given to him by the church. She may be a cracked mirror that distorts the image of Jesus Christ but without the truth she does convey, the non-believer wouldn’t know how to say "you hypocrite!"
The thing for us to do is to try and give a fair hearing to the best that is offered on either side. The best the Christian has to offer is not her well-reasoned arguments (though these have their place) or even the fine lives she has nurtured (and these certainly have their place) but the gospel she has come to know. If a non-believer is truly interested in uncovering or meeting up with truth, he/she should listen for the exposition of the gospel. Don’t judge the tree by the worst specimen and think that that is the true picture. Give the best you can find a real hearing.
The biblical Story is rich and complex and disturbing. Only "juvenile" non-believers sneer at what they haven’t really taken time to understand. Only sour non-believers shove Jesus Christ out of the way to "get at" the weakest of his followers. Only ranting hacks that profess the name of Christ grin in genuine pleasure as they damn to hell all non-Christians. Sin (I speak as a Christian) affects us all—no exceptions—and we need the grace of the gospel of God to open our eyes.