In each of the Gospels, Christ tells his disciples that the non-Christian world would hate them – not for valid reasons, but because the people of this world hate God himself.
I’m reminded of this every time I hear someone talk about how awful those “religious” people supposedly are – hypocritical, judgmental, self-righteous, seeking to control others, etc. Frankly, such descriptions don’t remotely resemble the vast majority of people I’ve known who call themselves Christians.
Oh, sure, I’ve run into plenty of “religious” hypocrites. I’ve had dealings with people whose “religion” involved trying to hide poor character behind high-sounding talk. If seeing the dysfunctions of “religious” people were all it took to turn someone away from God, I’d have as much reason for turning away as anyone.
But I’ve always understood that God is real and perfect, and that’s never going to be changed by any failures – real or perceived – on the part of people who talk about him. When I’ve seen hypocrisy among Christians, it’s never made me not want to be a Christian; it’s made me not want to be hypocritical.
When I first came to Christ in my youth, it didn’t have a lot to do with the actions or words of people. I didn’t have anyone providing a shining example or an eye-opening testimony. I just happened to read something that introduced me to something beyond “religion” – a real relationship with my Creator. And I simply knew it was right; I had no reason to question it then, nor has any real reason ever presented itself since.
Looking back, I find it downright terrifying to imagine what kind of person I would have grown up to be if I had not been a Christian. As it was, my character weaknesses have been numerous, and my growth has often been slow. But if I had not been guided in the long run by the knowledge of my Creator, it’s clear that I would have been someone who didn’t do much of any good – either to the world around me or to myself.
Whatever you’d think of me if you met me in person, I can guarantee that you’d find me to be an infinitely more pleasant person now than you would have if that crucial change in my life had not taken place.
If I believed that I was not accountable to anything higher than myself, and that I could determine right and wrong for myself, it would not have had a positive effect on my character. Indeed, with human nature being what it is, such beliefs could hardly have positive effects on anyone’s character.
When a person truly encounters their Creator, they’re not just joining a “religion.” They’re getting started on a journey that will change them radically, and for the better. Anything they placed above God will be put into its proper place, or it will taken away altogether – and it will no longer be needed or wanted. What they leave behind may be addiction and crime, or hopelessness and lack of purpose, or simply selfishness and complacency. Whatever it is, and however slowly it may go away, the ultimate difference between their old and new selves will be clear, undeniable and not subject to any natural explanation. Such people, though still human and imperfect, will simply not fit the “hypocrite” stereotype.
In contrast, there are people who say they walked away from “religion” and became atheists. Inevitably, what they left was indeed just “religion” – shallow and empty, with no real connection to God. It’s the same thing, actually, that many people leave behind when they truly encounter their Creator.
A person who has gone from “religion” to atheism has merely exchanged one set of personal beliefs for another. The only advantage of the latter is that it suits their personal preferences, leaving them convinced that they can have their own way with no real consequences. And that’s not a real advantage at all.
Atheism, perhaps more than anything else in the world, makes promises that it utterly fails to deliver on. Its proponents speak of fulfillment and peace, knowledge and rationality, and much more; but none of these are to be found beneath its surface.
The rejection of God always leads to damage; and the farther it is taken toward its logical conclusions, the more damage it does. A government without God inevitably becomes oppressive. An individual without God will be enslaved by whatever they bow down to instead – addiction, corrupt sexuality, or merely self-interest that negates any concern for a greater good – while believing themselves to be free.
Actions speak louder than words; and the actions that come from godlessness speak much louder than all the nice-sounding words that are used to promote it. These actions often say something like this: “Go ahead and do whatever you want, as long as it doesn’t get in our way. Don’t worry about consequences. And if we can get something we want out of you, so much the better. What happens to you in the end is not our concern.”
Many a person ends up finally seeing that the godless world – in spite of its promises and its superficial appeal – is actually dark, cold and uncaring; and that it is the real home of hypocrisy, judgment, self-righteousness and the desire to control others. And many, having been chewed up and spit out by this world, find that the hated Christians are the only ones there to pick them up afterwards.
Christians are often called “arrogant” for claiming to have knowledge of God. But real knowledge of God is always humbling. And the real arrogance is in pretending, in the face of all creation, that there is nothing higher than oneself.
Christians are often called “irrational” for believing in a Creator. But such belief isn’t some bizarre or mystical thing. God is real, the history given in the Bible is factual, and acknowledging the Creator is, ultimately, as civilized and rational as anything can be. Anyone can see for themselves if they are willing to.
God is not interested in shallow religion, just like many people aren’t. But he is always drawn to a heart that honestly and humbly seeks him, and is willing to be changed by him.
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.