As the flock of Jesus our Good Shepherd, this is a very important saying for us to consider. It is a saying that immediately addresses the nominal Christian, who might or might not participate in worship on a regular basis, but who almost completely disregards their professed faith in their day-to-day life throughout virtually every aspect of their life. For such a person as this, there is no evidence of the joy, inner peace and hope that comes from a day-to-day companionship with God, lived out through daily prayerful conversation with God relying on the power of God. In addition, there is little to no evidence of enthusiasm and passion for the gospel work of the Church. And this gospel work of the Church has three essential parts:
- Joyfully sharing with others the good news of the grace and truth of Christ
- Compassionately engaging in service and lovingkindness
- Courageously advocating for equality and human rights
However, the sad reality of nominal, cultural ‘Christianity’ is a hindrance to this essential and crucial gospel activity. And this is why Gandhi, criticizing the ‘Christianity’ of Twentieth Century European Colonialism, famously said, “I like your Christ, but I don’t like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” And this same comment by Gandhi can be said regarding the nominal, cultural ‘Christianity’ of many today.
On the other hand, actively committed Christians need to be careful of arrogance and egotism in response to the question “If it was illegal to be a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” When we are too quick to declare “I think there’s enough evidence to convict me of being a Christian,” then the truth is that we are probably blind to some significant un-Christian behavior in our life. When we think we’ve got it together on this, then we are probably ignoring very negative, un-Christian aspects of ourselves.
The great ancient philosopher Socrates called this the “unexamined life,” but the truly Christian life is a continually-self-examined life. And daily prayer is a powerful tool in developing a continually-self-examined Christian life. Also, we open ourselves up to the power of God to shape us into tenderhearted and kindhearted followers of Christ when we practice a personal prayer life that includes self-reflection and confession of sins to God throughout each day of the week. Furthermore, when we walk in close companionship with God through daily prayer, self-reflection and confession of sins to God, we become much more effective in doing the three-part gospel work highlighted above — the work of joyfully sharing the good news of Christ with others, of compassionately engaging in service and lovingkindness, and of courageously advocating for equality and human rights.
Furthermore, as we communicate with God in prayer each day, reflecting on our motivations and our actions, we become more humble, merciful and gentle toward one another and toward all people. More aware of our own sins through self-reflective prayer, we are less likely to engage in petty judgmentalism toward others. Instead, by the Spirit and power of God, we are shaped into Christian believers who are united with one another in the tender love of Christ just as the following Bible quotes express:
“As a prisoner of the Lord, therefore, I beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” – (The Holy Bible, Ephesians 4: 1-3)
“Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” – (The Holy Bible, Ephesians 4: 31-32)
If we want to be counted among those with enough evidence to be convicted of this hypothetical crime of being Christian, then we must bare our souls to God in prayer throughout our day (every single day), seeking God’s power to do the three-part work of the gospel each day in a spirit of self-examination, tenderheartedness and gentleness.
After all, everyone has inherent worth and dignity as children of God, because each of us is made in the spiritual “image” of God (The Holy Bible, Genesis 1: 26-27). As the old saying goes, “It takes all sorts.” And this is never truer than in regard to the gospel of Christ our Lord and the gospel work of his universal Church.
Yes, as the Apostle Paul always liked to emphasize about the Church of Jesus Christ, there is one body with many parts. And each part is uniquely gifted to do their part according to the will and good pleasure of our Savior and Lord.
One bread, one body,
One Lord of all;
One cup of blessing which we bless,
And we, though many,
Throughout the Earth,
We are one body in this one Lord.
Many the gifts,
Many the works,
One in the Lord of all.
(from “One Bread, One Body” by John Foley, 1939)
Together in Christ’s Mission, Pastor Tim