What is your church known for?

Why does the world think Christians are bigots trying to impose their antiquated sense of morality on others? Many atheists equate fundamentalist Christians with the Islamic Taliban and accuse us of trying to drag the world back into the first century. Is this because Christians tend to be known more for what they are against then known for their grace?

We are known for being anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-drinking, anti-smoking, anti-gambling, anti-R-rated movies, anti-television violence, and anti-just about everything else that the world perceives is fun. The core message of Christianity is forgiveness, love, and acceptance. But too often our message seems to be one of unforgiveness, disagreement, rejection, and hate. Is this really what God wants the church to be known for?

The truth is that many Christians are saved by grace, but few live by grace. Instead of focusing on grace and forgiveness, the church often preaches the Law. We try to put the Ten Commandments up in schools and courthouses. We try to “impose morality” on others. Instead of offering the love of Christ, we bash people over the head with our Bibles.

Stop enforcing morality, start communicating God’s grace.

Is it a feasible project to attempt to impose our Christian morality on an immoral world? Can we force someone to do what is right? Can we force peoples’ hearts to change by forcing them to do what is right? Should we try to impose standards on others that we cannot even uphold ourselves?

Recently in the news, I heard of a politician who resigned from office because he had an affair with one of his staff. The ironic thing is that this particular politician was known for his emphasis on passing laws to promote abstinence.

No matter how “good” people are, without Jesus they are headed to hell. So, trying to force people to be “good” doesn’t change their eternal destiny. Only a relationship with Jesus can change people. Jesus did not come to earth to make bad people good, He came to make dead people alive.

Trying to force someone to keep the Ten Commandments might make them look “good” on the outside, but it does not change them on the inside. The only way to effectively and eternally change people is from the inside out. So, instead of preaching on the Ten Commandments, we should preach about Jesus.

The world will never find forgiveness in two pieces of stone. We are not called to be moral people; we are called to be Jesus people. Our focus should be on Jesus, not on religious rules. Jesus never told his disciples to “follow my rules”—He told them, “Follow me.”

Don’t tell people what is wrong with them, tell people what is right for them because of what Jesus accomplished on the cross. Some might protest, “But if we don’t focus on teaching people to do right, then people will live worldly lives.” Really? Then why, despite all the church’s screaming and teaching about right and wrong, do people still live worldly lives? Really.

The truth is that the only way for a person to live a godly life is through the power that comes from knowing Jesus as a personal Lord and Savior.

According to Jesus, “If you have been forgiven much, you will love God much.” The more you love God, the more you will want to do what is right. As soon as you realize that you have been forgiven everything, you will want to love God with all your heart. Being aware of how much you have been forgiven will not cause you to go out and sin more, instead it will motivate you to glorify God more with your life.

The church is most effective when it reveals God’s grace. We must show grace to the world. Gordon MacDonald said, “The world can do anything the church can do except one thing: it cannot show grace.”

The great evangelist D. L. Moody once said, “Of one hundred men, one will read the Bible; the ninety-nine will read the Christian.” Jesus revealed how the world will recognize the believer, By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

What are you known for? To your family? In your neighborhood? In your ministry? Are people getting a good look at Jesus when they take a look at you?

The new commandment that Jesus wants us to keep is to love one another. But not to love one another in any way of our choosing, but in this manner: “love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). How did Christ love you? “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

May His saints celebrate that grace till the knowledge of it fills the whole earth.

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