It’s not called The Facts of the Apostles…
If Christians want to gain any kind of hearing in the public space, I suspect that it will only come through becoming unreasonable. I don’t mean in the mean-spirited kind of “defending of our rights” that produces angry bumper stickers. I mean unreasonable in the sense that people shake their heads and go, “Huh?”
For that to happen, many of us have to change our approach to public faith. We’re going to need to focus more on being behavers than believers.
Many people dismiss our facts of faith because, frankly, what we believe doctrinally really doesn’t amount to much. For all that we may give ideological assent to, we’re little different in how we live than those with other or no faith. The Christianity we espouse is more Rotary Club than Risen King. A nice addition, maybe, but hardly life-changing.
Our true acts of faith might be harder to ignore. Members of the religion-mocking Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster may claim to be as serious in their devotion as Christians (and adherents of other ways). Yet, I don’t believe there are many who have sold or mortgaged homes to follow their beliefs into action.
However, I have met Christians who—following in the footsteps of Jesus—have left their comfortable lives to serve among the poor. Today they are helping provide free medical care, building homes, or running schools and orphanages.
During the ten years I ran a missions organization’s news bureau, no secular outlet cared much about the movement’s statement of faith. But many were keen to hear stories of people putting their faith into question-prompting action, asking, “Why would someone do that?”
It’s worth noting that the book in the Bible telling of the birth and growth of the early church is called The Acts of the Apostles, not The Facts of the Apostles.
Of course, Jesus could discuss doctrine quite well. But He seemed to know that acts are more powerful than facts. Remember when Cousin John, languishing in prison, sent a couple of his disciples to double-check that Jesus really was the one he had been prophesying about. Jesus didn’t send the messengers back with Old Testament scrolls annotated with asterisks and “That’s Me!” comments and smiley faces in the margin.
Instead, He told them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Matt. 11:4). Acts, not facts. Behavior, not mere belief.
I’m not saying we all need to sell our homes and go somewhere else. As someone once said, being a missionary is about seeing the cross, not crossing the sea. But, sadly, too many of us who can quote the Great Commission have made it more like a blessing-bonus we get for signing others up, than a call to an unreasonable life, one that makes people go, “Huh? Why would they…?”
More Amway than Yahweh, if you will.
If all this is starting to sound a bit like a self-righteous rant, know that the dissatisfaction begins at home. I am no latter-day Martin Luther. What concerned this writer most at the weekend was not the latest ISIS atrocities, nor human trafficking, but the way his Keurig was malfunctioning.
Lord have mercy.
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