NOTE: It’s easy – and valid – to attribute one’s refusal to profess faith in Christ to the hypocrisy and faithlessness of those who actually profess that faith. But, that excuse won’t hold up in Final Court. Please stay with me to the end of this blog.
The 18th century German philosopher and atheist, Friedrich Nietzsche, once offered this stinging statement about believers:
“I would believe in their Savior if they acted more like they had been saved.”
Beloved pastor/author, Chuck Swindoll, a number of years ago, offered a similar statement:
“I am a Christian. But if I were not, the one thing that would keep me from becoming one is the words and actions of Christians toward one another.”
Modern-day prophet, singer/songwriter, Keith Green (died in a plane crash in 1982), bluntly wrote in his biography, “Before coming to Christ (as an adult), the thing that kept me from becoming a Christian was Christians.”
The late Brennan Manning once summed it up for us:
“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. This is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
Sure, the seeming endless hypocrisy of Christians can serve as a major roadblock to a non-believer. “If my Christian friend cares so little about taking his/her faith seriously,” they think to themselves, “why on earth would I want what they have?”
But this conundrum involving the tension between professed faith and applied faith is nothing new – it’s existed since Genesis.
Adam & Eve walked with God daily. And they still told him, in essence, to shove off.
Further, consider the Palestinian people in the early 1st century: they knew personally who Jesus was, and saw with their own eyes what he did, and heard him teach (this includes Jesus’ own family for crying out loud!). While we’re removed 20 centuries, they had a front-row seat and still rejected him.
I think of biblical “heroes of the faith” who, fully knowing (as much as humanly possible) who God was, still balked. Moses offered God 5 different excuses to pass on God’s command to lead Israel out of Egyptian bondage and into the Promised Land. Jonah… well you know how that turned out. David, a “man after God’s own heart” chose adultery and conspiracy to murder. Paul, author of most of the New Testament did his best to describe his relentless “spirit vs. flesh” battle in Romans 7.
One of my favorite authors, Philip Yancey, writes in an uncomfortably honest style. In his award-winning book, The Jesus I Never Knew, Yancey confesses,
“Jesus’ most devoted followers usually come off as scratching their heads in wonderment, i.e. Who is this guy??, more baffled than anything else… I have placed myself on the edges of the crowd in Jesus’ day as a sincere seeker captivated by the Rabbi but reluctant to follow him…. Would Jesus have won me over? Much as I wish, I cannot easily answer that question.”
All of this said, we’re no different today than we’ve been since the beginning of human existence.
It is entirely possible that some people “talking the talk but not walking the walk” never truly professed their faith in Christ. However, as evidenced by the examples above, it’s entirely possible that they did.
Can a person make the choice to reject faith in Christ because of the inconsistent way some believers are living their lives? Of course.
But make no mistake – when I (we) stand before Christ I will not be on trial for what others have done with him. Just me.
Soli Deo Gloria, Nick