Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Who Are REAL Christians?

I have known many zealous people who thrust their beliefs at others so forcefully the only reaction is to recoil. Many of these enthusiastic people are Christian, whether Baptist, Catholic, Mormon, or some other denomination, it doesn't matter. They all seem to have the same misguided passion.

I am sure I have had my moments of uncharitable zeal. I understand where it comes from. It is the product of deep, passionate beliefs and frustration in our unbelieving peers.

I mean, sometimes don't you just want to grab people and shake them and beat them over the head with the scriptures until they see it your way?

I bring this up because I have a certain friend who seems intent on offending everyone she knows in the name of "religious freedom" and "freedom of speech". She has been accused of being arrogant, self-righteous, judgemental, and hypocritical.

She calmly responds with something like "I am sorry you feel that way but I will not apologize for my belief that you are going to hell. But I still want us to be friends. Unless you are too offended by my condemnation of you. I am just being a good Christian."

Yeah. She is one of those people I would like to shake some sense into!

We Mormons are accused of not reading the Bible and not being "real" Christians all the time. It drives me crazy! I try not to let it get to me, really, I do. But if my friend and people like her are examples of what a  "real" Christian is then I don't want to be one.

Here's why.

In the Book of Mormon, Alma, a prophet, teaches his son how to share ones beliefs. Alma 38:11-12 counsels "See that ye are not lifted up unto pride; yea, see that ye do not boast in your own wisdom, nor of your much strength. Use boldness, but not overbearance; and also see that ye bridle all your passions, that ye may be filled with love;..."

Beating someone over the head is not going to work. When we become overly passionate, we are no longer filled with love but other, more destructive emotions. How would a loving person share their beliefs?

Paul explained it very well. In 1 Corinthians 13 he said
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. 
Charity suffereth long, and is kind;
charity envieth not;
charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 
Doth not behave itself unseemly,
seeketh not her own,
is not easily provoked,
thinketh no evil; 
Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; 
Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 
Charity never faileth

What Paul is saying is that we have to be patient and loving as we share the Gospel. It is a more eloquent way of saying "You catch more flies with honey than vinegar."

We can try all kinds of tricks and schemes to attract people to our churches. Some might work, at least in the short term. But they will likely fail.

Charity never fails. When we have charity, we succeed. We NEVER fail when we are motivated by charity. Paul goes on to say "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." Could it be that the petty, fault-finding, self-important attitudes we so often nurture are childish? Are all the parties and bands and incentives just shallow gestures? Do our uncharitable actions  need to be put away?

What else do we know about charity? In Colossians 3:14 we learn that charity is "the bond of perfectness."

In 1 Corinthians 8:1 we learn that "charity edifieth".

We know that charity takes work. "add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity." (2 Peter 1:7) Our faith does not automatically bring us to charity. It is a progression that, unfortunately, few are willing to make.

Maybe the problem is that we misunderstand what "charity" means. Moroni explains in Moroni 7:47-48
But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. (empasis added)
Charity is loving others, ALL others, as Christ loves them. Would Christ tell a classmate he didn't want to play with them because they didn't believe in him? Would he tell atheist they were going to hell? Would he force anyone to believe in him?

How should a true follower of Christ show their faith?


Kristi said...

I agree that often Christians (even the real ones) become aggressive and prideful in our presentation of the gospel or details of God's truth. I think that our conversations would be evidence of my struggle with that. :) Every Christian still struggles with sin but that is not an excuse for rejecting truth. An offensive speaker is certainly less persuasive but the truth is true regardless. I would just add that the gospel is offensive and foolish to those who do not believe so discussing it can cause irritation no matter how loving the speaker. 1 Cor 1:18

Unknown said...

Yes, 'the wicked take the truth to be hard'. I think when we are filled with that pure love of Christ, when we are able to see them as he sees them and not as we see them, not only are we able to share the right things but they are able to hear them.

I think what irritates me most about my friend's attitude is that she seems to think other Christians are the only people entitled to considerate behavior.