“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” (Brennan Manning)
This is a fairly popular quote, and one that I’ve been thinking through a lot lately. Do I, by the way I live my daily life, reflect or reject the Jesus I believe in? It’s so common for the children of devout Christians to grow up and reject the faith they were raised in, and I’m definitely NOT pointing fingers at anyone, but I wonder how much the parents’ “devoutness” left a stale taste in their children’s mouths.
I firmly believe with all my heart that I am a sinner and have earned only judgment for myself, but that God in his infinite love and grace gave Jesus Christ as the perfect sacrifice on the cross so that I no longer bear the judgment I deserve. But if I expect those around me to always be godly and don’t ever give them grace to mess up, then I’m living totally contrary to what I claim to believe.
The reality is, a lot of atheists are really kind people (at least the ones I know are). And so if we claim to “Love God with all our heart & soul & strength & mind” and to “love our neighbor as ourselves,” but since we look just like them, they think “If he’s just like me, then Jesus really doesn’t make any difference!”
Here are a few Scripture verses I can think of which support what Brennan Manning is saying:
- Isaiah 29:13 – The Lord says, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”
- Matthew 5:44 & 46 – But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. … If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?
- James 2:16-17 & 19 – If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. … You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder.
Now a word of caution: There’s not one, single, definitive reason behind someone completely rejecting the existence of God. There are usually a number of factors that contribute to that person’s disbelief (hurtful family background; hurtful church experience; suffering or loss; lack of exposure to loving Christians; etc.).
“Therefore let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16).
- Do you receive grace from God while withholding grace from others?
- Do you fit in and conform to the people who surround you, or do you stand for Jesus?
- Do you shine for Jesus, or are you content to just talk about him?