WE want our churches to grow. We want to se people saved. We want to see the world around us love our Savior too. We want our communities better to reflect the character of the Lord.
Few people would disagree with those thoughts. But many would find themselves at odds as to how to make it happen. In many a case, the theory for how a church can impact its world follows the lines of just being extra nice. It seems that many a pastor believes that, if the local church is just super-nice to the community, the people of the community will embrace the church and lots of people will be saved.
Of course, I have no opposition to Christian kindness. Nor do I have any problem with the church living peacefully with their neighbors and looking for the opportunity to share the gospel. But I wonder if we realize how the world reacts to Jesus. I wonder if we remember that, when Jesus was doing the greatest kindness, and when some believed, the world around him reacted with hate when the Savior challenged their sovereignty.
Matthew 12:22-24 – 22 Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.”
A man needed healing. Jesus, by his mighty power, cast out a demon and restored a man. Some people thought this was great. But others who saw blasphemed the Savior, accusing him of doing the very work of the devil.
Christians, I want us to understand that this is not an uncommon pattern in the world. The church can do wonderfully loving things for people. And people in fact will appreciate it. The Lord may use that opportunity, when the world is paying attention to us, when people are happy about what we have done, to make the people open to hearing the gospel. And so we should not neglect kindness and honest witness.
At the same time, the watching world that was challenged by Jesus had a different reaction. Those who felt their political position threatened by Jesus were not at all thrilled with the kindness of the Savior. They spoke out against Jesus. They accused him of being the hand of the devil. And with every step of influence the Savior gained, they plotted more and more against him.
Dear Christian friends, the church will not win the world by being extra nice. Now, as we live as Christians, we will naturally be kind and helpful, even in our communities. And it may be that the Lord uses that kindness to give us the opportunity to share the gospel with the lost. The kindness is worth it for two reasons: first, because it is honoring to the Lord, and second, because we do love those to whom we are kind and who we hope to have hear and respond to the gospel. So do not hear me suggesting that the church not live out kindness.
But, and this is what I think challenges the thinking of many churches today, the expressed kindness of God and the increasing influence of the church will also bring the church greater persecution and greater hatred from those who oppose the Lord. Many out there will accept our kindness quite well when we give them free food or throw a nice block party. But, the moment the church’s preaching challenges their freedom to live in rebellion against the Lord, the world will denounce that kindness as if it were a demonic attack.
So, what am I suggesting here? Churches need to be first and foremost faithful to the Lord. Yes, we also live as good neighbors and kind citizens in our communities. Perhaps some will do events that gain them a greater hearing in their towns and help the community realize that Christians are present. But do not think that you win the world with such events. God wins people’s souls when a genuine gospel is proclaimed. And when that happens, some are drawn by God to salvation. Others will respond in hatred, because they oppose Jesus and his ways.