The Western church is embarrassed by the Gospel. How do we know this? Just look at what’s left out of our preaching:
· CREATIONISM: It is not politically correct to teach creationism as opposed to evolution. This might make us look narrow and anti-science.
· SEXUAL SIN: The pastor doesn’t want to be accused of “hate speech” and drive potential members and supporters away from the church.
· THE WORLD’S LOVE OF THE DARKNESS: Instead, the church seems to be preaching friendship with the world.
· HELL: The church knows that this doctrine is held in contempt.
· THE EXCLUSIVITY OF CHRIST: It is regarded as judgmental to claim that salvation is only available through Christ.
· LOVING THE BRETHREN
There are also other doctrines that are an embarrassment. However, I just want to focus on “loving the brethren” even before we love others:
· So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and ESPECIALLY to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:10; ESV)
I have found that this doctrine of preferring-the-brethren is even offensive to the church. I was banned from one conservative church website because I argued that the church should prefer Christian refugees over Muslims.
Why the disdain? Because it has become politically incorrect to favor brethren, our neighbors, or our nation over others! However, favoritism is essential to love. If I am going to optimally love my neighbor, I must start by loving my own wife and children over his. To not do so is to cause conflict. To do so is to mobilize my entire family for the cause of love.
The same principle applies to the church. To optimally love the world is to first love our own brethren. Likewise, Jesus emphasized loving one another:
· A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
When the world sees our love for one another, they will know that we serve the truth. This is why Jesus prayed:
· “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:20-23)
The best way to love the world is to show them the reality of Jesus. How do we do this? By showing them our love for one another – our unity, our oneness! However, we fail to do this when we are silent about our persecuted brethren. For the most part, the churches remain silent regarding the fact that we are not extending ourselves out for our vulnerable brethren, those who have experienced genocide, kidnappings, and sex slavery.
About this travesty, Robert Spencer has written:
· Obama admits 12,587 Syrian refugees: 12,486 Muslims, 68 Christians, 24 Yazidis. This is social engineering, not a genuine response to a refugee crisis. Ten percent of Syria was Christian before the war, and the Christians have been particularly brutalized, often by Obama-backed jihad groups. The refugee population should thus be at least 10% Christian. Instead, Christians accounted for less than one percent of the refugees admitted into the U.S.
Meanwhile, our churches argue that they do not want to take stands that will jeopardize what is most central to our calling – evangelism. However, the church was largely silent as Hitler rose to power. Did this silence advance evangelism? Hardly! Instead, it caused seekers to reject the church, as one publication had written:
· “European Christianity failed to prevent the mass slaughter between the faithful in the Great War and actually contributed to World War II, insofar as conservative churches supported fascism. The failure of the churches to provide sound moral guidance may help to explain the [European] Continent’s postwar lack of enthusiasm of religion.” (“The Big Religion Questions Finally Solved,” Free Inquiry, Jan. 2009, 29)
The church proved to be irrelevant. Perhaps even worse than proving itself irrelevant to the secularists, it also seems to have proven itself irrelevant to our youth, as Barna.org suggests:
· Nearly six in ten (59%) of these young people who grow up in Christian churches end up walking away from either their faith or from the institutional church at some point in their first decade of adult life. Second, the unchurched segment among Millennials has increased in the last decade, from 44% to 52%, mirroring a larger cultural trend away from churchgoing among the nation’s population. Third, when asked what has helped their faith grow, “church” does not make even the top 10 factors. Instead, the most common drivers of spiritual growth, as identified by Millennials themselves, are prayer, family and friends, the Bible, having children, and their relationship with Jesus.
Our youth need to be shown that Christ matters, and we must take them by the hand and show them how.
Meanwhile, some have argued that the persecution of our brethren is not central to the Gospel. According to Martin Luther King’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail,” this was how the southern white churches justified their absence from the Civil Rights movement”:
· “In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churches stand on the sideline and merely mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard so many ministers say, ‘Those are social issues with which the gospel has no real concern.’”
Were civil rights and the equality of Blacks, especially our Black brethren, not a matter of the Gospel? In contrast to these churches, Jesus had a broader understanding of the Gospel:
· “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these [“My brothers”; verse 40] will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:41-46)
Perhaps Jesus will also hold us to account for our silence in regards to the oppression of our brethren. How then can we not cry out for our degraded and persecuted brothers? We must! To not do so is to discredit the Gospel and to ammunition to those who claim that the Gospel is irrelevant.
We must not take refuge in ignorance nor close our ears to the cries of our brethren:
· If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work? (Proverbs 24:12)