When the Church Strays From the Great Commission
Two stories in the news of late have really left a bad taste in my mouth. The first involves a radical Baptist church in Kansas who protested the actor, Heath Ledger’s memorial service with signs claiming he had died and is in Hell because he played a gay character in “Brokeback Mountain.” The Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka is also known for picketing the funerals of soldiers who perished in Iraq. The second story involves Christian groups who gathered for a demonstration and prayer vigil outside the headquarters of ESPN over their disapproval with how the television network has responded to the anti-Jesus remarks made recently by one of their anchorwomen.
These types of stories are not new to us but sadly occur all to frequently. Christians protesting in front of abortion clinics, boycotting Disney because they hold a “Gay Day” at their parks, boycotting movies such a The Last Temptation of Christ, The Da Vinci Code and many others, are just a few examples.
Why do these scenarios of the Church and/or Christian groups standing up for a belief they hold leave such a bad taste in my mouth? Because it is not what God called us to do. What did He call us to do? Matthew 28:18-20 sums it up very well –
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
He did not say to “go therefore and protest, boycott and denounce” but rather, “make disciples.” And how do you make disciples? One at a time.
While I firmly believe that the Church needs to stand up for principles and beliefs, picketing the funeral of an actor who was not even gay in the first place but rather played a gay part in a movie is not an effective way to stand up for principles. If anything, it places us in a bad light, painting the picture that the church hates gay people and probably does more to turn people away than to draw them in.
Listen, if we were to protest and boycott everything that we label as sin, we’d have to come out of the world. Eventually each Christian will (promise of resurrection) , however in the meantime we have to live here and while living here, obey God’s command to “make disciples.” Paul the Apostle summed up what our attitude is to be towards the world very nicely in I Coritnhians 5:9-13 –
I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler -not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. (emphasis mine)
The Church is not going to make change and impact in people’s lives by protesting the things the world does. Rather change is going to be made on the inside of individuals, one at a time. You’ve heard the saying, “God works from the inside out.” This has always been the method of changing individuals and even societies – the make disciples – the preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to men, women and children and allow the work of an almighty God change their hearts.
We need to stop protesting sinners for being sinners. That is what they do. That is what we did before we came to Christ. So to protest, picket and boycott people and organizations for doing what they are already designed by our sinful nature to do, is such an unproductive use of the little time we have here on Earth.
If you the reader have participated in such practices in the past, think deeply as to whether you really brought about any change. I, myself have been the participant of boycotts and protests and cannot think of one time where my actions had any positive impact. People still see the movies, plays and television shows. Actors will continue to play controversial roles. Abortions will continue to be conducted. Disney still holds gay days. And the list goes on.
Where I have seen positive impact is when I befriend a person or family that does not know Christ and in that “relationship” present the good news that Jesus Christ died for their sins and that if they repent and place their trust and faith in Him as Savior and Lord, they can be saved. I’ve seen drug addicts break free of their addictions and live sober lives. I’ve seen dysfunctional families become functional and healthy. I’ve seen thieves learn that they do not need to steal. I’ve even seen gay people turn their lives around and live heterosexual lives.
These changes were not accomplished by picketing, protesting, boycotting and the like, but rather by going out into all the world and making disciples of Christ – in other words preaching the good news in love to compel people to come in and then training them to follow Christ.