Please note: This essay has taken me three months to write, and much prayer and study has gone into it. Thanks to my dear friend, EE, (you know who you are!) for helping me to think through this and to edit it.
We’ve all seen the memes on the internet called “You Only Had One Job”. A sign is misspelled; a product is mislabeled or misshelved; laughter ensues. How could anyone bungle a job so badly? One hopes the mistake was a one-off and that the hapless employee learned from it and never made the same error again.
What a tragedy when an entire group of people, who have only One Job, consistently make the same mistakes over a period of two thousand years. Body of Christ, we only have One Job! How can we have bungled it so badly?
Perhaps we as the Body of Christ have not understood our One Job properly. What is this singular task we have been given by our Head? Jesus instructed us to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV) And again, He adjured us: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 ESV) So we are to make disciples (followers of Christ) by being witnesses to all the world, and then to teach those believers everything Jesus commanded us to do. And that’s all. (Please note that this essay addresses only our relationships with unbelievers. Our relationships within the Body are also based on love, but also mutual accountability, and are a discussion for another essay.)
We are to be witnesses, testifying about what we have seen and experienced. But all too often, I am afraid, we as a church have not been satisfied with staying in the witness stand and have placed ourselves in the jury box or even, God help us, have clothed ourselves in the Judges’ robes. Self-righteousness and a desire to control others have been the consistent errors which the church has committed over the centuries. Instead of wooing the world into the kingdom, we stand in condemnation of it and, with our arrogant attitudes, drive away the people God loves and desires. Instead of focusing on increasing the kingdom of heaven, we spend our efforts in trying to make earthly kingdoms look more like heaven.
Nowhere in the Great Commission, or in any of Christ’s teachings, is the church instructed to take control of governments or nations and legislate Christian behaviour. Nowhere are we told to show hatred or vent anger or disgust toward any individual or any group of people in any way; not through ugly picket signs, sarcastic Facebook memes, self-righteous diatribes, or systematic ostracization.
Beloved Body of Christ, our emphasis is too worldly and too selfish. We are not meant to make this world into a paradise where everyone acts like a believer and behaves themselves as we would like. That is NOT our Job. Forcing people to act as if they believed in Christ is worse than useless. Pushing people away from the door to the kingdom with our self-righteous attitude is the opposite of our Job. (Matthew 23:13: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”)
Trying to make this world a more comfortable place for us to live in is diametrically opposed to God’s plan. Believe me, no one has ever entered the kingdom of heaven because someone ranted against their lifestyle in a public forum. No one has ever repented of their behaviour because a stranger told them to. No one has turned to the truth of the Gospel because a friend or family member turned his back on him because of a decision made or a lifestyle chosen.
Remember, we are to be witnesses ONLY. Juries convict, judges pass sentence. Witnesses are only allowed to tell what they know of their personal experience. We are not allowed to condemn, and we are not allowed to try to bring others to conviction. Conviction of sin is the Holy Spirit’s job, because He is the only one who is able to do it. When we in our overweening pride try to take over the Spirit’s job, we drive people away from Him in droves!
And we are not policemen. It is not our Job to enforce God’s laws, and certainly not to hold others to those high standards. That authority is given to governments, not to the church. (I Peter 2: 13-17) We cannot ourselves live righteously even with the help of God Himself; how can we even imagine that nonbelievers can live holy lives without His help at all? It’s time to climb down off our high horses and follow our Lord’s example of riding humbly through this life on the back of a donkey’s colt.
So how exactly are we to do our One Job? Well, we need to stop using worldly tactics, for one thing. The world bullies, pushes, legislates, ostracizes, name-calls. But we are meant to be like Christ. And He told us quite clearly how we were to “make disciples” and “be witnesses”. “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbour as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39 ESV) We all know from the parable of the Good Samaritan that our neighbours are everyone—both those with whom we agree and those with whom we strongly and vehemently disagree. Notice that God says loving our neighbour is like loving Him. We must treat others as we would treat Jesus Himself.
Loving our neighbour as ourselves must include all the world, not just those who agree with us. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:43-45 ESV) If we are to love our enemies, aren’t we also to love those who are not our enemies but simply do not believe as we do? If we are to behave as children of our Father by loving others, we must do as He does: He gives good gifts to the righteous and the unrighteous (rain is a gift, by the way, necessary for life), and so must we. Providing for the needs and protection of widows and orphans, for the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, and the victims of violence, regardless of their personal beliefs and chosen lifestyle—that is our Job, Body of Christ. In this way we open the door to the Kingdom. Any other behaviour blocks the door and drives others away.
“For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:46-48 ESV) We are to be perfect as God is perfect. And what is the definition here of perfection? Loving our neighbours as ourselves, regardless of who they are.
How do we do this? Again, Christ has shown us the way. “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. “Matthew 7:12 ESV) This is called the Golden Rule for good reason: it is the essence of loving our neighbour. Do you want others to revile you, to cry insults at you because of your chosen way of life? Do you want to be publically condemned and ostracized? Then don’t behave this way. We are to act like Christ, and He did not publically condemn any unbelievers in His ministry on earth. The one and only group of people He criticized in public for their unrighteous behaviour were the religious leaders of His day — the believers who ought to have been God’s hands and heart on earth but were not doing their One Job.
Yes, Jesus condemned the self-righteous Pharisees and Sadducees, but how did He treat ordinary sinners? Let’s look at his treatment of Zacchaeus. We’ve turned him into a comic character in our Sunday School stories about him, but this wee little man was a criminal on a scale that would have some demanding his execution if he were in America today: a traitor, collaborating with the enemy, having turned his back on his own people and risen in the ranks of their oppressors so that he was directing other traitors as well; an extortionist who grew rich on the suffering of his neighbours. But when Jesus encountered this heinous miscreant, what did He do? He said, “Let’s have dinner.”
No wonder those who saw this exchange grumbled! But Jesus’ kindness won Zacchaeus into the kingdom as no amount of accusation would have done. It’s significant to note that there is no record of Jesus ever telling Zacchaeus that his way of life was wrong or wicked (although it was!). Jesus Himself allowed the Holy Spirit to do the work of conviction, while limiting his words and deeds to love. Working in collaboration with the Spirit of God is always best!
Another example is the sinful woman of Luke 7: 36-50. The Pharisees were scandalized that Jesus allowed this woman to touch Him. Jesus not only did not condemn her, He told the very religious man in whose house He was a guest, “You should be more like her.” And then and only then did He offer her salvation. Jesus taught us how to witness by His example on earth. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, even raised the dead, without asking the people He was helping whether they believed in Him. He only offered salvation AFTER He blessed them.
We cannot hope to bring the Gospel message to an unbelieving world through our words alone. We can only love people into the Kingdom of God through our deeds and our attitudes. We only have the right to speak into others’ lives when we’ve earned it through our loving actions.
Another false teaching in the church today is that we must make it clear to the world that we disagree with their lifestyles. No, dear Body of Christ, that is not in our Job description. Again, it is not for us to convict of sin—that is the Holy Spirit’s Job, and He does it quite well enough without our help. Here is our Job as Jesus described it: “And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.” (Matthew 10:7-8 ESV) In other words, help people, without strings attached. If they want to know our God, they will ask. They will not want to know our God if make ourselves obnoxious or show ourselves to be unloving. They will not be able to ask about our God if we are unapproachable.
The idea that we must make a stand against sin is certainly true—but Jesus’ example and the examples of the apostles show us that we are to stand against sin in our own lives and help our fellow believers live righteous lives—not unbelievers. Paul’s lists of behaviours that will block people from the Kingdom of Heaven are written to believers to warn them not to live that way anymore. They are not written to be used as bludgeons with which to beat unbelievers. Our lives within the Body of Christ have different rules with a different goal, and would take an entirely different essay to discuss.
This loud objecting to various behaviours of unbelievers makes Pharisees of us all. And to them, Jesus said, “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5 ESV) That log is self-righteousness, the only sin that Jesus saw fit to rail passionately against in His ministry on earth.
By carrying on publically about others’ unrighteousness, we pretend that our sins are not as repugnant and objectionable to God as everyone else’s. We may say that sin is sin, but we act and speak as if some sins are worse than others. Jesus says in Matthew 5:22 that God sees anger and insulting others as exactly the same as murder. He states that a love of money is a hatred of Him (Matthew 6:24 ESV). And here is Paul’s list of behaviours he declares are only exhibited by those who do not acknowledge God: “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.” (Romans 1:28-32 ESV)
If we have done any of these things, we have huge logs in our eyes which need dealing with! We certainly have no right to go about objecting to others’ specks, or even others’ logs. For myself, it’s all I can manage to try to live my life free of these behaviours—I certainly don’t have the time or energy to point out the wrongs of anyone else.
But most of these sins are not objected to in public forums by Christians. When is the last time you heard a believer rail against haughtiness, heartlessness or ruthlessness? How about gossiping? Jesus said, “I tell you, on the day of judgement people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36-37 ESV) Why does this not rule us every time we open our mouths to speak or sit down to comment on Facebook? Why does this not terrify us? How can we stand in condemnation of others when we have so much to answer for ourselves?
So our Job is love others with God’s own love, to bless them by providing for their needs as God does, and to treat them as we wish to be treated. The world is not ours to change or to rule. Other people are not ours that we should dictate their behaviour. We only have One Job, Body of Christ: we must love our neighbours as ourselves, and thus show them the true character of our God, Who “is good to all and has compassion on all He has made.” (Psalm 145:9 ESV)