Read Matthew 23
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27)
What is the aim of Christianity? A common answer for this question is that “the aim of Christianity is to bring people to Christ.” But what does that mean? When one digs deep enough, one usually finds that to “bring people to Christ” usually translates to “converting” them to Christianity. When John Wesley was sent to the colony of Georgia, he had the goal of converting the natives to Christianity. On his way over, his confidence was shaken by a series of storms that nearly costed him his life. During the storms he realized that he was still afraid to die, which made him question how much he truly believed in Christ.
Still, he moved forward and entered Georgia with a renewed confidence that he could “convert” the natives. But, as everyone knows, nothing works out as planned. He was never able to convince the natives that Christianity was anything worth “converting” to. During his stay in Georgia, he managed to fall in love with a woman, who happened to be the chief magistrate’s daughter, only to fumble the relationship with her, angering her prominent family in the process. Eventually he ended up leaving Georgia and returned back to England with even more doubt clouding his mind.
On his way back, John had much to reflect on. He couldn’t help but see his entire venture in Georgia as a failure. His initial goal of converting the natives was a complete failure and, to top things off, he had botched his entire ministry over a love affair gone bad. Wesley went on to write, “I went to America, to convert the Indians; but oh! who shall convert me? [Who] is he that will deliver me from this evil heart of mischief?”
Of course, John Wesley did go on to find faith, and the Holy Spirit, in his life. The rest is history. He went on to lead one of the most influential Christian movements of his day, a movement that sought to not only preach the Gospel, but to live it out. For John Wesley, following Christ was no longer about “converting” people to Christianity, but about connecting people to the grace of God.
Jesus, himself, clearly had something against placing the focus on religion. Everything Jesus did pointed to God, not to his “religion”. Jesus harshly criticized those who forgot their identity in God, all the while over-emphasizing their identity in their religion. For Jesus, the focus should be on God, and on the character of God. Those who centered their faith on God would bear the fruit of such a faith. Those who did not would bear the fruit contrary to the character of God.
While Christianity has often claimed to know “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), it has often failed to bear the fruit of that. Let us not cross land and sea to make converts to Christianity, only to turn the converts into children of hell; rather, let us be reminded of Jesus’ harsh words and strive toward something more. Let us, by the grace of God, strive to bring hope, healing and wholeness into the lives of those who need it. Rather than reflecting our religion, let us be reflectors of God’s unconditional grace, the very grace that has been given freely to us. That is what we are called to do.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.” – G K Chesterton
Lord, I desire to be a reflection of your grace and I strive to live out my faith. Use me in such ways as brings honor to you. Amen.