Last year on a plane, I sat next to a young man (we’ll call him Tim). We started talking about Christianity and church. “I am really turned off on church,” he said. “I overheard some of my parents’ church friends talking about political issues related to gay marriage and immigration in really hateful terms. I thought, ‘If that’s what it means to be a Christian, I don’t want it.’”
I had to agree with him. Who would be drawn to Jesus by that kind of rhetoric? Talking too soon—or too strongly—about our views on immigration, refugees, abortion, gay marriage, the role of women in spiritual leadership, or our political affiliation as Democrats or Republicans, can easily shut the door on the Gospel of Jesus and His Kingdom.
Let me clarify: I’m not saying that having opinions on various issues is unimportant. But, when we bring those opinions into conversations with not-yet-believing people, we can encumber the Gospel. Like Tim, our friends may equate our opinions with the teachings of Jesus. We load the Gospel with unnecessary shackles. A person’s eternal destiny is related to their posture in terms of Jesus . . . period. It’s not Jesus-plus-anything-else, even some biblical opinions that we hold dear.
Whenever a relationship with Jesus becomes associated with certain political views or moral opinions (however biblical or unbiblical they may be), it adds things to the Gospel that are unnecessary for salvation—and in so doing, we can create unnecessary stumbling stones for people who might otherwise investigate Jesus.
The apostle Paul knew that there were all kinds of messages and wisdom that he could have brought to the people he aimed to reach for Christ. But he knew that the message of the cross is the right place for people to stumble. Paul wanted to make sure the people he was trying to reach were not stumbling on anything else.
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God . . . but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God . . . For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling” (1 Corinthians 1:18, 23,24, 2:3,4, NIV).
As we lay out the message of the Gospel through word and deed over time, we do well to keep our message strictly focused on Jesus and the Good News that flows from a relationship with Him, His reign as King, and His death, burial, and resurrection.
That’s what I told my friend Tim. I encouraged him to evaluate Christianity on the basis of who Jesus is and what the Bible says, not on the imperfect lives of His imperfect followers. But it hurt to have to say it.
Are there issues or political opinions that you have made more important than Jesus and Him crucified? Are there some not-yet-believing friends who need to see Jesus as He truly is, rather than through the filter of politics?