We’ve heard it said so often that it has become utterly vacuous: “Christianity is for everyone!” “Everyone is welcome!” “Come just as you are!” That’s the way it works with well-worn phrases and catchy sentences. Remove them from their original contexts that gave them precision, repeat them year after year, and they become empty vessels to be filled with meanings subtly or even dramatically different from their original import. Spoken in a culture that celebrates tolerance above virtue, that prefers feeling good to being good, and that favors image over reality, the expression, “Christianity is for everyone,” will be interpreted to mean “Everyone is okay just the way they are.” So, in this post I want to say, “No, my friends, Christianity is not for everyone.”
Christianity is not for the proud, those who will not admit that they are weak and dependent beings, mortal and needy and empty. It’s not for the unrepentant. If you intend to pursue a life of lust or greed or cruelty, if you don’t need forgiveness or renewal, if you are well and don’t need a doctor, Christianity is not for you. If you have no love for God or human beings, if you have no interest in prayer or acts of mercy, if you have no desire to worship God or serve humanity, you won’t find Christianity appealing. It’s not for the satisfied. If you are completely content with the world, if you have no ambition beyond physical pleasure, wealth, possessions, and fame, Christianity aims too high for you. So, I say it again, “No, my friends, Christianity is not for everyone.”
Christianity is for the weak and broken. It’s for those who know they are dying and need healing, mercy, and grace. Christianity is for the humble, for those who morn their sins and long for a pure heart and a clean conscience. Christianity is for those who thirst for God, for those who long for a glimpse of glory. It is for those not satisfied with what the world has to offer, for those compelled to aim higher. It’s for those for whom “the good life” is not good enough and only eternal life will do. I must say it yet again, “No, my friends, Christianity is not for everyone.”
What do these thoughts have to do with apologetics or a defense of Christianity? Much, I think, much indeed. Why should anyone be interested in a “Christianity” that offers nothing but bland assurances that we are fine just the way we are? How can you argue for Christianity’s truth about other matters if it doesn’t even tell you the truth about the human condition? Who needs a doctor that won’t tell you the truth about your illness because he lacks the skill to heal you! True Christianity pierces down to the heart of the human problem: we are finite, mortal, imperfect, corrupt, ignorant, blind, selfish, and unhappy beings. Christianity speaks the harsh truth about what we are, who we’ve become, and where we stand. And the remedy it offers is just as radical as the diagnoses it makes. We need forgiving, recreating, and resurrecting. We have to change, die, and become new people. Who can renew and perfect the creation? Who can forgive sin and overcome its power? Who can save from the annihilation of death? Who can cleanse the conscience of its guilt and empower the will to choose the good? Who can fill the human heart with faith, hope, and love? God and God alone can accomplish these things.
Christianity is not cheap like water but costly like blood. It offers not pleasant reassurances but disturbing truths. It aims not to anesthetize the conscience but cleanse it. It tells us what we know deep in our hearts: we are not okay just the way we are. No, my friends, Christianity is not for everyone.
Far too often, our modern churches fail to distinguish the true propositions “God loves you, even as you are now” and “Salvation is offered to all, no matter the current state of a person” with the Romanticized idea that you are “fine just the way you are now.” I think a helpful parallel here can be drawn to marriage—when you marry another person, it is uncompromisingly true that you love them even as they are. However, it would be tragic to tell the other person that they are “fine” just the way they are; to do so would be to deny the potential for and process of growth that each person has in store for them over the course of their lives. To expect and even call the other person to change and grow is itself an outgrowth of the same love that one has for them as they are now. So too is it with God towards us, His beloved creatures.
With this illustration in place, it doesn’t surprise me that new believers are approaching the Christian faith with the misconception that it gives them license to remain simply “just as they are.” For what is it that American culture primarily seeks after in romantic relationships? Momentarily bracketing sexual intimacy, our culture emphatically prioritizes the requirement that one’s romantic partner thinks one is perfect “just the way one is now” (Tim Keller’s “The Meaning of Marriage” exposes this lie of our culture in great detail). But if one’s romantic partner loves simply for the way one is, what will happen one or two years down the line when each of the lovers inevitably changes? No wonder the nation’s divorce rate is 50%, with the majority of divorces happening within the first two years. The former spouses loved each other only as they were at the time of courtship and marriage, but not also for who they would surely become.
This topic brings to mind one of my favourite hymns of all time, “Just as I am.” But notice what the end refrain of each verse *doesn’t* say—the hymn does not read “Just as I am… I remain.” Rather, the powerful last line is “O Lamb of God, I come.” He loves us just as we are, and because of that, we do not *remain* as we are—we go to Him.
Sometimes we act a bit too solicitous in recommending Christianity. We treat it like damaged goods we have to sell at deeply discounted prices. We think we need to throw in some extra accessories to sweeten the deal. And we feel like losers when others walk away. But if Christianity is true those who walk away are missing out.
Reblogged this on St. Peter's Anglican Church, Frankfort KY Rector's Blog and commented:
Here is some counter-cultural food for thought from Ron Highfield.