I was searching the data base I use for something when I came across a note, I had made of three questions that I used a few years ago to help a church reflect both on their lives as disciples and their church. I can’t remember where I got the questions, I don’t think I wrote them but wherever they came from I want to share one of them with you because we really do need to ask ourselves this question.
Paul was able to say to those who knew him, “you should imitate me, just as I imitate Christ” 1 Cor 11:1 The question is can you and I say the same thing?
IS MY LIFE WORTH IMITATING?
Paul was inviting people who knew him all to well, to emulate him in how he lived his Christ following life.
Reflecting on the way you have been living your life over the past month I am going to ask you, to ask yourself “is my life worth imitating?”
Am I living a way of life that I can gladly and honestly invite others to share because it is beautiful and good?
Is the way I handle life, its hard times, as well as its good times, attractive and helpful to other people?
Do people see something in my following of Christ that makes them want the same thing in theirs?
I believe this is such an important question because of the way our culture in the West had changed. Something interesting has happened over the past twenty years or so. When I first stated as a pastor people would often tell me that they couldn’t accept Christianity because it was untrue ,a fairy-tale. I have noticed in recent years that the charge against Christianity has changed, Now I am most often told by old school friends on social media that they would never be a Christian because its evil. They talk about Christianity being intolerant, narrow minded, prejudiced, and responsible for war and conflict. If you listen to atheistic evangelists like Richard Dawkins this is the main attack they make on Christianity.
How do we answer them when they make this accusation ?
I’ve found in these conversations that it doesn’t matter if you confess the sins of the Crusade and Inquisition but point out that the number of deaths connected to those events pale into insignificance compared to the millions killed by atheistic regimes like the Soviet Union, Communist China, and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Even if you point out that the church was the first human body in world history to talk about the fundamental equality of the races and sexes (thanks to the Apostle Paul) and the biggest provider of healthcare to the poor in the world, it makes little impact.
So how do we make an impact on our “Post Christian” culture? How do we answer our critics who say that Christianity and Christians are a bad thing for the world? I think the way the first generations of Christians did in their pre Christian culture, by putting flesh to Peter’s advice.
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 1 Peter 2:12
Peter calls on us to live such “good lives” among those prejudiced against us that it will cause some of them to change their opinion and glorify God. The ultimate answer to those who is say our faith is evil is the quality of our lives.
Rodney Stark is a historian who has devoted much of his academic work to explaining the incredible impact that Christians made on the Roman Empire. This is especially remarkable as in the early centuries most of the church came from the lower classes of Roman society and had little power or influence because of their position. His basic conclusion is that individually and collectively these early believers simply lived out the Gospel and people were drawn to Christ because of the goodness of their lives. They lived lives worth imitating.
I have come to the conclusion that the most effective answer to those who say that Christians are bad for society is for us to live good lives, lives that embody and express the goodness of God. Lives that invite imitation, lives that draw others to follow Christ because of the way they see us following him.