I’m a people watcher. So while my kids were finishing off their dinner, I was watching the people in the restaurant. There was the guy who appeared to be sharing a meal with his kids before returning them to their mother. There was the extremely thin waitress. And the extremely fit cook in the back who looked like he was counting down the hours until the days third workout.
Suddenly, they all started to look at us. At least that’s how it felt for a second. They were really looking out the window behind me at a group of kids who had just showed up in the parking lot and weren’t exactly looking for something to eat. It seemed serious because all of the mangers were scurrying around like managers do in such situations.
When I got up to pay for our meal, I asked the girl at the cash register what was going on. She told me that the kids outside were waving flags from the back of a truck and yelling mean things at people. And she told me that an employee of the restaurant had gone out to confront the aspiring hoodlums. That employee from the restaurant was not Captain Workout, the buff cook in the back. It was the waitress. The extremely thin waitress.
I’m all for working out and being in shape. And while I’ve never been mistaken for a world class weightlifter, I have no problem with people who are. But what, if I may ask, is the point of being in good shape if all you do is look in a mirror when your muscles are needed most? There’s nothing healthy about keeping your good health to yourself and your mirror.
Faith works the same way.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James 1:22 (ESV)
What is the point of hearing a great sermon if it doesn’t play out in the way you treat your family? What good is believing all of the right things if those beliefs don’t impact the way you talk to your kid’s little league coach?
The world needs religion. Now you certainly won’t hear that on the news. Many church leaders would even disagree with such a notion. They like to remind us that faith in Christ is more about a relationship than a religion. While there are some truths to that, we must consider which religion we are talking about.
For example, Christianity is worlds away from Isalm.
And Christianity is also completely different from Mormonism.
Those two statements will get you a lot of Amens in this Sunday’s worship service but here’s one that might not.
Christianity is completely different from going to church.
Speaking in general terms, belief is what separates Christianity from religions like Islam and Mormonism. Sure, it all plays out in the actions but it starts with belief. The religions do not believe in the same God. But it’s the actions that separate Christianity from simply going to church. A church goer deceives himself into thinking that simply believing in the right God is enough. A true Christian’s beliefs catapult him into action, not to earn salvation but as a result of salvation.
Several years ago, Matthew Paris got a lot of attention. He wrote in the Times of London that, “Missionaries, not aid money, are the solution to Africa’s biggest problem.” That may not sound like a statement all that worthy of attention until you understand something about Matthew Paris. He’s an atheist. He continued, “As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God.”
This atheist realized something that many in the Church do not. The world needs religion. But not just any religion. Mormonism and Islam will do the world no good. And neither will the religion of church-goers who do not act on what they claim to believe.
The world needs pure and undefiled religion. The world needs Christianity.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27 (ESV)
A few days ago a man was crossing a busy intersection in China on a scooter. He didn’t make it. The automobile that hit him threw his body several feet into the middle of the busy four way crossing. For several minutes no one did anything. Pedestrians walked by. Busses drove around him. The man was ignored. While this is tragic, it should not surprise us. Such actions are consistent with the state religion of China, atheism, which teaches that we are all victims of chance and only the fittest win.
Christianity is different. Christianity recognizes that belief alone will do nothing for that man. True Christianity acts out belief. True Christianity stops traffic to help that man.
Fake Christianity just keeps on driving, believing that God will take care of the poor fellow in the street.
“Which one of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go and do likewise.” Luke 10:36-37 (ESV)