One cause of apathy
Apathy among Christians is one of the greatest problems facing the church in the 21st century. Some Christians are apathetic to sharing the gospel, loving people, caring about society, and a whole laundry list of other things. While I believe there are many reasons for our apathy, it seems that there is one common denominator among those who are apathetic. We believe the lie that says, since we are only one person, we can’t have an impact on society.
We avoid doing the good works that God has planned for us, because we don’t believe anyone or anything will be changed based on what we do. Even though that completely contradicts the true meaning of faith… “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1 We do not see how anyone or anything will be changed, so we do not act. That is not faith!
There are times when people may tell you that you can’t accomplish something because you are only one person. That is only a partial truth. Yes, of course you are only one person, but the implication is that you cannot have any affect on society because you are only one person. Have we forgotten that we serve a might God?
Individuals from the past
William Wilberforce was only one man. Wilberforce opposed the slave trade while serving in Parliament during the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, when almost no one else around him supported abolition. He said, “So enormous, so dreadful, so irremediable did the [slave] trade’s wickedness appear that my own mind was completely made up for abolition. Let the consequences be what they would: I from this time determined that I would never rest until I had effected its abolition.” And he never rested until God did a mighty work through him by abolishing the slave trade.
When being commanded to go to Egypt, Moses responded to God’s commands with excuses. He said, “…Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” Exodus 3:11 In other words, Moses was saying that he couldn’t do what God wanted him to do on his own. In a sense, Moses was right. He couldn’t do it on his own. However, God could do it through him.
Esther was only one woman. Mary was only one woman. Noah was only one man. Abraham was only one man. David was only one man. Daniel was only one man. Paul was only one man. One man or one woman can accomplish great things if he or she is fully committed to his or her relationship with God. “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33
We have common ground
What did these biblical and historical men and women have in common? It’s what we all have in common. We were all created by an amazing, perfect God, who lavishly loves us. One man died on the cross for the sin of the world. Jesus did what no one else could do because he is God in the flesh. Jesus was obedient to his father in heaven and took the burden of sin upon himself for our gain. Do you know him as your lord and savior?
Trust in the mighty power of God in everything you do. Stop settling for a the status quo and start trusting in God’s greatness. Stop believing the lie that you are alone and can’t accomplish anything, and instead know that you serve a perfectly righteous and all powerful God. “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13
The Great Commission
We should only be spending our time sharing the gospel. Have you ever heard someone in church say this? Maybe it was a Pastor, or a friend, or even someone you don’t know. If so, what was your response? It seems that many Christians feel this way about life… all we should do is share the gospel. What does that mean, though?
There have been instances when I have told other believers about my passion for politics. Occasionally I am told that all we should be doing is sharing the gospel. When someone tells me that, it makes me wonder how they arrived at that conclusion. I wonder if they just don’t like politics or maybe they believe that the separation of church and state means something other than keeping the state out of the church.
The truth is that we should be spending our time sharing the gospel. In the Great Commission, Jesus commanded us to do so… “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
How we share the gospel
What does Jesus want us to do with the Great Commission? And what didn’t He want us to do with it? First of all, notice that the scripture in Matthew in this context is referred to as the ‘Great Commission’ and not the ‘Only Commission’. In this passage of scripture, Jesus did not limit us to only talking about the gospel. Think about what we would not be able to do, if that was so. We couldn’t sleep, eat, work, play, create, etc. Is that what He meant for us?
Does sharing the gospel mean that you have to give up everything else you do? Absolutely not! It means that you share the gospel right where you are, and in everything you do and say. God wants us to live our lives for Him, but He does not call us to stop living. Even the disciples kept on fishing after they met Jesus. They did not stop living their lives in order to share the gospel. They sacrificed and their lives changed, but they continued to sleep, eat, work and play. They shared the gospel by their words and actions in the things that they were already doing.
Yes, we are called to go. However, the ‘go’ is different for everyone. Some believers are called to go outside of the country to minister to an unbelieving world. And some believers are called to go to a different state or city. And some believers are called to go to their next door neighbors, or their co-workers, or anyone else they may know. We are all called to share the gospel, but we are not all called to reach the same people.
We have more than one mission
God wants us to share the gospel in everything we do, as opposed to quitting life in order to share the gospel. He clearly gave us more than one mission in life. God called us to look after others in need… “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27
The gospel is filled with scripture referencing many missions (Matthew 5:16, Matthew 7:12, Matthew 9:37–38) that God has planned for us. Yes, we should be sharing the gospel and it should be our highest priority as followers of Jesus. However, that means that we should be living and sharing the gospel in the things we do. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we need to stop doing the things we are doing.
Why are we so afraid to act?
I ran track for three years in high school. I was a long distance runner. I ran between 5 to 10 miles a day in practice and about 3 and a half miles per meet. Running long distance was exhausting to say the least. However, the hardest part about track for me was simply thinking about how difficult the run was going to be. The running aspect of track wasn’t even that bad. I had no real reason to dread running other than the fact that it made me a little tired to work so hard. All that was in my way was my own fear or lack of desire to run. I had some kind of fear that prevented me from experiencing the freedom of running the race without hesitation and without fear.
There are still times in my life when I experience that same kind of fear. That fear prevents me from experiencing good things God has for me. And there are times when that fear stops me from doing the good things that God wants me to do. It is at those times that praying to God helps relieve my fears. Although, at some point I must also realize the need to act. We disobey God when we don’t act when there is opportunity to do good to others. “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, “Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”— when you already have it with you.” ~ Proverbs 3:27-28
God desires action, not apathy
It seems easier for us to ignore the problems that show up in our lives. It seems more convenient for us to turn from the problem than it is to fix it. It is much easier to just give up. And we are so afraid sometimes that we decide not to act when there is opportunity to do good. We need to remember that God commanded us to be courageous. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” ~ Joshua 1:9
We need to face some hard truths as Christians. Too often we use prayer as a crutch for apathy. We say we will pray when we really just don’t care to act. Please don’t get me wrong. The power of prayer should not be underestimated. God answers prayer and works wonders through it. We should pray fervently to God, without ceasing. However, the point I’m trying to make is that prayer shouldn’t exclude our taking part in God’s good works. We should pray and act.
Run the race
Remember that God told Noah to build an ark in order for he and his family to survive the flood. Noah could have decided to make excuses instead of building the ark. He could have just ignored the Lord and gone on with his every day life. Instead Noah heeded God’s word and did what God commanded. Even in the face of human extinction, he never gave up. Noah decided to run the race that God had for him by building the ark.
The Christian life is like a long distance run. It can be tiring and difficult. We may be afraid to go all out, but in the end running the race will bring us closer to God. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…” Hebrews 12:1
What race has God called you to run? What is holding you back?
It has been said that religion and politics don’t mix, and that both topics should be avoided in discussions if at all possible.
There are those that would say that there is no easier way to clear out a room then by talking about one or both of these supposed controversial topics. Lord Hailsham said it this way, “The introduction of religious passion into politics is the end of honest politics, and the introduction of politics into religion is the prostitution of true religion.”
The Brutal Truth
Here’s a brutal truth about life… uncontrolled emotion leads to disagreements, arguments, and fights. It doesn’t matter what the topic of discussion is. Husbands and wives argue about money and intimacy more than they do anything else. Sometimes couples fight about things as silly as why the towel was left on the floor. Friends feud over sports, jobs, cars, and even other friends. Congress debates just about anything, unless they are on recess.
What made this nation great was that a dedicated group of individuals believed that politics and religion do mix. In fact, politics and religion were two of the most important discussions at the time of our nation’s founding. What about the First Amendment? Doesn’t it note the importance of the separation of church and state? Isn’t it true that the church should be separate from the state?
What is Separation of Church and State?
The phrase “separation of church and state” is not even mentioned in the First Amendment. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The First Amendment was written for five clearly defined reasons…
- To ensure that the state would not force one particular religion on its people
- To protect our religious liberty, not infringe upon it
- To protect freedom of speech for the press
- To protect our right to gather peacefully
- To petition the government in order to resolve an unconstitutional act
The Actual Intent
Thomas Jefferson coined the phrase “separation of church and state” in his letter to the Danbury Baptists on January 1st, 1802. The paragraph that contains the popular phrase reads, “Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.” It is clear that Jefferson actually endorsed the relationship between humans and God.
It is also clear that the First Amendment was never intended to restrict churches or religious freedom. Instead it was supposed to restrict the state and federal government from intruding on the church. However, there is still a societal illusion that dictates the removal of religion from state entities. Perhaps this illusion is connected to the societal belief that politics and religion should not be discussed.
We have created a mental wall that has kept us from speaking the truth about two extremely important life topics. We will not experience more freedom by avoiding discussion over religion and politics, which are the two things that allowed for so much freedom in the first place. It can be argued that the less we talk about them, the closer we are to oppression. We shouldn’t be afraid to talk about these things. We should control our emotions. It’s time to tear down that mental wall that has led to fear of speaking the truth.
What’s holding us back now? What’s holding you back?