"I just wish Christians would act like Christians" was a statement I recently heard from a friend of mine. He was quoting a former missionary who, he said, repeated this phrase often enough to make an impression on him. What a tremendous statement.
I have been preparing to teach on Matthew 10:1-4 and the lives of the twelve disciples. The more I learn about these men, the more fascinated I become with what happens when a person truly gives their life to Christ. These men, in the purest and truest sense of the word, were transformed by their encounter with Christ - they were not the same. When you know who they were before they became a follower of Christ, and who they were after they met Jesus, they are truly different people altogether.
Let me use as an example two men who are listed there in Matthew 10: Matthew and Simon the Zealot. These two men provide the most fascinating study of all the disciples. Before Christ, Matthew was a tax collector; he was a Jew working for the Romans. Matthew was the ultimate "con artist" in this society, and was incredibly despised by his Jewish contemporaries. Tax collectors were known for their selfishness, their greediness, and branded by Jews as the ultimate traitors. Most anyone would have had a difficult time working with this fellow, but some would have had an extraordinarily difficult time - like Simon, for example.
Simon was known as "Simon the Zealot". These zealots were essentially political anarchists in their society. Those known as "zealots" considered themselves to be the ultimate Jewish patriots. They were committed to overthrow the Roman government by force. They were committed, above all else, to expel their Roman oppressors and to restore the Jews to autonomy. It was actually the work of these "Zealots" that brought about the first Jewish-Roman War that lead to the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD. In particular, though, these zealots possessed an incredible hatred for Jewish traitors - those Jews who were loyal to the Romans. One group of zealots in particular, the Sicarii, made it their mission to target Jewish apostates who were working with and for the Romans. They concealed small daggers in their cloaks and would specifically target these Jews to be killed.
Now, what are the odds of a Jewish tax collector working for Rome being teamed up with a Jewish zealot targeting tax collectors and there being no bloodshed? It is certainly only possible when the common denominator is being a follower of Jesus Christ. This is what 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 is talking about when it says:
"So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."
You see, when we give our lives to Jesus Christ and become followers of Him, we now take upon ourselves HIS agenda, and not our own. We no longer regard people from a worldly point of view, for that point of view died when the "old man" died. In Christ, we are a new creation. Just as Simon & Matthew would have killed each other if they regarded one another in their worldly point of view, so will be the result with us and others if we regard one another from a worldly point of view. Instead, their agenda of selfishness and anarchy was replaced with reconciling others to Christ as they themselves had been. Both Simon & Matthew would die a martyr's death for their commitment to reconciling others to Christ.
Perhaps we ought to do some self-examination of our old and new self in Christ. Are we truly a new creature? Are we reconciling others to Christ, or are we still working toward our own agenda? How do we know this? Do we get along with others? In other words, if we claim to be Christians, then we most certainly ought to look and act like Christ.
It happens far more often than it should that people walk away from the church or from Christ altogether not because of Christ, but because of His followers. Are we able to set aside our own agenda so that others - including those that once were our enemies - may be reconciled to Jesus Christ? If not, then perhaps we need to evaluate the depth of our devotion to Jesus Christ. How much of us does he really have? We can often say that we are "just being real", when we are just being real fleshly. Maybe instead of just "telling it like it is", we are really telling it like it is from our selfish point of view, with no regard for how Christ might "tell it". Ravi Zacharias, quoting an old proverb, has said that, "When you are bumped, what you are full of spills out." When you are bumped, what spills out? Is it selfishness? Is it your own agenda? Or is it Jesus Christ?
May we, as disciples of Jesus Christ, act like disciples of Jesus Christ. Simon and Matthew were called by Jesus to follow Him and devote their life to reconciling others to Him - and so are we. Next time someone irritates you, or rubs you the wrong way, or disagrees with you, or is just plain mean to you, remember that the old creature is dead if you are a Christian. May our attitude be reconciliatory, may our actions be reconciliatory, and may our entire lives be reconciliatory. Jesus demands it and our mission cannot be complete without it.
Each week this blog will be updated with a word for the week from my current studies.