by Amanda Held
It is often said that the three most pertinent issues facing Christians in the world today are abortion, homosexuality, and pre-marital/extra-marital sex. Certainly, these are all moral matters that defy principles clearly laid out in the Bible, and their ripple effect on society has been profoundly detrimental, even deadly for millions of unborn children.
However, it seems that throughout history, Christians have been subtly selective about the causes we will take up. A friend of mine believes we take up causes that seem the farthest removed from us; in other words, we confront sins that we could never imagine ourselves indulging in. Promiscuous sex is greatly stigmatized in the Christian community, and the majority of church goers could never imagine themselves succumbing to homosexuality, or going to an abortion clinic to murder and unborn baby. Perhaps also, the Christian community chooses to campaign against issues that require the least sacrifice on our part, sins that plague others rather than us. We tend to take up causes that allow us to say "don't" to others rather than "do" to ourselves.
If we are really wanting to get to the bottom of what exactly the key issues are facing American Christians today, perhaps we should simply look back at society 2000 years ago and pay attention to the causes Jesus took up, and note the issues He largely ignored. It doesn't take a Bible scholar or theologian to realize that Jesus seems to have almost a personal vendetta against two groups of people: the "religious" and the wealthy. What is it that makes Jesus turn over tables and crack out a whip? The monetary exploitation of worshippers by businessmen (John 2:13-16, et. al). Who is it that receives Jesus' harshest language? The "brood of vipers," the Pharisees (Matthew 12:33-37, et. al). What group of people is Jesus most skeptical about getting into the kingdom of Heaven? The rich (Matthew 19:21-24).
The issues that the evangelical community seems to associate itself with are sexual issues. And without doubt, the sacredness of sexuality has been tragically compromised and the consequences have been far reaching. But in the gospels, people who struggle with sexual sin that seem to elicit the most compassion out of Jesus. He affirmatively tells them to go and sin no more; He deals with their sin, but He doesn't define them by it. On the other hand, Jesus is loud and vehement about the evils of wealth and materialism. Just as He abhors hypocrisy, He uses love and service to endear sinners to the Truth.
It cannot be denied that in terms of Christianity, America is the most religious country. And, in terms of wealth, Americans live in abundance. Even the poor man in America lives like the rich man in India or Africa. What Christians in America must admit to themselves is that they are at risk in the realm of sins Jesus took up as His cause: religion as a facade and greed.
James says that pure and undefiled religion is to keep oneself unstained by the world (James 1:27). Certainly, we should run from sin. But before he says that, James says that true religion is simply to visit widows and orphans in their distress. The Bible says that people will know we are Christians by our love (John 13:35). Perhaps the world would stand up and take positive notice of the church if evangelicals, when they profess to be pro-life, actually meant it and acted as if they were pro-ALL-life.
To be pro-life means to fight for more than just unborn American babies. It must be categorical. It means being pro-life for babies already born in 3rd world countries suffering from malnutrition, malaria, and dysentery. It means being pro-life for AIDS victims, both the innocent girl in Africa and the homosexual man in the Western world. It means being pro-education and opportunity for the teenager who may be tempted to have an abortion. It means being pro-clean water, pro-adequate housing, and pro-religious freedom in countries with tyrannical governments. It means being pro-life for children living as child soldiers. We may say, "but what can I do? The problem of suffering is insurmountable." But even our highest of hopes is realistic. In my experience, even just a small amount of money by American standards can save the life of an AIDS orphan. A few dollars can provide vaccines for kids that will protect them for the rest of their lives. In terms of evangelism, even just 1,000 dollars a year can support a missionary and his family for a whole year in a third world country, allowing the gospel to be shared with hundreds of lost people.
I feel increasingly convicted that Americans, myself included, are becoming more and more materially selfish. What we classify as needs are really just wants. We indulge ourselves, no just in our personal home life, but in our churches as well, with posh facilities and extravagant activities. To say we should significantly cut back would be taking the moderate view. If we actually did exactly what Jesus seemed to be saying, we would sell all our possessions, as He told the rich young ruler to, and answer the call He made to the disciples, who completely walked away from their nets and collection tables.
The church in America sometimes seems like a sleeping giant, or like a scattered army with a noble, yet limited agenda. There is so much we could be doing in the world, yet we leave it for the few. We have to ask ourselves, what exactly as a Christian community do we want to be remembered for. Hostility or compassion? For saying, "don't", or for actually doing? For addressing one or two issues with fervor, or for leaving no suffering untouched by the compassion inherent in the gospel message? I am consistently grieved by the legacy evangelicalism is leaving for itself. It's time to wake up the giant.
Amanda Held is a songwriter from Nashville, Tenn., who has significant
missions experience, most recently a 6-month stint in India.