The world can tolerate half-hearted Christians, because they are no threat.
We often hear talk about people being extremists or fundamentalists and it is pretty much always in a negative context. Google’s online dictionary describes fundamentalism as: “a form of a religion, especially Islam or Protestant Christianity, that upholds belief in the strict, literal interpretation of scripture“. In other words, it means actually taking the Bible, or in the case of Islam the Koran, seriously. The world can tolerate half-hearted Christians, because they are no threat to their sinful lifestyles. As far as the world is concerned, Christians who do not hold a literal interpretation of scripture can do their own thing, believe whatever that want to believe and that’s fine – as long as it doesn’t bother anyone else. But as soon as a Christian starts taking the Bible seriously, as soon as they start believing that the Bible actually means what it says, as soon as their Christianity starts making them stand out from the world, people begin to get uncomfortable. The results being, that labels like extremist and fundamentalist start being used. For example, this was a reaction on Facebook to my post, ‘The Homosexuality Issue‘: “……I do believe strongly that religious fundamentalism whatever the faith is one of the greatest evils in the world“.
Is religious fundamentalism really one of the greatest evils in the world?
But is it always a bad, or evil, thing to be an extremist? Is religious fundamentalism really one of the greatest evils in the world? Let’s examine the facts….When the Israelites entered the land of Canaan under Joshua, they were ready to take the land, they went in and they attacked cities, killing everyone in those cities. The Israelites took God seriously and could be classed as extremists. At least that’s what happened to begin with; after a while though, the Israelites began making compromises, their obedience to God became less extreme and instead of destroying the inhabitants of the land, they ended up living among them. They had become half-hearted at best, in living out their Judaism. I’m sure that many people would use how the Israelites acted when they were being extremists, as proof that the negative context of the word ‘extremist’ is correct. But is that right? God had commanded the Israelites to destroy the previous inhabitants of the land for a reason – and it was not just a case of killing off one group of people to replace them with another. The Canaanites were an extremely evil people, who had been given many, many years to repent. God knew that if they were allowed to remain, their evil would increase still further and the Israelites would become corrupted by them – which, of course, is what happened.
Mohammed, the founder of Islam, had an unusual method of evangelism.
What about Islamic extremism though, is this a bad or evil thing? I suspect that the answer is probable obvious to you, but let’s examine why. Mohammed, the founder of Islam, had an unusual method of ‘evangelism’ – for want of a better word. He and his followers would threaten someone with a sword and they could either join the so-called ‘religion of peace‘ or die – regardless to say, it was effective! The sort of despicable acts carried out by Islamic State in recent years. are exactly the sort of things that Mohammed did and that the Koran teaches. So for a Muslim to take the Koran seriously, to be an extremist, is definitely a bad thing. There are many Muslims who are completely law-abiding citizens and perfectly nice people, the reason for this is because they are not fully committed to putting into practice what the Koran actually teaches. These Muslims are not extremists, they are the Islamic equivalent of lukewarm Christians. The only issue is, how you tell a non-extremist Muslim from an extremist Muslim who wants to give the illusion that they are non-extremist?
When a Christian takes the Bible seriously, he or she becomes a light that shines brightly.
So what about Christians? Why do people label certain groups of Christians as ‘extremists’, ‘fundamentalists’ and ‘right-wing’ in an attempt to brand them as being something that is bad or even evil. It is the equivalent of comparing Israel to Nazi Germany and it is equally abhorrent. So why do people (including other Christians) do it? The answer is because when a Christian takes the Bible seriously, he or she becomes a light that shines brightly and exposes the sin that is in the world. People do not like being told that abortion is wrong, or that homosexuality is wrong, or any of the other sins that an extremist Christian refuses to turn a blind eye to like the rest of the world. People do not want to be warned about the dangers of their sinful lifestyles.
The Bible is the Word of God, shouldn’t we be taking it seriously?
Look at what Jesus says about half-hearted Christians in Revelation 3:16 from The Message translation, “You’re not cold, you’re not hot—far better to be either cold or hot! You’re stale. You’re stagnant. You make me want to vomit“. As Christians, we need to determine in our hearts that we are going to be extremists, that we are going to read the Bible daily, that we are going believe what we read, and that we’re going to act on it. The Bible is the Word of God, shouldn’t we be taking it seriously? Shouldn’t we be believing what God has promised to us? Shouldn’t we be doing what He has told us to do and avoiding what He has told us not to do? Shouldn’t we be extremists? Look at John 2:14-16 in the J.B. Phillips translation,
“In the Temple he discovered cattle and sheep dealers and pigeon-sellers, as well as money-changers sitting at their tables. So he made a rough whip out of rope and drove the whole lot of them, sheep and cattle as well, out of the Temple. He sent the coins of the money-changers flying and turned their tables upside down. Then he said to the pigeon-dealers, ‘Take those things out of here. Don’t you dare turn my Father’s house into a market!‘”
That is pretty extreme behaviour!
That is pretty extreme behaviour, it is not the picture of Jesus that is usually painted of ‘gentle Jesus, meek and mild’. Now clearly Jesus was led by God, and acted only when God directed Him – the previous day Jesus visited the temple and nothing major happened. The point is, that we need to stop sitting on the fence of trying to please God AND the world. Allow me to clear up any confusion surrounding this: It can’t be done! You are going to enjoy your Christian life far more, if you take the Bible seriously – Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteous“, it doesn’t add, “….provided that you don’t upset or offend anybody”. It is inevitable that some people in the world (and even some Christians) will turn against you and put negative labels on you (e.g. “Heretic!!!!“). But others will be drawn to God through you, they will be impressed with the way that you refuse to compromise, and will be impressed by the visible results that are demonstrated in your life. Christians who do not offend anybody, are not going to attract anybody either. In order to be a good advertisement for God, you are going to have to be prepared to offend some people. Jesus did not purposely try to upset people, but also He did not back away from saying the truth either – and some people got upset as a result. That is the example that we need to be following.
If you have any further questions or thoughts, please feel free to leave a comment.
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