Islam is growing more rapidly than any other religion in the world, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center that says the religion will nearly equal Christianity by 2050 before eclipsing it around 2070, if current trends continue. – Dallas Morning News, April 2, 2015
The report goes on to predict that, by 2050,
In the U.S., Christianity will decline to claim two-thirds of the population, instead of the more than three-quarters who claimed the religion in 2010.
I had been basking (dozing?) in the warmth of our cozy Easter celebration. All was well. Evan’s Easter basket was full of colorful, glittering eggs. Lent was past. Jesus’s tomb, abandoned after only a 3-day occupancy, remained empty. Then, I opened the paper and this news hit me like a surprising splash of ice water down the back, shocking me awake to the reality of the fact that we still have a job to do.
All too often we evangelical Christians think of evangelism in terms of fulfilling a quasi-legal requirement to share the good news, the Gospel, of our risen Lord, verbally. That is, we need to get our facts straight, pray for courage, and then unleash our message on anyone who will stand still long enough to hear us out before bolting. Whew, job done!
While verbal witness is an important part of evangelism, verbal assault is not. Verbal witness isn’t the whole idea by a long shot. Nor should we reduce our witness to a verbal WMD (Weapon of Mass Deduction), as though a tightly reasoned argument could win the day. If pure logic were sufficient in the battle for souls, the war would have been won long ago.
The whole concept of evangelism as a tool of war smacks of a sanitized version of Christian jihad. Perhaps a bit of a corrective is in order along the way of reminder. Our enemy is not the spiritually blind Muslim jihadist, or the atheist, or any other person on earth, regardless of their faith, sexual orientation, color, political affiliation or team loyalty. Our real enemy, as Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6:12, is spiritual:
12 For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. 13 This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand.” (Holman Christian Standard Bible)
We need to be prepared, as Peter tells us, to
3:15 … always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess. 3:16 Yet do it with courtesy and respect, keeping a good conscience, so that those who slander your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame when they accuse you.
An “answer” assumes that a question has been asked. About what? The “hope” that you possess. How is that hope made evident? Perhaps through words, though more likely, through action. The curious person will have seen the hope that you possess lived out in loving action, despite circumstances that would prompt most folks to despair, anger, selfishness, retaliation – in short, the works of the (unregenerate) flesh.
We want to embody the gospel (see James 1:23) – to live it out under the control of the Holy Spirit, in such a compelling way as to evoke questions from those who can only stand in wonder at our Spirit-filled response to personal assaults. Then we need to be prepared with an articulate answer for why we have hope when others hope has long since faded.
Let’s make it our prayer, in this post-Easter reflective time, for the Lord to help us love our neighbor as He loved us, whoever that person might be. That’s a job tailor-made for every Christian.