I think Tom mentioned that earlier this month we attended a Forge Canada leadership training day with some of our BC church planters. Led by Hugh Halter of Adullam Church in Denver, the sessions were intensely Jesus-focused. Every word out of Hugh’s mouth drew us back to why we love Jesus and why instead of trying to impress the world with our fancy programs and buildings, we should be inviting people to come and see Christ.
Hugh reminded us that Christ’s beauty is powerful enough to draw even a swindling IRS agent like Zacchaeus to climb a tree in order to catch a peek, and even though many of our friends may have aversions to religion or the Church, they will still be drawn to Jesus, the Person who loves them, died for them, is calling them to Himself.
I was pretty convicted about my own religiosity. What if the Christianity I practice doesn’t actually coincide with who Christ is? My job as a Christian is to be a light for Christ—to point to Christ. But what if my church services and judgmental attitude and refusal to enter into “worldy” places actually block people’s view of what Christ really looks like?
In Romans 14, there’s a strong admonition to believers to not become a stumbling block to others through their actions:
Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them…Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself…
Did Paul mean more than just eating tofu dogs in support of my vegetarian friends?
If I offer a Christian friend a glass of wine with dinner and she declines, of course I won’t judge her for it. Rather, I’d probably put the bottle away and share a jug of orange juice. That’s straight-up Romans 14 stuff.
But what if it works the opposite way too? If a friend, who doesn’t know Christ yet, invites me to her birthday party at a less-than-savory social venue, and I judge her and refuse to enter into where she is at, I’ve been a stumbling block for her—a door rather than a window in terms of helping her see the true Person of Christ.
And what about the definition of holiness? Hugh Halter argues that if I stay out of the night club for the sake of “holiness,” I’m actually working in opposition to how Christ operates. Christ is the holiest Person who ever lived, and if we compare His three years of ministry with my quarter-century of life, He definitely spent more time with sketchy folks (please, no cracks about my in-laws). So holiness can’t be defined by a person’s surroundings.
To be holy as He is holy involves a transformation of the heart and mind—the invasion of the Holy Spirit into my life to strengthen me for holiness in every context. I can’t define holiness by who I’m seen with or where I hang out.
We are ambassadors of Christ’s Kingdom. We pray for His Kingdom to come, but how will this Kingdom advance if its armies and population stay huddled in steepled fortresses? The Gospel—the Kingdom—needs to break through to the dark places. And we need to take it there.
To continue these discussions, I’d suggest picking up Halter’s book Sacrilege. He’s better at clarifying these issues than I am, and he shares some great personal stories as well. It’s an easy read in terms of language, but I promise that each chapter will be a struggle if you’re willing to actually internalize what he’s saying and infuse the concepts into your own life.
I’ll lend you my copy!