Recently someone made a comment that I’ve heard a lot over the years and in fact I used to say as well. We were talking about Christianity and the person remarked that such-n-such an act was “more Christian than Christians.”
I completely get the sentiment but there is no such thing as a non-Christian being more Christian than a Christian. Let me take a few moments to explain why.
The comment comes from a natural place. People see acts of kindness, of giving to those in need, and honestly caring for people and equate those with Christianity. So, when an atheist or agnostic does something which we consider good or nice we naturally compare it with Christian charity. And in comparison, these acts by non-Christians can seem “more Christian” than the acts of professed Christians. Unfortunately, that is a complete misunderstanding of what Christianity really is.
The bottom line of Christianity is understanding that you are a sinner in need of a savior. That Jesus took the punishment meant for you and became that savior. And by doing so He now offers you the free gift of salvation and eternal life by believing He is the Son of God who died for your sins, was buried, and rose again, ascending to Heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father.
Notice I didn’t say anything in there about doing nice stuff.
In our faith we know that there is nothing we could possibly do – no matter how good, nice or decent – that would earn us Heaven. We completely understand our condition – we are fallen people, sinful and broken who need Jesus in every part of our lives. We know that God sees us as holy and righteous only because of Jesus’ righteousness which is given to us and we are judged on His righteousness not our own under which we simply could not stand.
So, what about all that stuff Jesus said about feeding the hungry, helping the poor and loving your neighbor?
Yup, as Christians not only are we called to serve others – especially those who are oppressed and marginalized – we are COMPELLED by the Holy Spirit to do so!
But we don’t do so because we are nice. We do so to glorify Jesus. Everything we do is to glorify Jesus!
And this is why people who do really nice things are not more Christian than Christians.
I know some really great people who are not in the faith. They are some of the most caring and giving people you will ever meet. They are morally upstanding and really do want to do the right thing in all circumstances. I respect and love these people dearly. However, the things they do to serve their community, state and even nation are done not to glorify Jesus but for other motives. In fact, Jesus plays no role in their actions at all, which are instead driven by a giving heart, true concern for those less fortunate, and honestly to feel good about contributing to a better society.
Don’t get me wrong, I think that kind of giving is awesome! Give to the United Way! Give to the Wounded Warrior Foundation!! Give to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital!!! But unless you’re doing so in Christ’s name understand you are not doing it for Him, you are doing it for a different motive.
(On a side note I could argue that we all love because God loved us first and even if you are not a believer honoring God by what you do you actually are doing so because God put that in you! But that’s another blog!)
Christians give to glorify God. Christians give in the name of Jesus so that the recipient understands that the true gift is not the groceries, the clothing, the rent money, or other material things but the true gift is Jesus Himself!
And that is what separates Christians from non-Christians.
Now that all said, those of us in the faith could certainly do a better job at giving sacrificially, loving others as we love ourselves, and not judging those outside the church as if they are in the church. We have been guilty of falling quite short in these and other areas. But the church is not a museum of pristine saints; the church is a hospital for the sick and broken who need their savior Jesus Christ to constantly heal them of their maladies and shortcomings.
For my friends out there serving their neighbors, community and society, keep doing it!! You are making a difference by helping people and you are awesome! However, please don’t claim that what is being done is more Christian than Christians because for Christians it’s not about the giving it’s all about Jesus and sharing the Good News of salvation and eternal life with Him.