Wednesday, February 24, 2016

I Am An Extremist.

"Whoever says to me 'I know Him' but does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him." -1 John 2:4 (ESV)

The other day I was reading this article (that will remain anonymous because I wouldn't recommend anyone to read it) about why this whole "finding yourself" thing that you see everywhere on the internet makes no sense. And for the majority of the article, I agreed (except for her occasional foul language, of course).

She talked about how traveling the world, quitting your job, and taking up a new hobby is not how you find yourself. You are not those things. You are not the track you run on or the job that you have. Going on a hike to the tops of Mount Everest is not going to help you solve your internal struggle of figuring out who you are as a person. And I agreed. Until I got to one part that sort of puzzled me.

In this article, the girl said that she used to be a believer in God. She was raised by religious parents, and as part of her "soul search" she decided to become an atheist, and at first, in her mind, anyone who believed in God was wrong and it was her goal to tell everyone about this. But then she said that as she grew as a person, she realized that not all Christians are "extremists" and that some "Christians" just wanted to go to church occasionally, and then go home and live life like everyone else.

That word, "extremists" struck me. We tend to use that word as a derogatory term for someone whose beliefs we think are crazy. But is religion crazy? Are true followers of God extremists? Am I an extremist? What does that even mean? And as I was asking myself these questions, I realized, once again, a very sad and unfortunate truth.

We are told by the world to be proud of what we believe in, but if we follow the Bible to the letter, we are insane. We are told to love one another, but if we put a Bible verse at the end of it, we're annoying religious people, forcing others to live their lives a certain way. We can act however we want, but if we choose not to drink for religious reasons, we're a stick in the mud. And I know that this is something that has been said many times, but I want to add to it.

It's okay. It's okay to be an extremist. It's okay to be an annoying religious person. It's okay to be a stick in the mud because being a Christian is extreme. Sometimes we have to give up our possessions (Matthew 19:21) Sometimes we have to swallow our pride and love those who hate us (Matthew 5:43-48; Romans 12:14; Luke 6:27-31). In order to even love properly, we have to be patient and kind, we cannot envy, we cannot boast, we cannot be arrogant or rude, we cannot insist on our own way, we cannot be irritable or resentful, we cannot rejoice when others do wrong, and the list goes on. 

There is no such thing as two types of Christians. There are no liberal Christians. There are no
unfaithful Christians. There are no conservative Christians. There are no extremist Christians. There are only those who follow God's Word to the letter, and those who do not. There are only those who keep His commandments, and those who do not (John 14:21; 1 John 2:4). There are only Christians and non-Christians.

We must all remember that we cannot take a step back from our faith. We cannot decide that we aren't going to follow some things just because they are inconvenient. There is no such thing as a Christian who only follows God on Sundays and then lives like the atheists during the week.

The reason that so many unbelievers have a hard time understanding Christians is because there are so many people who claim to be Christians but don't follow God's commands. As Gandhi put it: "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." The reason for this mentality is because there are so many who claim to love Christ, but don't study enough to know how they are to live their lives, thus soiling the reputation of the true Christian.

They imitate men rather than God (1 Corinthians 11:1) They hate those who are different than them, rather than loving their enemies (Luke 6:27-31) and they may speak the truth, but they do so with hate rather than love (Ephesians 4:15). They only hear the Word without doing it (James 1:22-25) and they call upon Christ's name in a vain attempt to be righteous but fail because they do not follow His Word (Matthew 7:21). They allow the world to define what Christianity is rather than God, and that is where we stop trying to please God, but rather to please men (Galatians 1:10)

We must rise above this. We must show the world what a Christian truly is. We must follow Him, and Him alone. We must proclaim His Word, and we must do it, among all else, in love (1 Corinthians 16:14). We must show the world that being a Christian does not mean that we hate everyone else and that believing in God is not foolish. We cannot hate those who do not agree with us, or the Bible. We must remember to always remain patient, kind no matter how difficult.

I want to encourage you to not be afraid of being an extremist. Don't be afraid to do the unpopular thing of being a Christian. If you do these things, you will be the light of the World that we are told to be in Matthew 5:14. I want to encourage you to hold fast to your faith (Hebrews 10:19-23) and to never fail to let your light shine no matter how dark the world around you becomes.