Note: Before I finish The Christian Imagination in Philosophy (which, I’ll be completely honest, I haven’t finished and I’ve been thinking about for a while), you’ll just have to read this. Heck, this was written a decade or so ago, so I don’t totally agree with everything in here, but feel free to peruse its strange depths.
Presently, there are many perceptions regarding the Christian faith. Some who do not consider themselves of the faith despise the whole religion, others embrace it as fact. However, what “outsiders” do not understand is that not every Christian is the same. Each Christian has unique beliefs that are shown to other people through their actions. Some Christians serve themselves; some serve others; then there are others who serve God.
The first category of Christians only appear to serve themselves. These people seem to use the facade of Christianity to achieve their own selfish ends. They have a personal agenda, quite literally. Many of them use their perceived level of “Christian” to reach levels of power in the church or to exert authority over others. Others use it to gain respect or show their superiority to others. The Pharisees in the Bible portray this characteristic. These men, set aside in holy esteem, used their position to rebuke the actions of others without truly observing themselves.
For example, instead of improving the image of God’s people, they only served to show how holy they were in comparison to the rest of their religious peers. Luke 18:11 gives an excellent example of their attitude. In prayer, the Pharisee says
…God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.
Jesus argued with them many times, only to prove how they had wandered from the true purposes of God. Such men – even if they seem right on the inside – are hollow. Their entire self image is based on their outward appearance, and by definition, they have no depth or substance. By serving themselves, they fail to develop a sufficient relationship with God; they glorify themselves rather than Him. They also fail in Christian evangelizing. From their actions, they force many men away from the faith. The path of a self-servant can only be circular and lead to endless sorrow from an empty life, lacking growth in their relationship with God.
On the opposite end of the spectrum we note the Christian who appear to be leaders, but who only serves other people. We note that they enjoy a bountiful social life. They work in church services, using their time to serve the church and its members. In time, the service of the church could become a secondary matter while the social aspect might take precedence. Paul warns against these people in 2 Thessalonians 3:11, where he states that,
For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies.
The problem with this particular sort of Christian is their focus; much like the first category, which focuses on the self, the second category only focuses on others. First of all, this does not allow the person to do what God may want them to do; the opinions of church members become the one and only source of truth. Many in this particular situation do not use their Bibles to discern truth, instead taking a risk by depending on church members. Christians are not always correct, and should never be treated as such.
Secondly, the constant socializing removes God from the focus of this person’s life. God is the deity a Christian worships and loves. Taking God out of Christianity makes the entire worldview an empty shell. This category is not seeking to gain a better relationship with God; rather, they only desire to make new friends. Generally, a desire to be with others is a fine goal to obtain. God created mankind to work together in order to achieve goals (God created Adam and Eve, after all). Nevertheless, when a church social life replaces God’s presence, it is the Christianity’s responsibility to examine and correct the problem. This stance is naturally self-refuting, for one does not compare himself to Christ, but to others.
Though these types of Christian have initially good intentions for their actions, their human nature disguises their previous goals and leads them on a downward spiral. Both paths are inherently easy to follow. As leaders, they attract one another. However, there is hope for those who have wandered off the path. The third type of Christian serves God exclusively. These types of Christians are not frequently found. Jesus admits in Matthew 9:37,
Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.
The Christian can no longer debate what God purposes; God will make it clear because they are in the center of His will. By serving God exclusively and following His will, serving others will become second nature. By trying to be like God, man inherits his holy nature. Thus, being a servant to others becomes a natural and Godly action.
Serving the self also has its uses. God realizes the social life can be extremely attractive, and He also helps man to realize he cannot always be focused on others; God also has strategies for man to improve himself by following His will. Thus, a person who serves God maintains a healthy balanced of servant-hood while still maintaining the positive, individual focus in following the will of God.
Those who serve God have many hardships to overcome. Only the Christian who follow God can truly be called a Christian at all. Considering this simple fact, the evil forces which exist in the world will do anything in their power to weaken witness for Jesus Christ. The true Christian will face this world everyday, along with those who apply the label Christian to their name yet do exactly the opposite of the reality in the Bible. There is a cost to being a disciple of Jesus Christ. Such a person will not always be accepted; in many cases, persecution is more prevalent than any other reaction. A person must abandon their worldly attitude. Jesus states, in Matthew 16:24-25, this point more clearly than any other words could:
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
However, these characteristics cannot always be seen by the outsider. It is the Christian’s struggle to make their relationship with Christ apparent to everyone. The self-servant makes this difficult because of his daily actions; the Christian appears haughty and conceited. The social Christian, on the other hand, acts much like every other person on the planet; they constantly socialized with no thought to the future. Neither exemplifies the attributes of a true Christian. Each Christian should act like Christ, for He defines what man should be. By comparing themselves to Christ rather than others, they can easily fulfill their goal to become like the Son of Man. Thus, only the person who serves God truly shows the world what Jesus can do. The God-focused Christian may not be perfect, but they become a blessing to others through their lives and bring hope to those that know them for a future.