Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Committed to the cause

If I were a king and wanted to get a whole heap of warriors to fight for me, there are three ways I could do this. I could scare them into fighting. Threaten to kill them or torture them or make their life a living hell if they didn’t fight. That would work – until they started thinking I wasn’t that scary anyway. Until they began to wonder whether I really had the power or the resources to carry through on my threats.

Or I could bribe them into fighting for me. Promise them rewards – good pay, gold, land, whatever. That would work too. Unless they didn’t get those rewards when they expected them. Or unless those rewards weren’t as good as what they thought they would be. Or until someone else promised them better rewards.

Or I could get them committed to the cause. And once they were committed to the cause, I wouldn’t need to persuade them to fight. They would want to. And they would fight longer and harder than any of the other two groups of warriors. In a battle between the three, I’d be backing the ones that are committed to the cause. I’d rather have ten warriors committed to the cause than 50 warriors who are there for the rewards or 100 warriors who are there because of fear.

So too are there different ways of getting people to follow Jesus. For a long time, the church relied mainly on fear. There was the fear of hell. But also there was the fear of the Inquisition or ex-communication if a person failed to believe or failed to do the right things. It worked. Fear does work. But then people started to read the bible for themselves. They started to wonder whether the church was really that scary. They started to doubt if it really had the power to do the things it had threatened.

Fear is not such a big thing nowadays, but we still use it. Become a Christian or you will go to hell, we tell people. And sometimes it works. But it’s kind of lost its power. Many people nowadays don’t even believe in hell. They are not going to be scared of going there. Personally, I think hell is a real place and it’s not somewhere I ever want to go. But it’s a pretty poor reason for getting people to follow Jesus.

The other way churches get new Christian recruits is by promising rewards. If you follow God, he will bless you and make your life better. You’ll get that job, have more money, be healed, live longer, be happier. That works too. But what happens if those “rewards” don’t come when the person expected them to. If a person is in it mainly for the rewards, how long are they going to stick around if they fail to materialise?

By far the best way of getting people to follow Jesus is to get them committed to the cause. Now, in my opinion, the cause of Christ is the greatest cause in the world. I don’t see why everybody doesn’t want to fight for him. But I have to be realistic and recognise that not everybody sees that. I think part of the problem is that they look at the cause of some Christians, and believe that’s the cause of all Christians or of Jesus. One example of this is issues of morality. For many people, the issue of morality is not one worth fighting for.

But the cause of Jesus is so much greater than this, and I believe there is something in it that every single person in the world can care passionately about. Instead of telling new Christians what they should be caring about, we should be helping them find what it is about Jesus that speaks deeply to them. Do they care about letting people know of God’s love and acceptance? Are they passionate about social justice? Is the idea of living a better life with God’s help one that appeals? Is caring for the poor something that speaks deeply to them? Are they amazed by this idea that we don’t need to do good works to get into heaven?

This is not to say that only one issue is important and people can just focus on one issue and forget about all the rest of what Jesus had to say. But when people become committed to those aspects that appeal most strongly to them, they will also see that the rest of what Jesus had to say is also a worthy cause. Commitment to one issue can soon turn into a very strong commitment to Jesus Christ. And I would rather have a church full of ten people that are committed to the cause, than a church of 10,000 people who are not.

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