I was having lunch with one of my best friends and fellow preachers yesterday. While talking, it occurred to me why very few Christians are very good at helping other people change. If life were a football game, there would be three kinds of Christians trying to affect change.
1. Spectator Christians
There are Christians who love to sit in the stands and commentate to one another about how people are living their lives. They talk about fellow Christians and people in the world. They say, “I cannot believe so-and-so. Do you know what he’s been doing? If he would just stop that and start doing these other things, his life would be so much better.” Spectator Christians love to think they are affecting change in the world simply by commentating to one another.
There are Spectator Christians in pulpits and pews all over the world. There are Spectator Christians on Facebook and Twitter. And chances are, most of us have found ourselves being Spectator Christians at one time or another. Even if we are right in our commentary, we are talking about people instead of to people. This type of Christianity is almost completely ineffective at affecting change.
2. Referee Christians
There are also Christians who take it upon themselves to referee everyone. These are the Christians who run up and down the sidelines, calling penalties on others for even the slightest of infractions. If someone walks into the worship assembly with immodest clothing, the Referee Christians bluntly tell them their clothes are inappropriate. They constantly critique, correct, and criticize.
Before long, other people run when they see Referee Christians coming. People know they can’t spend more than a few minutes with Referee Christians without a flag being thrown about something. Referee Christians spend time with struggling Christians and people in the world – not to build relationships with them – but to correct them. The only type of change Referee Christians usually affect is that they run people off.
3. Participating Christians
Then there are Christians who don’t stay on the sidelines. They get down on the field of life with people. They build real relationships with people in the world and with struggling Christians. They get dirty. They invest blood, sweat, and tears. They laugh and cry with people. They share life with people.
These types of Christians build real relationships before they start correcting and teaching. They become friends with those they are trying to influence. They befriend sinful, broken, hurting, and confused people. These are the types of Christians who affect real change. They realize change is not affected from the sidelines, but on the field!
The Example of Jesus
Isn’t this how Jesus affected change? Isn’t this the example He left for us? He “emptied Himself” and “took on the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:7). He “dwelt among us” (John 1:14). He became a “friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Luke 7:34). He could have stayed on the sidelines of heaven, but instead He came to earth to bleed, sweat, and cry with us! That’s how you affect change.
Listen to the words of Romans 12:14-21 and examine your life:
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Is it time you get off the sidelines and get on the field? Is it time you stop thinking you can change the world by simply posting to Facebook and Twitter? Is it time you think you’re doing something about the sin problem by just preaching against it?
You have to invest yourself if you want to help. You have to invest your blood, sweat, and tears – just as Christ did. Many Christians are content to stay on the sidelines, but how about you? Are you ready to really affect change? Are you ready to really be a light to the world and the salt of the earth? Let’s do it together!
And before I close, I might need to remind us that we’re not perfect either. I’m thankful people befriended me when I needed it most. I’m thankful for those who didn’t remain on the sidelines but got down on the field with me. Aren’t you thankful for people like that in your life? Now go do that for someone else!
I love you and God loves you,