Pagans are usually going to engage in hating Evangelicals. It is nice when they act better, but don’t grow used to it.
As Thomas Kidd well states here (“Can Evangelicals Be Likeable”), it’s nice when the Nicholas Kristofs of the world take notice of Evangelicals’ good deeds in the Name of Jesus, but such applause will always be fleeting.
Over at the New York Times, columnist Nicholas Kristof – one of America’s most open-minded liberal writers – says that secular left-wingers need to admit that many evangelical Christians do a great deal of good in the world, often at great personal expense and risk. He profiles the courageous work of Dr. Stephen Foster, who has labored in a rural Angolan hospital for thirty-seven years. Unlike some secularist critics who questioned the work of Dr. Kent Brantly during the Ebola crisis (see my “Those Suspicious Medical Missionaries“), Kristof admits that “a disproportionate share of the aid workers I’ve met in the wildest places over the years, long after anyone sensible had evacuated, have been evangelicals, nuns, or priests.”
It is a good day for evangelicals when we get positive coverage in the New York Times, but it also raises a perennial question for traditional Christians. How much should we expect, or seek, the world’s approval for what we’re doing?
Our allegiance to King Jesus will necessarily put us at odds with some neighbors because we cannot compromise who we are for the sake of being liked in all circumstances.
We should always consider how to better demonstrate authentic love for our neighbors—it is a bedrock command of our Lord, after all—but with neighbors, as with our own children, many times the most loving thing we do is say “no;” we cannot justify, facilitate, or celebrate that which will bring eternal harm.
Those on the other side of each point of contention should see us with a tear in our eye, not a sneer on our lips.
We were made to enjoy the presence of the Creator forever. As the Bible says “in Him we live, and move, and have our being.” What many refuse to consider is that their desire to be rid of God—and to choose their own path—leads to an ultimate agony beyond words; to remove God’s presence is to lose an essential part of what makes existence bearable.
In the end, Christians must seek the good of our neighbors—even above our own—and unfortunately that will often bring condemnation from the Nicholas Kristofs of the world, rather than commendation. In the ultimate sense we must be preeminently concerned with having Jesus “like” us, even if that means our neighbors do not.