What is it about Christianity or the understanding of Christianity that people don’t like or find difficult to believe? Because when you truly understand who Jesus is, why he came to this earth, the teachings he gave to follow and the path that he made available for every person to experience eternal life, I think a better question is why wouldn’t everyone want Christianity to be true? Why wouldn’t everyone choose to follow Jesus? The reality is that many do not.
In my short 42 years of life, I’ve seen a significant cultural shift in our country in how people view Christianity. Years ago, I remember hearing people say something like, “I love Jesus, but I just don't like the church.” I think I understood what they meant; however, Scripture tells us that the church is the bride of Christ. So that would be like someone telling me, “Matt, I love you, but I don't like your wife.” Your love for me means nothing if you don’t like my wife. But I digress. As culture has shifted, I began to hear people say something like, “it’s fine if you believe in God, just don’t force your beliefs on me.” However, we now live in a time when there is a growing population of people who consider themselves part of the group called the “nones.” On the list of religious affiliation, they check the box that says “none.” According to a recent study released by the Pew Research Center and reported by LancasterOnline, the percentage of people in this country who self-identify as Christians stands at 65%, which is a 12% decrease since 2009. Over that same period the group of nones — atheist, agnostic or nothing in particular — has risen from 17% to 26%. What has contributed to this decline in Christianity? While there are most likely many factors, I wonder if the version of Christianity that Jesus introduced is a different version than what the “nones” have walked away from?
Maybe the version of Christianity that you understood or experienced has left you with more questions than answers. Maybe a bad church experience has left you a bit disillusioned or even hurt. Or maybe you’re questioning if God even exists because life and the world around us often just don’t make sense.
The real version of Christianity that Jesus introduced and taught us to follow is based on this simple truth, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12). Jesus simplified Christianity in one simple statement — think about what you want people to do for you, then take the initiative and do it for them. Simple to understand, but not easy to follow.
As I’ve tried to personally follow this simple statement that Jesus made, I’ve noticed that I find myself unintentionally thinking my life would go so much better if all of the people around me followed this golden rule. The reality is that my wife, three teenagers, co-workers and community would all be greatly impacted if I decided to treat others the way I wanted to be treated. Imagine if this behavior was the mark of every Christian. Even though many people fall short of this standard, this was the version of Christianity that Jesus introduced.
If you are questioning the truth or the value of Christianity, at least consider the positive effect it has on our world. As the radio host Dennis Prager pointed out: Imagine your car breaks down in a bad part of town at midnight. As you’re standing by your car waiting for help in the dead of night, you see a group of men walk out of an alley toward you. Would you be relieved to know that those men had just left a Bible study?
In the last conversations Jesus had with his disciples before he would be condemned and crucified, he gave them this new command, “Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you should love one another. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my followers” (John 13:34-35).
When it comes to loving one another, we don’t need more instructions, we simply need more examples.
Matt Mylin is a pastor at Worship Center, a Lancaster church. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.