I’m convicted. Yesterday we sang a hymn in church that really stuck out at me. How Clear is our Vocation, Lord is #853 in Lutheran Service Book, and verse 3 says the following:
We marvel how Your saints become in hindrances more sure;
Whose joyful virtues put to shame the casual way we wear Your name
And by our faults obscure Your power to cleanse and cure.
The phrase that really hit me was “the casual way we wear Your name.” I don’t know about you, but most of the time that describes me all too well. I’m a casual Christian.
Ask yourself a question. If you were to die today and have your obituary printed in the paper, would your neighbors and friends be surprised to learn that you were a Christian? I suppose the answer depends. Certainly my friends and family all know I’m a Christian, but my neighbors? Not sure I can answer that honestly. I mean, yeah, we’re the pastor’s family, so I guess they can pretty much assume they know we’re Christian, but that’s taking the easy way out. Have I invited them to church? Have I shared my faith with them? Do they know what I believe about Jesus or why I’m staking my eternity on Him? Um, no. Not really. In my interactions with them I am a casual Christian.
Now don’t get me wrong here. I don’t mean to say that every single time I see them I should be preaching to them. You don’t want to alienate people by making them feel inferior by a “holier than thou” attitude, real or perceived. But certainly, I personally have had enough interactions with my neighbors that by now I should have at least invited them to church. If my faith is as important to me as I claim it is, why haven’t I shared that with my unchurched neighbors?
The world will tell you that it’s not appropriate to talk about religion outside of church. It’s a private topic. Don’t make people uncomfortable by talking about Jesus. It’s okay to be a casual Christian. Go to church when you feel like it, don’t talk too much about it, and keep any strong beliefs to yourself. But don’t fall for those lies. I guess the thing that really convicted me in that hymn was the contrast between the saints of old and my own life. Think of Isaiah and Jeremiah of the Old Testament, Peter and Paul in the New Testament, and countless others from the Bible and in the centuries since. So many of them endured persecution, ridicule, and even death for the sake of the Lord. They didn’t keep their faith to themselves because they knew people needed to hear the message even when it wasn’t popular. They were vocal about their faith and took every opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ, who died for the sins of the world and rose again. They were willing to endure anything, even death, to spread that message. And I’m afraid my neighbor will laugh at me if I invite him to church? Pretty feeble excuse.
Look with me at the fourth and final verse of the hymn I mentioned earlier.
In what You give us, Lord, to do, together or alone,
In old routines or ventures new, may we not cease to look to You,
The cross You hung upon—all You endeavored done.
Maybe you’re in an “old routine.” Maybe you’re starting a “venture new.” Since we’ve recently moved to a new neighborhood in a new state, I’m starting the “venture new.” It’s a whole new mission field with new opportunities to share my faith. But no matter what your situation, we all look together to the One true source of strength—Jesus and His cross, “all You [Jesus] endeavored done.” See, that’s why we can’t afford to be casual Christians in this world. Everything Jesus set out to do is done. Finished. Completed. 100%. His perfect life, His innocent death, and His glorious resurrection defeated sin, Satan, and death for us, and He paid the price for all our sins. He was our substitute. He took the punishment that should have been ours. We don’t have to do anything. We don’t have to be a good enough person or try hard enough or suffer enough or anything. Jesus did it all. That news is too good to keep to ourselves. Jesus was no casual or halfhearted Savior. He gave everything He had for us, even His very life. So go ahead and share that wonderful news with those God places in your path. The time for being a casual Christian is over. The world needs you to stand firm and be a bold witness for the Lord. And even if you don’t make a huge difference in the world at large, to your neighbor your message might make all the difference in the world.