And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.”
I Corinthians 15:14
I was in a strange city. It was the day to worship, but I didn’t know anybody or any churches. I found the Saturday paper in my hotel room basket and looked for the religion pages listing the churches. I found several listed. Right next to each other, I found two advertisements, each with a slogan to indicate the character of that church.
One slogan said: “The Friendliest Church in Town.” The other said: “We preach Christ—Crucified, Risen and Coming again.” I went to the second church. I liked the way they described themselves better, and it was friendly enough for me.
I already knew that Christ was crucified, risen and coming again, but I would rather stand with a church that was saying it “loud and clear” than be part of a group of people who came to church looking for friends. What a church, a person or an organization proclaims to the world is more important than finding friends.
It is more important for me to have a worship encounter with the risen Christ than to have a good time with friendly people who are willing to like me.
Sometimes people are willing to like me if I keep my mouth shut about Christ. That’s too high a price to pay for friendship.
Certain Jewish community leaders want to establish “friendship” with evangelical Christians—that is, unless those Christians behave evangelically. They propose dialogue so that a few Jewish leaders and numerous evangelicals can get together and be friends. But they make it very clear that they consider the evangelism of the Jews to be a very unfriendly gesture.
These Jewish “dialogians” are willing to set up conferences, even pay all the bills, so that they can influence Gospel-preaching people to be for Israel, for separation of church and state, for social justice and against the preaching of the Gospel to the Jews. On the other hand, evangelical Christians get to influence the Jews to be for…well, not for Jesus anyway.
Let me say that I am for dialogue, but not the kind of dialogue where the same group of rabbis treks from conference to conference for the purpose of influencing Christians. We need a personal dialogue between individual Christians and individual Jews where each person can speak freely and openly of his faith, where each respectfully speaks to the other and personal prejudices can be reduced. In such relationships, trust can be built between individuals to the end that a TRIALOGUE may be established and the one true God can speak to both of them. Friendship with the Jewish community and individual Jews must be because of Christ, and not in spite of Him.
Our love for others cannot be based on our natural inclination to be friendly and to want harmony. Our “natural inclination” is to be selfish and to seek our own welfare above others. Rather, we must let our love for those around us be the love from the risen Christ shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit.
As we contemplate and celebrate Resurrection Sunday, some Christians need to be reminded once again that the great commission of the risen Lord is not: “Go into all the world and make nice on the people.” Our commission is to preach, teach, and make disciples for the risen Savior. If He is not risen from the dead, if the resurrection of Christ is only another one of many conflicting opinions on religion, then maybe we all ought to quit church and find other places to meet the friendliest people in town.