A lot of us have been trained to be happy and to keep others happy. Athithi devo bhava (the guest is equivalent to god), so goes the popular adage from our national culture. It’s a good thing, as long as we assume that doing anything to maintain happiness is right.
So then, is it wrong if parents always try to shield children from pain?
Is it wrong if teachers always try to keep students happy?
Is it wrong if Christians don’t allow others to experience sorrow?
Answer: It depends.
It depends at what cost we keep ourselves and our loved ones happy.
Happy and Empty
When I first began shakily telling the incredibly good news about Jesus Christ to my classmates and family, I realized that I had trained myself very well to speak things that don’t upset or hurt others. I soon understood that talking about Jesus’ claim to absolute Lordship over our present lives and his offer of mercy based on his sacrificial death, was not just too much for others’ ears, but also for my mouth!
How could I tell colleagues they need to give up their gods and turn to the author of life, Jesus?
But Jesus said this and more (Luke 14:26,27). Could I too?
How could I point to a friend and say – with much love – that God would not overlook their sins unless they repent?
Jesus said all that and more (Luke 13:1,2,3). Could I too?
While the Lord has enabled me to tell people truths about Christ on various occasions, I have withheld “offensive” truths about Him many times. I have either kept quiet when I should have spoken up and on one occasion, I had outright denied that my Saviour’s the only one way to God. Perish the thought, as I recall that blasted night.
The ironic part is, I did make disciples. But it’s quite clear to me that they are not disciples of Jesus Christ.
One “Christian” turned around with malice toward their old church.
Someone else is clear that they don’t want to be baptized.
Yet another told me they don’t want me to put them in touch with my Christian friends.
If you would rather have disciples such as these, just do what I did – don’t confront them.
Positive and Undermining!
All these dear people had one thing in common. I had allowed them to stay happy during pivotal moments of their lives. When they should have heard the truth that they were tragically deceiving themselves from and had no true love for Jesus, I was busy giving them positive encouragement.
I wonder and shudder to think if I acted just like false prophets of old (Ezekiel 13:10,11,12, Jer. 6:14).
The trouble with people who are not seeking for a Savior, and for salvation, is that they do not understand the nature of sin. It is the peculiar function of the law to bring such an understanding to a man’s mind and conscience. – D. Martin Lloyd-Jones, notes on Romans 7:7
…we have gospel-hardened a generation of sinners by telling them how to be saved before they have any understanding [of] why they need to be saved. – Paris Reidhead
Before I can preach love, mercy, and grace, I must preach sin, law and judgment. – John Wesley
Am I saying that sharing the tough demands of Christianity with people would have definitely made them Jesus-followers? I don’t know. After all, salvation is not man-made. We can’t open people’s eyes, God does that.
But, because I did not lead them to the full truth, today they’ve become even more calloused and resistant to anything connected to authentic Christianity. The assumption that sadness is essentially bad for people has ruined any opportunity they could have had to really surrender to Jesus. Only He could have replaced their cheap happiness with godly sorrow which leads to repentance and true joy and leaves no regret (2 Cor. 7:10). But I was busy making disciples after my image.
Misery Loves Company
Sadly, I have noticed other Christians and even whole churches keep mum when they should have spoken up the truth with much love. In my limited experience, I’ve seen very few speak up the right way as Jesus would have. I’m so glad for the handful who do speak the truth boldly with God’s love.
In our efforts to make disciples of Jesus Christ, including both fellow believers (traditionally known as discipleship) and non-believers (evangelism), it seems that a lot of attention has been given to keeping people happy, so much so that no training is given to help Christians use sorrow rightly!
Sadness is essential to repentance but like someone said, we don’t even know how to be really sorry.
I am writing all this while desperately trying to keep away from sinful extremes (Eph 4:15) Jesus would never promote a lack of kindness and steamrollering people in the name of religion. I also denounce anyone who feels this teaching can be used to blast others when they’ve neglected opportunities to build relationships with them.
But if we do not expose both believers and non-believers to the “negative” side of the mighty, saving Christian faith, we are exposing them to permanent hardening of their souls.
Ab Kya Kare?
This means –
1) We need to often remind one another gently and patiently that there is tremendous bad news of everlasting, tormenting separation from God’s presence before the sweet news of Jesus, our great Saviour.
2) We need to call both our sins and others’ sins by name and use the Law, which is a reflection of God’s pure nature, to clearly show what is wrong with us before we apply the medicine of the good news.
3) We need to soon expose ourselves, fellow believers and non-believers, to all the words of Jesus, and not just selective content that seems comfortable.
Grace means nothing to a person who does not know [that] he is sinful and that such sinfulness means he is separated from God and damned. It is, therefore, pointless to preach grace until the impossible demands of the Law and the reality of guilt before God are preached. – John F.MacArthur, ‘Galatians MacArthur New Testament Commentary’, p93, Moody Publishers
This is not just for others. This practice needs to begin with our own lives. Preaching the authentic gospel to ourselves will lead us to authentic obedience and is a pressing need of the hour for God’s people.
May God, the Holy Spirit, give us faith to not shrink away from this truth.
What are your regrets in making disciples of Jesus Christ?
What needs to change in your approach to Christian discipleship?