A recent poll indicates that Christians typically fail to share their faith, in spite of what is universally understood as an essential command from Jesus (the Great Commission). Why is this the case? Might there be something about the nature of our culture that has influenced our actions as Christians? Is it something about our cultural understanding of “truth”? Is it something about our personal understanding of the nature of the Gospel? I think all of these factors are involved.
Many Christians have allowed themselves to be influenced by the inclusive, pluralistic and relativistic culture in which we live. It’s difficult for some of us, therefore, to share what we privately believe to be offensively exclusive. In addition to this, some of us have been lured and enticed by a version of the Gospel that appeals to our selfish desire for success, prosperity and blessing. As a result, many have exchanged the truth of the Gospel for a lie; we’ve come to see the Gospel as a promise of an improved life rather than as an offer of rescue from the justified, deserved wrath of God.
Police officers use a variety of tools and wear a number of distinct pieces of equipment. Some of these are optional. Some of us, when working day watch for example, choose to wear sunglasses. Some of us don’t. Some officers believe that sunglasses make them more comfortable, help them to see better in bright environments and protect their vision. Others believe that sunglasses can prevent them from seeing intricate detail in high contrast settings and create glare that obscures their vision. As a result, not every officer chooses to wear sunglasses.
But every officer wears a bulletproof vest. We don’t see the vest as an optional piece of equipment. It’s not a matter of opinion. We understand the necessity of the vest because we know what it does for us. We know that the vest has saved the life of many officers in the past and will save the lives of many more in the years to come. There are times when sunglasses are not even appropriate, but there is never a time when the vest is inappropriate. When I wear my uniform, I wear a vest. It’s that important to me. There are times when the vest is incredibly inconvenient. It often limits my movement, it’s usually very warm and it’s typically uncomfortable. That’s the downside. But the vest can save my life; that’s the upside. I don’t wear the vest because I look good in it, because it makes me feel good, or because it makes life easier for me. I wear the vest because it’s a lifesaver.
When I talk to young officers about the vest, I’m careful not to describe it like an optional piece of equipment that will make the job easier. It’s not a pair of sunglasses. I urge young officers to accept the offer of the vest not because it will make them look cool, make them feel better or make life simpler. I encourage them to wear their vest everyday because it will save their life. Nothing else can do what the vest does. There are no other options; we can’t wear extra t-shirts, a different color of uniform, or a different blend of cotton in an effort to accomplish what the bulletproof vest can accomplish. There is an objective, exclusive truth about the vest that we embrace without reservation once we understand what it does for us.
When it comes to the way we present the Gospel to those in our world, we often treat it like it’s a pair of sunglasses rather than a bulletproof vest. Prosperity doctrine preachers want us to wear the vest because it will help us be successful, prosperous and blessed. It will make our lives easier and better. But that isn’t the point of the Gospel and that isn’t even true for most of us who have become Christians. My life isn’t always better as a result of accepting Jesus’ offer of salvation. There are times when my life has actually been tougher. The Gospel is not a pair of sunglasses. The Gospel is a lifesaving bulletproof vest that shields us from spiritual death. It protects us from ourselves by preventing us from the warranted penalty of our own sin.
It’s time to stop treating the Gospel like a pair of sunglasses. When we treat it this way, we are acting like the biggest problem in our life is our discomfort or appearance. But the biggest problem we face is the problem of sin. We’ve stopped talking about that, haven’t we? Officers know the danger they face. It’s not the danger of being uncomfortable or looking “uncool”; it’s the danger of loosing our lives. It’s time for us to remind people of the real danger they face so they can see what the Gospel really offers. It’s time to treat the Gospel more like a bulletproof vest than a pair of sunglasses.
For more information about the nature of Biblical faith and a strategy for communicating the truth of Christianity, please read Forensic Faith: A Homicide Detective Makes the Case for a More Reasonable, Evidential Christian Faith. This book teaches readers four reasonable, evidential characteristics of Christianity and provides a strategy for sharing Christianity with others. The book is accompanied by an eight-session Forensic Faith DVD Set (and Participant’s Guide) to help individuals or small groups examine the evidence and make the case.
J. Warner Wallace is a Dateline featured Cold-Case Detective, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Adj. Professor of Christian Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, author of Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, and creator of the Case Makers Academy for kids.
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