In yesterday’s post, I told the story of Ravi Zacharias’ moral failure. How did this happen? The reasons are typical for leadership failure. There was a decades-long lack of accountability. Zacharias had too much control and authority in his organization. He was alone in many ways. He was also extremely intelligent and convincing, able to make himself seem totally innocent.
We hear a lot about leaders like that, sadly. But it is not just leaders.
This relates to all of us. Sure, leadership failure makes the news, but this should concern all of us.
It reminded to me of something Zacharias said in one of his sermons. He told the story of a conversation that occurred after a conference, at which Zacharias was a speaker. The conference organizer had invited a friend to come hear Zacharias. She was not a Christian and she was a very intelligent woman, so the conference organizer thought Zacharias’ way of explaining the truth of Jesus might be meaningful to her. That conference organizer was right. After the event was over, he was very eager to see what his friend thought, so he asked her: “What did you think of Ravi’s talk?” You know how she responded? “Very, very compelling.” And then she asked a surprising question of her own: “I wonder what his personal life is like?” The woman was making a great point. We can speak all the truth we want, but if our lives don’t back it up, then our words are empty. She had seen far too many Christians live hypocritical lives.
When Ravi Zacharias told this story, he was saying that for Christianity to be real, Christianity has to actually work. Christianity, and therefore actual Christians, must live up to our claims. Coming from Zacharias, this is a sobering truth when considering the moral failure in his own life.
The important implication of this story is that Christianity is not only a series of doctrinal statements or beliefs. Yes, we do have beliefs. But for Christianity to be authentic, it must lead to transformed lives because that is what Jesus said would happen. For Christianity to work, disciples of Jesus not only believe in him, but are also being changed so that we live more and more like him.
That conference organizer’s friend was exactly right. A Christian can talk all they want, but if they don’t walk their talk, then they are doing a disservice to the cause of Christ, and worse yet, they are not to be believed.
This reminds me of what one of Jesus’ earliest followers, Peter, wrote in 1 Peter 2:9, in which he talks about how Jesus’ disciples should view themselves. Who are you, Christian? Here’s what he writes in 1 Peter 2:9, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.”
As we continue following Peter’s logic, now that we know our identity, that we are a people belonging to God, Peter tells us our purpose.
What are the people belonging to God to do? Look at what Peter says in the middle of verse 9 through verse 12: “…that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.”
In verse 9, the phrase “praises of him” specifically refers to telling the wonderful deeds that God has done. We Christians are people who tell the story of God’s goodness. There is content to that story. There are actual things that God has done in history, up to the present day. That is the story we tell. We are story-tellers. Story tellers who focus on telling the good news. Notice how Peter himself tells the story. Three ways:
We are called out of darkness into God’s light.
We once were not a people, but now we are the people of God.
We once did not have mercy, but now we have received mercy.
That is some amazing good news that we get to experience, and that we get to communicate with the people around us.
But Peter doesn’t stop there. Because we are people who can experience new life in God’s family, he says we live a new way. Check back tomorrow, as we’ll look at what that new way of life is like.