Our office regularly receives urgent requests to join someone in a protest. Christian activists become incensed about what the government or anti-Christian organization, or business is doing. In response, they urge every Christian to: sign a petition, boycott, attend a rally, or support legislation. Rarely do I comply.
I admire these sincere believers for acting on their principles. However, I am troubled by much of the Christian activism that is taking place today.
For one, much of it seems to be done in anger. Anger rarely produces righteous results. More often it blinds people to the sinfulness of their own behavior and leads people to act just as sinfully as the people they are condemning. Second, too often these measures appear to be simply the world’s methods, all scrubbed up and whitewashed to have the appearance of biblical principles. Politics and boycotts are the same strong-arm tactics that unbelievers use. God said His ways are not our ways (Is. 55:8-9). Finally, much activism appears to be the activist’s idea, not God’s. Someone becomes passionate about a cause and then simply does whatever they can think of to advance it. The only difference for Christian activists is that they ask God to bless their efforts!
Clearly it is not wrong to be passionate about worthy causes nor is it sinful to enlist others to become active in supporting worthy endeavors. However, I have been driven back to a foundational truth of the Christian life: Apart from abiding in Christ, I can do nothing. Jesus declared, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Jesus was saying that the key to a Christian’s effectiveness is abiding in Him. For activists, this is hard to hear. I have had many an agitated Christian scoff at this Scripture and declare that while others were wasting time in their prayer closet “abiding,” they would be getting the job done! “Abiding” can be viewed as avoiding the difficult work or of being too heavenly minded to be any earthly good. It’s a verse that attracts mystics, not pragmatists.
We do well to consider the disciples. It took them a while, but eventually they grasped what Jesus had taught them. They accepted the truth that apart from their vibrant, growing, close relationship with Christ, they could produce no fruit. Abiding in Christ became their top priority. Even when there were pressing administrative matters at hand, they refused to neglect their regular time with Christ (Acts 6:2). And what was the result of their neglecting their “leadership work” so they could pray and read their Bible? They built the first mega church! They spread the Gospel from Jerusalem to every corner of the civilized world.
The reasons we need to abide in Christ are many. For one, we must learn what is on God’s heart and mind. I often hear people declaring what God cares about. Yet as they speak, you have no sense they actually heard from God. These people simply assume that what is important to them must also be a priority for Jesus. However, when we abide in Christ, we draw near to Him and He lays His heart over our heart until we know what His thoughts and priorities are (1 Sam. 2:30). Second, when we abide in Christ, He changes us. You cannot remain in Jesus’ presence and stay the same! The problem with many Christian activists is that they seek to represent Christ without looking like Christ. Third, abiding in Christ enables us to understand His methods. Too many Christians are attempting to accomplish God’s work using the world’s methods. Finally, we must abide in Christ because it is then, and only then, that we will produce much fruit. In fact, Jesus said, apart from abiding in Him, we could do nothing.
I have the privilege of working with Christian CEOs of major companies in corporate America. As you might expect, they are Type A, driven, result-oriented people. They don’t like to waste time. They are always moving. They are paid to make things happen.
So it is fascinating when for the first year of their instruction, they are repeatedly told to abide in Christ. This is usually quite foreign to their orientation! They keep asking what they should be “doing” and we keep pointing them back to abiding!
I regularly meet ministry leaders and pastors who are working hard to accomplish their goals and to expand their ministry. Yet it seems that on many fronts, the spiritual landscape in America and in many parts of the world is in serious decline. Surely our effort alone is not sufficient to reverse the trends. We need to hurriedly make our way back into Christ’s presence and remain there, while He transforms us and informs us. When we have been fashioned into a tool of God’s own choosing, He promises He will bear much fruit. At this point, we don’t have any time to lose.