For over 25 years my wife and I have been labouring to get people to understand the meaning of the Christian life so that, receiving God’s grace and love, they could be holy, loving and joyful people. This has been a huge challenge. For some reason God has sent our way many deeply scarred people for whom the Christian ethic of holy-love seems to be distant and impractical. I think this has been the most absorbing theological challenge I have had in the past 15 years or so: Can all that the Bible says about holiness, love and joy really be experienced and practiced? And this battle has been a primary background for what I have taught and written in recent years.
We have seen a lot of failure. Some did not avail themselves in faith of the great truths of the faith–that God loves them; that God is totally trustworthy; that he will turn every experience, whether good or bad, into something good for them; and that he will give the power to help them overcome sin. So they were not willing to surrender the idols that keep them from experiencing the full blessings of grace. Examples of such idols are the feeling that they have been permanently hurt by somebody; that they are unfortunate individuals, that they must not trust anyone, even God; that they must run their own lives and submit to no one; that they must take revenge for the hurts they experienced; and that they cannot give up a sinful habit or relationship.
But along the way we have also seen some who have surrendered to God and let God heal their wounds. They have grown into joyous and loving Christians. I am convinced, on the authority of the Bible and on the evidence from experience, that it is possible for people to live truly Christian lives. And, from the Bible and experience, I am also convinced that this is what people are looking for most in life, though they may not recognise it and may act as if they are not in the least interested in it. Because we were made in the image of God, the only way a human being can find real fulfilment is by following God’s way.
So I am committed to pressing for the Christian way of life at all times, even though many may think it is impossible to practice and irrelevant to their lives. I do so as a fellow pilgrim, as I too have personally battled with issues of disobedience which have challenged my relationship with and joy in the Lord.
Strangely, I have been finding that sometimes non-Christians attending my meetings or listening to CDs of talks or reading my books have been attracted to the material presented about the Christian life. My book The Call to Joy and Pain was specifically written for Christians in ministry. A friend, who was a devout Muslim, was so excited by this book that she pushed it among her Muslim friends–one of whom is a respected thought-influencer in the Sri Lankan media world. A soldier, who is not a Christian, listened to a talk I had given on anger, and then got his whole family to listen to it, because he felt they all needed the message.
I once conducted a seminar for pastors on “the sexual life of the pastor.” The commander of an army camp next to the church where the seminar was held (a devout Buddhist), heard about the seminar, came for it, and later asked to speak to me. We spent a long time talking about numerous things including the challenge he faced trying to rein in his troops so that they do not behave immorally. He got me to talk to his wife on the phone and also said that I must take this message to the Buddhist youth in the area from which he hails.
At a time of moral and emotional confusion in the world, concerned people are desperately looking for ways to stem the moral slide which is rapidly destroying the joy, sanity and wholesomeness of our people. They are looking for more acceptable definitions of things the world has redefined; like sex, marriage, pleasure and joy.
The Christian approach to life is the sanest, surest and most fulfilling way there is for one to live. After all, it is the message of the Creator to his highest creation—the human being. If so, surely the Creator’s way to fulfilment should be the only way to satisfy the deepest aspirations of the human soul. Gospel truth should agree with our deepest instincts. Indeed those instincts have not escaped the taint and pollution of sin. But the Holy Spirit can use our witness to help resurface those buried instincts so that people see that the gospel is what they need. When a Brahmin heard for the first time that God had come down and died for the sin of the world, he said, “If that isn’t true, it ought to be true.”
When we present the Christian life in a way that non-Christians can understand, people could realise that this is what they are longing for. Communicating the Christian ethic could be one of the greatest contributions we make in restoring sanity to the life of our nations. It could also be a means of commending the gospel to people who would not otherwise be interested in it. Demonstrating the Christian approach to living, by word and deed, could have much evangelistic value today.