I was sitting on the patio the other day talking with my son, enjoying the fabulous Southern California weather. The topic of being a “cool Christian” came up as he expressed his desire and passion to be a follower of Christ that is attractive to people, especially to the non-followers of Jesus. As we talked, I could see this wedge growing between “attractive Christians” and “attractive Christianity.” I realized that there is a large segment of the church today that seeks to make Christianity attractive, and perhaps that is a misguided distortion of our mission. My sometimes feeble mind suddenly took off running with this idea and I saw implications that made a lot of things fall into place.
What is “attractive Christianity”? How do we make Christianity attractive? If we read scripture carefully, being a follower of Christ is tough to call attractive. Read through these verses and tell me if this sounds attractive to you:
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:22
“When Jesus heard this, he said to him, ‘One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’” Luke 18:24
“In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:33
“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings…” Phil 3:10
Jesus told his disciples in John 16:33 “In this world you will have trouble…”
“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…” 2 Tim 3:12
Following Christ requires dying to self, giving up my own will, facing suffering and persecution, yielding everything I have and am to Him alone. On the surface, that is not very attractive. Those of us living that way know the peace, joy, contentment, and satisfaction that comes from following Christ, and recognize that there is no sacrifice.
In Bonhoeffer’s most excellent book The Cost of Discipleship, he says this: “The only man who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ.” Bonhoeffer is not teaching works salvation, but he is teaching hardcore discipleship, something that is not very attractive to the modern pagan.
But when we try to make Christianity attractive to the unsaved and lost world, it is way too easy to downplay passages like those cited above. “Hey, wanna trust Jesus as your Savior and be a Christian? You have to give up everything, die to self, you will be harassed, and I guarantee there is trouble ahead….” Probably not gonna sell too well. But there is the problem!! It is not our job to “sell” Christianity, to make it attractive, to lure in followers. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to draw people to Himself. It is our job to tell people the truth about the gospel, and let the Holy Spirit close the deal.
But being attractive Christians is entirely different, and is certainly a biblical mandate:
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35
“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Col 4:5-6
Jesus called us to be salt and light in the world. He called us to love our enemies and to be gracious. He called us to be attractive people that non-followers of Jesus will like to hang with because we are honest, reliable, and joyful people.
So I must pose the question: is it our mission to make Christianity attractive, or to be attractive Christians? And what are the implications of each?