Is Christian conduct important to how the unbelieving world views Christ?
Is Christian conduct important to how the unbelieving world sees Christ? Yes. For proof, talk to any unbeliever you know, and ask them their reasons for unbelief. One of the main reasons is sure to be the conduct of someone, probably someone they trusted or knew intimately, that did not align with their beliefs. Hypocrisy among the believing is one of the main reasons the unbelieving give for turning elsewhere for answers. This phenomenon is nothing new. The Bible mentions hypocrisy of this kind many times.
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Jesus pronounced woes on the Pharisees, saying "They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger" (Matthew 23:4). True Christian conduct would be mercy and grace toward sinners, just as God has forgiven us, we are to forgive others (Luke 6:37). But instead, Christians often stand in judgment over unbelievers, as if we, minus the Holy Spirit, could do any better than they do.
Paul, speaking to the Jews in Rome, said this: "But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth—you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, 'The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you'" (Romans 2:17–24). As Christians, we often think of ourselves as "a guide to the blind" or "a light to those who are in darkness" and if we give them the gospel then yes, we are. But if we give them nothing but our own prideful opinions, while disobeying the Bible and the God we claim to love, is it any wonder that the unbelievers make fun of us, and make fun of Jesus Christ?
Christians do not get to Heaven on merit. Our good conduct does not get us into God's favor. The gospel makes this clear. The only way for any of us to be saved is by God's gift of redemption to us in Christ (Ephesians 2:8–9). But our conduct says something about whether or not we truly believe what we say. To unbelievers, our preaching seems like lip-service to a God we don't really think exists. Why should they believe in Him, if we don't? Why should they obey Him, if we don't? And they have a point.
How many of us truly live according to this principle: "For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'" (Galatians 5:13–14). As Paul said to the Corinthians, "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves." (2 Corinthians 13:5). Do we practice righteousness, or do we practice sinning? (1 John 2:29, 3:4–8). Does your conduct match your profession? If you were to ask unbelievers that question, what do you think they would say? How would you feel if they said no? Christian conduct is not only important to how the unbelieving world sees Christ, how the unbelieving world sees Christ should be important to Christians, because it tell us something very important about ourselves.
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