Character Witness

I was talking to a friend recently--a nonbeliever--and he said, "Chuck, everything you say about Christianity sounds good. But what bothers me is the historical record. The Crusades, the Inquisition--all the terrible things done in the name of Christ." "True, I said. "But just remember, that's nothing compared to the things done in the name of secular faiths. Think of Hitler--6 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. And Stalin--some 50 million people slaughtered in the Gulag. The fruits of atheism are much, much worse than any abuse of Christianity." My friend stopped short. "You're right," he said. You see, Christianity doesn't make people perfect. But it does make us better than we would have been. Remove the restraint of God's law, and the worst barbarism breaks forth. There's a famous story about the novelist Evelyn Waugh, who had a gift for making sharp comments that wounded even his friends. A woman asked him, "Mr. Waugh, how can you behave as you do, and still call yourself a Christian?" Waugh replied, "Madam, I may be as bad as you say. But believe me, were it not for my religion, I would scarcely be a human being." The point is, Christianity does make us better people. But in some of us, God starts out with pretty difficult raw material. Edith Schaeffer once said the Fall affects each person differently. Physically, some people are strong and athletic; others are weak and sickly. In the same way, some people have a naturally good disposition; others are born with an abrasive personality. Becoming a Christian doesn't erase these inherent differences. It just gives us tools to work on them. C.S. Lewis once put it this way. A crotchety old lady may be considered a poor witness for Christian faith. But who is to say how much more cantankerous she might be if she were not a Christian? And a nonbeliever who is a gentle, pleasant fellow--who is to say how much better he might be if he were a Christian? For myself, I'm sometimes accused of being a hard-driving fellow. But I know what I was like before I became a Christian. When I worked in the White House, it was said I would run over my own grandmother to get what I wanted. So don't be intimidated when your friends bring up the tired old lines about the Crusades and the Inquisition. Just remind them how much worse people are when Christian restraints are removed. After all, when a Hitler or a Stalin commits atrocities, he is acting out the ideology he believes in. He's revealing the logical consequences of what he believes in. But when a Christian is cruel, he's acting in violation of what he believes in. And when Christians act in accord with their faith, even in small measure, the result is a goodness that the world knows nothing about. Around the world, Christians have built schools, universities, orphanages, hospitals. They have supported law and public morality. They have rescued children thrown out to die. They have helped the poor and visited the prisoner. The evidence from history is clear. Despite our human faults, Christianity has made the world and the people in it--not perfect--but far better than they would have been without it.


Chuck Colson


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