I had a brief back-and-forth with some friends on Twitter yesterday about whether Christians can escape the opprobrium of the world by doing good. I argued that we cannot. Others suggested that we can.
Enter Collin Hansen’s new book Blind Spots, which I just started reading today. He is very helpful on this point:
Take, for example, the strange promise you sometimes hear from those who see lack of compassion as the greatest problem with the church today. They argue that our compassion can win the world’s favor. So when we sell our stuff, save our schools, and serve the suffering, we won’t make enemies.
To be sure, I admire, even applaud, this optimism that Christians can make a difference with such intractable problems as global poverty and maybe even earn some respect and admiration in the process. And if they mean only that our good works will silence fools (1 Pet. 2:15), then I can agree.
But I do not believe Christians can ever win over the world this way. And when we expect that our good works should earn the favor of unbelievers, we’re tempted to blame ourselves or especially our theological adversaries when the Western world grows more hostile toward the church. We have enough jeremiads that place the sins of the world at the church’s door. But even if we did more, gave more, and loved more, many would still reject us and the gospel Jesus preached.
If Jesus is our example in compassion, why did the world hate him and his apostles? The world, of course, put him to death along with most of his disciples. Jesus told us the world would hate us for loving him. He warned his disciples, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18). The church must follow Christ’s command to love our neighbors whether or not we ever receive thank-you notes. We will occasionally suffer antagonism for heroic stands on behalf of the most helpless among us—the unborn, for example. And in such cases we must know that the reaction of our neighbors cannot dictate our agenda. Compassion won’t always be appreciated or even received by a world that rejects the source of our compassion. –Collin Hansen, Blind Spots, pp. 44-45
For more on this, you can order Hansen’s book here.