An old man died. A wonderful funeral started and the country preacher talked at length about good traits of the deceased - what an honest man he was, and what a loving husband and kind father he was.
His widow leaned over and whispered to her son, "Go take a look in the coffin and see who that is. It doesn’t sound like your pa!"
I feel that way about what I’m hearing about Christianity, except in reverse. What’s said doesn’t match the religion I know. An outsider recently had a best-selling book claiming that God is not great and that religion poisons everything. Worse, Christians may be buying into that idea that Christianity has botched everything. One writer recently praised celebrities Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie “who are trying to make the world a better place.” He then asked, “Where are the Followers of Jesus regarding Otherlyness (his term for caring about others)? Why are we always late to the party?”
I’m sorry, but who says we’re late? Even a brief survey of history shows that it was Christians who gathered up abandoned children - those left exposed to die – to care for them. Christians who founded many of the world’s hospitals and orphanages. Christians who established the Red Cross, and who started modern nursing (via Florence Nightingale). Christians who started most of the Western world’s educational institutions – including such notable American universities as Harvard and Yale.
Even now, those who try to follow the teachings of Jesus lead the way in compassion and generosity. Syracuse University professor Arthur C. Brooks, in his book Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism, reluctantly admits that, while liberals have “lambasted conservatives for their callousness in the face of social injustice” it is religious conservatives who “donate far more money than secular liberals to all sorts of charitable activities, irrespective of income.”
Sure, Christians are sometimes calloused and uncaring. You need look no further than the one typing these words for proof. But let’s be fair and honest enough to admit what several historians have forcefully proclaimed – that Jesus Christ has been the most powerful and the most positive influence on Western civilization and ultimately on the entire world.
Christians late to the “otherlyness” party? At the heart of Jesus’ teaching is: “to love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:32). When it comes to caring, Jesus Christ started that party!