It is the nature of Christians to be righteous and truly holy. Conversely, holiness and righteousness is not the nature of non-Christians. This idea is clearly understood when you take a look at the words used to describe the process whereby a non-Christian becomes a Christian.
Perhaps the most common word used is saved. As the Apostle Paul describes being saved in Ephesians 2 (for by grace are you saved through faith–v.8), he explains that it is a salvation that is not just for eternal purposes but also of some present consequence. He explains in Ephesians 2 that those who are saved have been saved from “fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind.” The word saved indicates that those who have received this salvation have been saved from a life of corruption to a life of good works.
Another word that helps illuminate this transformation from non-believer to believer is converted. The concept portrayed in the very term converted is that of transformation from one thing to another. This transformative conversion is described in Ephesians 4:17-24. Those who formerly had their understanding darkened, were alienated from God, lived in sinfulness, greediness, and uncleanness are now converted to live lives of righteousness and true holiness.
Another point worth making at this juncture is that those who claim to be Christians or believers but evidence no sign of being converted are certainly failing to understand the nature of being a Christian as revealed in Scripture, and are very likely not actual Christians.
This brings me back to the point which we began today’s devotional with, Christians are called to live holy in ways that non-Christians are not. There is no grounds on which a Christian should ever expect non-Christians to act in exclusively Christian ways.
In understanding the work of salvation theologically, those who come in faith trusting in the saving work of Jesus as their only hope for forgiveness of their sins with God and ultimate peace with God, these people are justified. Beyond that, those who have been justified continue to grow in their obedience to and reliance on God throughout their lifetimes, and these people are those being sanctified. We must always understand though, that the only ones who can ever be expected to obey God and rely on him are those who have first been justified. There is no sanctification apart from the first work of justification. Therefore, expecting non-Christians to live lives of obedience to God or reliance on Him is not just nonsensical, it is impossible. Non-Christians cannot obey God.
Recently, many Christians have been complaining against cultural waves of indifference and even at times malevolence towards the previously existent culture of Christianity. The claims are that those people and companies that do not openly say phrases like “Merry Christmas” are in some way failing to fulfill their obligation to society. Sadly, these Christians are expecting something from non-Christians and non-Christian businesses that they have no grounds for expecting.
It is the duty of the Christian, not Starbucks to share the truth about Christmas. It is the duty of believers, not non-Christian businesses to promote the person and nature of Jesus Christ. Perhaps bragging openly about unethically “tricking” others into doing Christian things (like writing “Merry Christmas” on your coffee cup) is not the best approach to conveying the sinless and blameless person of Christ that Christians claim they represent. So, I finish today with a strong admonition: Be Christian by reflecting Christ, and don’t expect others (especially non-Christians) to do your job for you.
Reflect: Compare the distinctions that Paul makes between Christians and non-Christians in Ephesians 4:17-24.