When believers get in the way of the Gospel

Most of us sincerely desire to reach others for Christ. But what if, instead of giving others a helping hand in learning about Jesus, we unintentionally become an obstacle they must overcome.

Credible: offering reasonable grounds for being believed. (1)
Credibility: the quality or power of inspiring belief. (2)

The issue of credibility is a big one these days. It involves who we trust and why we trust them. When we are proven trustworthy in one area of life, the result often is that people trust us in other areas of life. We are credible.

Sadly, the Christian community is losing credibility these days due to how some believers choose to express their opinions (whether about politics, COVID or a myriad of other issues) so vehemently in the public arena. In my small circle, I have seen a great deal of name-calling, shaming–even salvation and godliness–questioned between believers simply over a difference of opinion on a minor issue.

In the words of the Apostle James: “…things should not be this way” (James 3:10).

Not only is tone a big issue, but the level of discernment is also concerning. For some, the criteria used to determine credibility is often based upon shared ideology. Does a person have a liberal or conservative worldview? What are that person’s political convictions? What do they believe about Covid? How about the …[fill in the blank]… theory? Based upon agreement in one area, opinions may be formed for a wide range of issues. Then when those opinions are expressed without discernment or humility, it leads to a lack of credibility. When we espouse ideas as if they’re the gospel truth, yet they cannot be clearly and gently defended from Scripture, we lose credibility before the world, and our witness is significantly compromised.

Putting one’s faith in the gospel is the most consequential step a person can take. An individual’s eternal destiny is at stake. The message of the Bible is hard for many to believe. People are skeptical. The starting point for many unbelievers is a belief that Christians are gullible, non-critical thinkers who are no different than the rest of world. In that light, it’s essential that we work hard to be credible in all areas of life, keeping in mind that an unbelieving world is watching… and watching closely.

Now, I’m not saying we should compromise on areas of Scripture that clearly teach difficult truths in order to be more relevant to the world. Not at all! The Bible does contain truths that are truly hard for many to swallow and we are right to stand by God’s Word. But let’s be oh-so-careful in how we communicate. And let’s be wise about which of our own opinions and soapbox issues is worth adding to the list of things “difficult to swallow.”

We need not throw up additional barriers for unbelievers to navigate before they believe the gospel.

The Apostle Paul gave us wise guidance that is so pertinent to the times in which we are living. These are mainly found in Romans 14, though surrounding chapters are also helpful in this area. I highly recommend sitting down and reading Romans 12-15 through in one sitting.

In Romans 14, Paul starts by instructing believers not to argue about “disputed matters” (v 1)*. According to Got Questions, “Disputable matters can be summed up as non-essential issues in the Christian life, or “gray areas” in which the Bible does not spell out clear guidelines.”(3) Later in the chapter, Paul says that if these disagreements jeopardize relationships, then “whatever you believe about these things, keep between yourself and God” (v 22a). That’s tough to swallow in an age where it’s considered right and normal to argue publicly and aggressively about even the most minor issues.

Why would Paul tell us to keep our opinions on disputable matters to ourselves? Well, Paul says that when we are quick to judge others on things that are not clearly stated in God’s Word, we can in effect “tear down God’s work” (v 20). Paul fears that when our passions are ignited over debatable opinions, we may, sadly, “destroy … someone for whom Christ died” (v 15). This is serious business, not to be lightly dismissed.

People’s eternity is at stake.

“Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves,” Paul says in verse 22. We choose our battles wisely when we’re guided by our passion for leading others to Christ and living by His Word. “If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord” (v 8). Our lives need to be more about Christ and less about politics, health, or many other less essential views, no matter which side of an issue you stand on.

Last week, we wrote about keeping the Main Thing the main thing. That’s what we must come back to. And by doing so, we can save our credibility and be the kind of people who unbelievers might just turn to for insight into the really big stuff of life—like receiving eternal life after death.


*All quoted Scripture is from the Christian Standard Bible.

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