This world is anything but consistent. Everything that has the ability to change, will change. The price of bread, the cost of buying a new car, even the price of your lunch can change from day to day. Cities are growing, countries are at war, and families are splitting all around us. One day it’s unthinkable for two men to get married. The next day, they’re saying their vows in California, and two months later, their marriage licenses are revoked. Life is inconsistent.
Yet, as inconsistent as the world is, Christianity has never been given that opportunity. The very world that can’t agree on any one thing jumps out at any inconsistencies they can find within Christianity. It’s as if they think that pointing out one “error” in the Bible or exposing one fraudulent pastor disqualifies Christianity as a whole. They don’t realize that pointing out one scandalous preacher doesn’t dismiss Christianity any more than pointing out one quack doctor dismisses the entire field of medicine.
The fact is we live in an inconsistent world. The church is held to a higher standard because we preach of a God that never changes. If inconsistency is a reality in the church, how do we deal with it? For starters, we can ask ourselves a couple of simple questions.
What is inconsistency?
I checked the Merriam-Webster online dictionary and it said that something is considered inconsistent when it is “not compatible with another fact or claim.”
This means that when I tell my dog that it is bad to get on the bed, and then I let him up under the covers when my wife, Kristie, isn’t looking, I’m sending inconsistent messages to my poor little dog. He knows it’s bad to get on the bed. I’ve yelled at him for doing so before, but this time I invited him up. Therefore, when Kristie gets into bed and finds a dog waiting to lick her feet under the covers, she yells at him. My allowing Jake into the bed is considered inconsistent because it is “not compatible with another fact or claim.”
When does the church step into inconsistency?
The church steps into inconsistency anytime that it does something “not compatible with another fact or claim.” Thus, when the Roman Catholic Church decided to send all of its males out on Holy Crusades against the Muslim’s, it stepped into inconsistency by dismissing the value of human life. They murdered, raped, and pillaged in the name of God.
What is the source of these inconsistencies?
Romans 1:19 says:
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.”
It’s important for us to understand that the church’s inconsistencies come not from a fault within the nature of God, but because of man’s sinfulness. The natural result of suppressing the truth of God is that man will become conceited and foolish. Therefore, God hands them over to the lusts of their hearts.
Sure, the Church is at fault for the Crusades, for the Spanish inquisition, for embracing slavery, and for a number of other things, but the only thing that makes these wrongs different than Hitler’s wrongs is that He was an atheist. His actions were consistent with his beliefs. The Christians, however, were not acting “compatible with another fact or claim…” that is, the message of the cross.
How do we deal with these inconsistencies?
There are several ways to deal with the inconsistencies of the church when approached by an unbeliever. Have you ever heard, “The church is full of hypocrites,” or other inconsistencies as an excuse to not go to church or believe in God?
What do you say to that?
One, you could just deny it. Two, you could try to justify their actions, or three, you could agree with them. This is what I’ve found to be the most effective response. I think it’s the most effective because it’s the same answer Jesus would have given them. In fact, in Revelation 2, when Jesus is talking to one of the churches at the beginning of John’s vision, He says,
“I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. ‘But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. ‘Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lamp stand out of its place–unless you repent” (2:2-5).
The world is very aware of the church’s inconsistency. It’s more than obvious to them. The only problem is that they don’t understand the “other fact or claim” that makes the church inconsistent. The church isn’t inconsistent because it goes back and forth on rules or guidelines that it’s created on its own. Most of the world does this, and yet they aren’t condemned. The church is inconsistent because it turns away from the word of God.
How do we apply this?
You are the church. I am the church. We all are the church. The church did not arrive at its many inconsistencies by chance. As Romans 1 points out, any inconsistencies found in the church today are a direct result of the inconstancies in our lives.
Would you attend or condone a church that allowed openly homosexual men to be the pastors? Would you attend or condone a church that supported slavery? Of course not…this is inconsistent with the word of God. Why do you distinguish between the past inconsistencies of the “church” and the present inconsistencies in your own life?
The inconsistencies of the church start in our bedrooms, in our hearts. Our inconsistencies are directly related to the inconsistencies of the church.
More questions to think about
- Where am I regularly living inconsistent with the word of God?
- How is this affecting my non-believing friends’ view of God?
- What are three ways that I will attempt to change these inconsistencies this week?
- Who are two other people that will keep me accountable?
- How will my accountability partners and I follow through this week?
Biblical precepts warning against inconsistent activities
They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed (Titus 1:16).
They have counseled only to thrust him down from his high position; They delight in falsehood; They bless with their mouth, But inwardly they curse (Psalm 62:4).
“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3)
“Why do you call Me, `Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46)
If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? (James 2:15-16)
With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way (James 3:9-10).
Scriptural references that stress the importance of a faithful walk
Nevertheless the righteous will hold to his way, And he who has clean hands will grow stronger and stronger (Job 17:9).
Therefore, return to your God, Observe kindness and justice, And wait for your God continually (Hosea 12:6).
You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved (Matthew 10:22).
I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing (John 15:5).
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1).
Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary (Galatians 6:9).
Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm (Ephesians 6:13).
With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints (Ephesians 6:18).
Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel (Philippians 1:27)
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2).