A big issue in the Flathead Valley during the past few months has been contention over whether a large Jesus Statue in Whitefish, MT, erected about 50 years ago by Knights of Columbus World War II veterans, could remain on the U.S Forest Service land it currently occupies. The Freedom from Religion organization, which is based out of Wisconsin, has been the primary group attempting to get rid of the statue, due to concerns over the separation of church and state. This has Christians in the Flathead Valley up in arms about the attacks of the "godless unbelievers."
Let me start by saying, I am definitely pro-Jesus (obviously!) and it sounds like the statue had a good purpose. Although I have also heard rumors of partying that took place around the statue, that doesn't take away from the good purpose in putting up the statue to begin with. I think the attacks against it are silly and not very helpful to unity in our country. Perhaps we could all consider the sacred act of serving in war and give a little when it comes to what our soldiers found comforting when they returned home. Tearing down or moving the statue does seem to be in poor taste and not very respectful of our soldiers' service.
However. I am really befuddled by the way Christians are acting about the whole thing. They have gotten their eyes completely off of our mission as Christians. To them, the battle is to defend ourselves against those who want to take our way of life away from us. It's Christians vs. godless heathen.
I look at the whole thing and see some atheists who are being unfair, but who also need the love of Christians who love the real Jesus more than a statue on a hill. What about how the Apostle Paul told us that to him, all the things that were considered religious glory in the past were now loss to him, in light of being able to know Christ, the fellowship of His sufferings, His resurrection? Was Paul talking about a statue of Jesus--or the actual Jesus?
I'm not suggesting we just become politically correct. But I do think, we need to let go of battles that are not nearly as important as showing God's love and communicating the Gospel. Most atheists are convinced that Christians are nothing but hateful, closed-minded idiots. My response to that is: show them wrong! Go out there and love atheists! Talk intelligently to them. Don't give for a moment on your core beliefs that we are all sinners in need of a Savior, but act like you realize you too are a sinner who needs a Savior! Be humble!
The world will not rise or fall on whether a Jesus statue remains on a mountainside. What the world will live or die by is whether they come to a saving faith in Jesus. This will not be accomplished by snide, sarcastic newspaper opinion letters (and we have had quite a few lately). This will not be accomplished by rallies of people surrounding a statue and claiming their rights. This will be accomplished by people who know their hope is in heaven, not in a statue. A real witness is not found through a piece of art, but through people who are living poiemas or "masterpieces" created in Christ Jesus and given faith in order to do good in a broken world (Ephesians 2:8-10).
Sure, the world is often unfair to Christians. They see the bad eggs and blame us all. They try to push us out of the public square. They fail to see the good that we do, the caring for our neighbor, the hungry, the sick, the unwed mother. They accuse us of not caring about those things. (And of course, sometimes we deserve the criticism, but we get it whether we do or not.) My response is: so what? What else did you expect from a broken world that needs Jesus? Do you think you find Christians who are being persecuted in communist China complaining about how horribly unfair unbelievers are to them? No, to the contrary, they ask not for prayers for the persecution to stop but rather for prayers that they may be a witness in the midst of persecution. They don't claim their rights; they follow Jesus. They aren't surprised when they are persecuted; they look at it as an opportunity to show God's love.
We Christians have got to stop claiming our rights. We have got to start focusing instead on how to bring God's light to a lost world. We have got to stop thinking the world owes us a certain standard of treatment. We need to start forgiving when we are treated badly. Maybe then the world might sit up and take notice and ask us for "the reason of the hope within us." And even if they don't, they won't be able to use us for an excuse anymore to disbelieve in God.
We Christians have been fighting the wrong battles. Ephesians 6 tells us our battle is not against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces in the heavenly realms. Let's start living like that's true.