Yesterday I was sitting in the Wichita Barnes and Noble, working on a proofreading project. The Barnes and Noble here has a lovely little cafe that I frequent. They also serve Starbucks brand coffee. But what a lot of people seem to forget is that this isn’t a Starbucks. It’s a Barnes and Noble. So you can’t bring your Starbucks gift cards in and use them here.
I lost track of how many times the poor gal at the counter had to tell people they couldn’t pay for their drinks with a Starbucks card. They may serve Starbucks coffee, but they aren’t Starbucks. And I couldn’t help but feel like that’s an important lesson for every Christ-follower to remember.
“Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’”
This is Jesus talking in one of His great sermons. And it’s harsh. It’s one of those passages that I usually stay away from because it has the potential to upset people, but it’s the only thing I could think about sitting in Barnes and Noble yesterday.
Think about it. Read it again. Sobering, isn’t it?
In our “everybody wins” culture, it’s really easy to just assume that everyone who claims to know Jesus is a Christian. We hear about celebrities frequently who make professions of faith. We can think of people in our lives who say they believe the Bible. But do they really?
Just because someone is wearing a Christian label doesn’t mean they are one.
And that’s where this gets difficult, because I don’t know someone else’s heart. The state of another person’s heart is between him (or her) and God, and it has nothing to do with me. But by that same token, it’s not wise to walk around assuming that everyone who listens to Christian music is actually a Christ-follower. We shouldn’t sit down to chat with someone and assume he or she is a believer just because they go to church or because their family does good things.
We all know what it takes to be saved. Jesus alone. It has nothing to do with what you say or how you act or where you worship or how you dress. And I don’t know about you, but I love the people in my life too much to assume they’re safe just because they can talk the talk.
That being said, I also don’t want to be one of those people who treats everyone around me disrespectfully. What a lot of Christians get wrong is the respect issue. It’s a difficult line to walk, balancing between respecting someone else’s right to choose what they believe and loving them enough to tell them when God says they’re wrong.
Disagreement doesn’t equal hatred. Correction doesn’t equal dislike. It’s actually the opposite, even though our culture says otherwise. And maybe it’s different for other people, but if I disagree with you, it actually means I love you enough to speak up. For an introvert like me, that’s a big deal.
Christians need to always remember that without God’s grace, we’d be lost. We need to live our lives with a spirit of humility and gratitude for what God has done for us, and I think that will smooth out a lot of our conversations with people who don’t agree with us.
At the same time, we need to be bold about what God says. We need to live our own lives the way God instructs. Our first focus should be doing what He says is right, and our second focus should be helping others in His name–not in our own names or in our own power.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming someone is saved because they’ve got a Christian label. The day is coming when labels won’t matter. All that will matter is the truth about what’s in your heart.