The church has always stressed holding one another accountable, but do we ever notice the attempts of non-Christians to hold the church accountable to a higher, Christian standard?
The last day of classes at the College of William and Mary is always an eventful day full of merriment and joy as students finish their classes and take a much-needed break before entering into an always-stressful exam period.
For some students this enjoyment stems from consuming rather large amounts of alcohol. For other students and me, the enjoyment stems from watching and primarily laughing at the antics of my fellow students consuming large amounts of alcohol.
This year, amidst the sounds of celebration and campus festivities, a less than cheerful comment struck my ear.
As I walked through a large on-campus picnic I passed a group of Muslim students eating dinner as they observed the campus-wide party. In passing, I overheard one of the girls within the group turned to her friend remarking how she wished that Christian students would stop drinking so much and act more like Christians.
This struck me as such an odd and intriguing comment. A Muslim student was attempting to hold Christians accountable to what she believed was proper Christian conduct.
Make no mistake—I am not attempting to address any question regarding the consumption of alcohol among Christians. The real underlying question within this brief story resides with a group of Muslim students attempting to hold Christian students accountable for their actions.
It may be easy to assume that these Muslim students were trying to hold Christians accountable to a Koranic standard of living, but this was not the case. The girl wished that Christians would act more like Christians, not more like Muslims. From her knowledge of Christianity, she believed that Christian students were not living up to a proper Christian ethic.
Her comment reminds me of an often overlooked detail found in story of Jonah. While aboard a ship to Tarshish, Jonah went below deck and fell asleep amidst a terrible storm. The sailors began to cry out to their gods asking for the storm to cease.
Then the Scripture reads, “The captain went to [Jonah] and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish” (1:6, NIV).
This pagan captain wakes Jonah and commands him to call on God. In his disobedience, Jonah ran from God and fell asleep, oblivious to storm raging all around him. This captain, perhaps unknowingly, held Jonah accountable to God by instructing him to pray.
While it is all too common for Christian ears to hear lessons on holding one another accountable, rarely do we hear lessons discussing how we should accept being held accountable. Adding the element of a non-Christian to the equation only further complicates how we deal with accountability.
I am certain a number of Christians will be quick to say that non-Christians do not have the proper scriptural understanding to hold the body of Christ accountable for their actions. If, however, a non-Christian has diligently studied Scripture and found Christian actions incongruous with their reading of Scripture, who is to say God cannot speak to his people through the interpretation of a Muslim, a Jew or a pagan.
When asked why he wasn’t a Christian, Mahatma Gandhi replied, “If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian today.”
What a powerful statement.
Sometimes I feel that Christians, and particularly Baptists, are so loud within the public square that we cannot hear the quiet drone of non-Christians holding us accountable to be more like Christ.
Sometimes I wonder if Christians are too set in vocally professing the gospel that they don’t pause to listen to non-Christians.
Sometimes I wonder if Christians can learn more about being Christian from atheists, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists than they can from reading the latest, best-selling Christian authors.
Andrew Gardner ([email protected]) is a graduate of the College of William and Mary and an incoming student at Wake Forest University School of Divinity.