Can Christianity Become Beautiful Again?


Fact: Christianity — true Christianity, the kind that Jesus introduced through his life, death, resurrection, and moral vision — never stopped being beautiful.

Fact: Anything that calls itself Christianity, but that is ugly, judgy, abusive, or abrasive, is not true Christianity. It is a counterfeit of the worst kind, and of the highest order.

Fact: We have some work to do to reclaim Jesus’ true, always life-giving, and never life-sucking way…

Jesus said that his followers would be a light to the world and a city on a hill, a wildly diverse yet compellingly unified multitude of earthbound citizens of heaven. This multitude would have the impact of a virus, infecting the world with love. They would not crawl into a corner, but would position themselves in every corner of God’s world – the City of God penetrating the City of Man, so to speak.

Jesus’ multitude would be counter-culture, but in a way that is for the culture, not against it. They would be known as those who, as NT Wright has said, surprise the world with hope by imagining God’s future into the present. They would do this by proclamation and demonstration – words of grace and truth coupled with life-giving deeds. They would gain power, not as a religious majority but as a life-giving minority. They would lead the world in acts of love and justice and be the most life-giving bosses, employees, neighbors and friends. They would also be the best enemies, returning insults with kindness and persecution with prayers. They would stay true to their biblical convictions and – not in spite of those convictions but because of them – would love, listen to, and serve those who don’t share their convictions.

Jesus’ multitude would participate with God in bringing foretastes of heaven down. They would leave the world, as far as it depended on them, better than they found it. They would be a sign and shadow of a better world, a world that all have imagined but none has yet seen. Over time their movement – Jesus’ movement – would become irresistible to people everywhere.

In Walking On Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, Madeleine L’Engle wrote:

We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.

There are many who would say they don’t recognize Christianity in L’Engle’s words. To them, Christians come across as everything but a light so lovely. As Gandhi is famously alleged to have said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians.”

Skeptics like Gandhi do have a point. Need we rehearse history? Servetus burned at the stake. The Crusades. The Inquisition. The genocide of Native Americans. Slavery. The “God Hates Fags” and “Fags Burn in Hell” signs at Matthew Shepard’s funeral after he was beaten to death for being gay. Calling the September 11 terrorist attacks God’s judgment on America…

…and using the Bible, of all things, to justify such godless behaviors…things that Jesus would never endorse and would always condemn…things that would make Jesus furious.

In spite of such behaviors falsely perpetrated in Christ’s name, I remain optimistic about Jesus and his multitude. I am optimistic because these stories aren’t the full story. Moreover, they aren’t the real story – because for every poor representation of Christ, there are a thousand lovely ones. History is marked by the light so lovely spoken of by Madeleine L’Engle. History is marked by a Christian orthodoxy that is beautiful.

CS Lewis said that if we read history, we will find that those who did the most good for the present world were the ones who thought the most of the next. To be heavenly minded is to be more earthly good, not less.

Throughout history, Christians have shown groundbreaking leadership in science (Pascal, Copernicus, Newton, Galileo, Koop, Collins), the arts and literature (Rembrandt, Beethoven, Dostoevsky, TS Eliot, Tolkein, Fujimura, Cash, Dylan, Bono), the academy (almost all the Ivy League Universities were founded by Christians), healthcare (notice how many hospitals have names that begin with the word Saint), mercy and justice (Wilberforce with abolition, Mueller with orphan care, MLK with civil rights), and much more.

Contemporary, secular observers are also taking note of how orthodox Christian belief, in its purest form, spawns beautiful lives. New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof, an avowed agnostic, has written at least twice on how Christians are the first to come, the last to leave, and have the deepest pockets every time he covers poverty, natural disaster, or some other horrific event. Gay activist Shane Windemeyer, so moved by the kindness, humility and friendship of Christian businessman Dan Cathy, “came out as a friend” in The Huffington Post of the man whose business he used to protest. Or, closer to home, there’s the abortion provider who recently told a member of our church, “I want your God, whoever he or she or it is, to be my God.”

I don’t know about you, but this is the kind of orthodoxy I want. Beautiful orthodoxy. The kind that electrifies the light so lovely. The kind that gives a tired, sometimes cynical world a reason to pause and consider…and to start wishing it was true.


Scott’s latest book, A Gentle Answer: Our ‘Secret Weapon’ in an Age of Us-Against-Them
is now available for individuals, discussion groups, and churches.

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13 responses to “Can Christianity Become Beautiful Again?”

  1. lindam says:

    Hello Scott Sauls,

    These are days of caution. We should not be too quick to become friendly with world philosophy and ideology. We see the example in the OT of separation of God’s people from other gods and their ways of doing things. We know that we are facing New Age indoctrination and teaching built into today’s education, science, and culture. Jesus died for the world because it was certain death for people. He did not embrace the world’s ideas or ways.

    Christians are fighting for their faith in our day. There is so much that opposes them. We serve the Lord God, we do not serve the world. This seems to be clear in scripture. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, not the feet of the Pharisees or the feet of his adversaries. We need to tread carefully in our interactions with the world. We need to guard our hearts. Many Christians are not ready to do this. They are babes in Christ.

    The 3 quotes I pasted below are from I placed the parenthesis around (of the Church) to emphasis that this teacher is talking about the church of Christ as a whole.

    “Any attempt (of the Church) to have fellowship with those who are not of the Lord’s own people, to compromise with them in any manner whatever, will result in loss of the Presence of the Lord.”

    “This does not mean Christians cannot be friendly with non-Christians. We are speaking rather of the building of the Kingdom of God.”

    “The world has no business in the Church of the Lord Jesus. There is to be no fellowship with the world in the work of restoration. We do not need the world and we do not want the world. The mixture of the Church and the world is Babylon (man-directed Christianity). Spiritual Babylon is a prostitute and the mother of prostitutes. Babylon always stands ready to sell her favors to the highest bidder.”

    • Brooke says:

      Lindam – I see nowhere in this beautifully written piece where Sauls suggests that we embrace the actions and behaviors of the world, but instead, calls us to follow the actions of Christ and love them. Love people! It is the second command. It is the heart of our Heavenly Father. I’m so grateful that I was embraced by Christ followers in some of my darkest days. My life was saved because of selfless, embracing love that met me where I was – not at a distance, but getting dirty and loving me in the midst of my pain and mess. Christ has given us a NEW heart – one of flesh and POWER of the Holy Spirit to BE His hands and feet here on earth. I choose to love and come to unbelievers with arms wide open, not stiff armed in fear. Christ loved us with reckless abandon and calls us to live in the same way. Let’s renew our minds daily and trust the Holy Spirit to guard our hearts as we follow Him into battle with the Full Armour of God, doing all that we can to win lost souls back into the fold!

      • lindam says:

        Hi Brooke,
        The issue today is the teaching happening in the church, not the selfless, loving actions of a believer that are very commendable. Popular teachings today are not following the teachings of the Bible. You would have to exclude a good portion of the Bible to accept today’s christian teaching on doctrine. This is a problem. We cannot take away from the Word of God. We cannot add to the Word of God. Revelation declares that there will be unbelievable consequences to those who do so. We have world philosophy in our education, science and culture that is demanding acceptance of sin and acknowledgment of its value. This is not possible for a believer to do. They will have to compromise their faith or pay possible consequences from the legal system and policing systems in our country and of the world. We are in compromising times for believers and the church as a whole is not helping believers to try and stand for Christ. We must keep our faith in Jesus and the world system that is happening right now is beginning to demand that we deny Christ and Jesus.
        thanks for responding to my post. Your testimony about believers helping you is wonderful to hear.

      • Gina Borneman says:

        Beautifully stated.
        At the funeral of a dear spiritual mentor, many people stood and talked about Rev. Jack: “He led me to Christ. Right there. I knelt right there and prayed with him.”
        “He discipled me on my journey.”
        “He helped save my marriage.”
        “He inspired me to follow the call to be a pastor.”
        “He slipped money onto my hand when I was broke.”
        But the one that hit me hardest:
        “I don’t even know why I walked into the church. I didn’t believe. If there was a God, I didn’t want anything to do with him. I was as broken as any person has ever been. My husband had left me. I was in a deep depression. I was ready to die. He let me cry and yell and rant. He didn’t scold me. Jack was Jesus to me until I was ready to love Jesus.”
        To me, that’s pretty good way to love thy neighbor.

    • Scott says:

      To question that this article places risk between the church and the world entirely misses the heart of the gospel. Thanks for sharing Scott.

      • lindam says:

        Hi Jeff,

        You said here, “And God’s exiles are commanded to seek the peace and prosperity of Babylon”.
        There were circumstances in Daniel’s life that were out of his control. He was a captive. He was basically a slave. He could not go where he wanted to go. Daniel did use his gifts in Babylon. We are commanded in the Bible to seek the prosperity and peace of Jerusalem.
        Thanks for your response to my post.

      • lindam says:

        Hey Scott,
        We believers have a directive from Christ. ‘Be in the world, but not of it’. Our thinking is different, our mind is different, our life’s goals are different, our heart and spirit are different from the world. Christ brings life to our spirit. This is different than what the world has. The issue today in the church is that we seem to think that witnessing means taking part in the world and its matters. This has produced believers who are being overcome by a crafty, intelligent, talented, spirit of antichrist. This is an alarming situation today.
        thanks for responding to my post

  2. Jeff Schultz says:

    I appreciate your concern that the church not simply follow the patterns and practices of a world that does not know or love Jesus. But Babylon is exactly where Daniel used his gifts to serve pagan kings for decades. And God’s exiles are commanded to seek the peace and prosperity of Babylon.

    • lindam says:

      Hi Jeff,

      You said here, “And God’s exiles are commanded to seek the peace and prosperity of Babylon”.
      There were circumstances in Daniel’s life that were out of his control. He was a captive. He was basically a slave. He could not go where he wanted to go. Daniel did use his gifts in Babylon. We are commanded in the Bible to seek the prosperity and peace of Jerusalem.
      Thanks for your response to my post.

  3. Eloise says:


    What is written here is so instep with the whole narrative of scripture and with the heart of a God who has come in love to Redeem a people that resemble His heart and draw other to Himself . Yes, Yes, Yes! Thank you for this beautiful exposition of how to live.

  4. lindam says:

    Hi ScottSauls,
    Christians are being annihilated in Syria, Iraq, and other nations? Is it because these Christians are not loving enough? No. I saw young Christian men being shot in the head while telling their shooters that they forgive them. Love is being taught incorrectly in our day. Grace is being taught incorrectly in our day. Believers are being taught to accept and embrace the things of the world in the name of Love. God says if we love the world we are his enemies and we will NOT inherit the kingdom. What is happening today is a slow boil for Christians. We are being asked to conform to the thinking and ideals of the New Age and the New World Order. This is anti-christ. It is not ok for the church to teach people to give in to the world, love them, and not be offensive. That is what is being done subtleley through todays’ popular Christian teaching.

  5. Barbara Bostrom says:

    Beautiful. I love this and pray for the beauty of God to permeate His creation and to overflow in our lives.

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