Christianity is about salvation. This has always been the case, but many Christians have developed a warped understanding of what salvation looks like. Often, this is a result of bad theology. Many loud voices in Christianity echo the sounds of the religious authorities who put Jesus on a cross. Toxic Christianity has caused many people to lose hope in the Church and the world. How should we respond to toxic Christianity? How can we quiet all of the outside voices and forces and refocus our vision on salvation? Here are five antidotes.
Keeping our eyes on Jesus.
With all the negative voices drowning out the true message of the gospel, the best antidote is keeping our eyes focused on Jesus. It’s easy to become distracted from what matters. The temptations and troubles of the world make it even easier to become distracted. This may seem like an obvious statement. We all know that it’s important to fix our eyes on Jesus. In John 15:1-8, Jesus told us we must stay connected to Jesus, known as the True Vine so that we can bear fruit in our lives. This means living for Him, learning to love God along with our neighbors as we are called to do in the Bible. There is no way we can do what God has called us to do if we are not staying connected to Christ.
A deeper understanding of scripture.
We need to focus on the truth. Toxic Christianity will shift us away from the gospel truth toward earthly truths. This is why it’s so important to have a close relationship with scripture. Our understanding of God’s Word shouldn’t just come from church leaders but from our own deep relationship with the Bible. One great Bible example to look at is Matthew 14:22-23, the story of Peter walking on water. Peter stepped out of the boat he was on and began walking. Peter was doing fine until he saw the wind. Once he saw it, he became afraid and started to sink. He took his eyes off Jesus and focused more on fear than on Jesus, who was right in front of him. When his faith tanked, he sank. We must process this. Peter allowed his focus to fall away from Jesus and toward the wind. He completely forgot that Jesus was near. We do the same all the time when we stop engaging in scripture and allow our attention to rest on the fears of the world. Our focus should always be our Lord and Savior. We must always stay focused on the truth. We should remain faithful and full of hope, regardless of the world's distractions and what is going on around us.
Focus on love.
Jesus called His disciples and followers to love their enemies. He also called them to be abundantly merciful, to repent and to offer non-violent resistance to those who commit evil. He talked about nonviolence and peace in the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5:28-39 says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also….’ Matthew 5:43-44 continues, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” These words are considered some of the most difficult to apply of all the Lord’s teachings. However, the gospel accounts reveal that Jesus not only taught this standard, but He also lived by it. Toxic Christianity has called many Christians to only love certain people who fall into a specific box, those we deem more godly, but we know that Jesus calls us to love everyone. We know that love is the focus of Christianity because God is love.
Shift away from the forces of evil.
As believers, we are called to make a deliberate commitment to teaching, preaching and boldly proclaiming the gospel's message. This means promoting the teachings of Jesus on nonviolence even if it’s counter to what our culture teaches. There will be times when the forces of evil will try to pull us away from the message of salvation. Sometimes, these messages can come directly from the Church. We must turn away from any voices that don’t promote the gospel. If we trust in the love of God and apply these principles in everything we do, we can live as we were called to.
Focus on worship first.
Many Christians are concerned about the state of the Church today and feel we are in danger of turning the Church into a flashy concert venue over a true house of worship. Whatever happened to the simplicity of the gospel? While larger churches with flashy setups can be moving, it’s problematic when it distracts us from the true message of the gospel. It’s easy to get lost in multiple video screens, stage lights and overpowering music that makes worship more about spectacular entertainment than true worship. As Christians, we are designed to worship. Anything that pulls us away from this is toxic.
Understanding the gift of God’s grace and salvation is imperative on our Christian journey. There will be many toxic forces pulling you away from God, which unfortunately may include those in your own Church and those you care about. Beware of anything that your gut is telling you is toxic, not Christlike. Just because the message comes from the Church doesn’t always mean it’s godly. God loves us and wants nothing more for our fallen and broken world to be restored.