“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
Ephesians 2:8-10 (NLT)
"So what's the difference between a humanitarian and a Christian?" This question was posed to me a few months ago by one of my friends who isn't a believer. She went on to ask a rather rhetorical question in her eyes, "Aren't all Christians (individuals who are truly following Christ, not just in name only) basically humanitarians?" So, that's the question I pose to you.
I think the first place to tackle this is in the dictionary. According to Merriam-Webster, a humanitarian is "a person promoting human welfare and social reform." A Christian is defined as "one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ." I personally like the definition in Dictionary.com a little better: "exhibiting a spirit proper to a follower of Jesus Christ." Once we looked at these definitions, my friend made a completely reasonable assumption. She argued that Christians, by definition, were humanitarians because the teachings of Jesus Christ promoted human welfare and social reform. And at that very moment, her words convicted my heart in such a way that my soul grieved. In the brevity of a moment, every "good deed" flashed before my eyes, everything I had done because I wanted to show the love of Jesus. I realized that while He was my motivation, His name was almost NEVER mentioned. And I couldn't help but wonder why.
In their book, Humanitarian Jesus, Christian Buckley and Ryan Dobson write the following: "We could spend an entire life serving people and never once risk offending anyone. But if we open our mouths and share the biblical gospel of salvation, then we risk offense, humiliation, and scorn. We risk being called unloving, narrow-minded, and intolerant. We risk being persecuted rather than praised. … Christ opened His mouth and the apostles did the same. The consequences for almost all of them were severe, but if you if you asked any of them, they would confirm it was worth it. Our evangelism must include what we do and who we are, but it must also include words.” (p.70)
I began to realize that so many of my “good works,” while conceived out of my love for Jesus, failed to give credit where credit was most certainly due. If someone were witnessing these "good works," it's quite possible... okay, it's HIGHLY probable... that they reflected the actions of a humanitarian, not the heart of Christian because I never mentioned the love of the Father, His saving grace, what he did on the cross. I think Buckley and Dobson say it best: “Jesus was a humanitarian, but of a unique kind. He healed to reveal true healing. He fed to reveal true food. He quenched thirst to reveal everlasting water. Christ’s actions were temporal, but His intended impact was for His every word and deed to be eternally transforming.” (p. 26) Our "good works" need to reflect this purpose... His purpose. This will never happened if we refuse to open our mouths and share the Gospel.
Spend time thinking about your “good works.” Do they reflect the works of a humanitarian or of a Christian? Spend time talking about the difference… and, if need be, how we can introduce Jesus into our “good works.” In the week ahead, share Jesus with someone. Do something nice for a neighbor or a co-worker and simply say, “Jesus put you on my heart.” Just make the introduction.