Living the Christian lifestyle is hardly an easy task—in fact, it is very difficult to get it right some of the time, and it is almost impossible to go from day to day without stumbling under a transgression or two. That being said, it is easy to overcome these difficulties as God has made the permanent provision for forgiveness of sin through a belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. As we exercise our free will, our declaration of faith keeps us in a healthy fellowship with God.
We also, in contrast, can make the conscious decision to live a life that dances on the edge of fellowship with God—somewhere between sincere repentance on an occasional basis (most likely when things are not going well in life) and going from ride to ride in the Carnal Carnival. If that seems like a wide swath between borderline to very bad behavior, you’re correct—it is. A very good analogy to this can be seen as a comparative to the intent found in Scripture in Matthew 7:13-14.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.”
Note that this verse, which is referring to the pathway to the entrance to the Kingdom of God, has a consistent correlation with a person’s life decisions. Is it fair to conclude that those who choose to live for Christ are willing to do so with the reverence as to whom Jesus Christ are the few, and others that choose not to follow Christ and make decisions to go their own way are the many?
Speaking of the few and the many, there are many Christians, people who proclaimed that they are saved by grace, who are living a dangerous existence. These so called believers are bent on living on the edge—living in the world and also of the world—proclaiming Jesus during the day and creeping around at night. This is not a criticism or characterization to the few believers that have moments of weakness, repent, and maintain a regular fellowship with God because their attitudes are based in the sincere desire to seek Jesus and please Him with obedience. Well, what about those who are either part-time church attendees or outside of this fellowship? I am speaking, in fact, calling out the double-minded persons who profess Christ and, at the same time, summarize their overall behavior with the infamous comments, “Well, God made me that way!” or, “Nobody’s perfect!” or, “No one can judge me!” Really?
The distinction needs to be made about this behavior to encourage those who are seeking God with sincerity of heart and those who are play-acting their Christianity, because it is very important for each of us to remain focused on the commands of Christ, and to admonish those who are clearly not doing so. Scripture addresses this very clearly with stipulations if the person involved is in the body of fellowship, and your conclusion of the matter will have the endorsement of Christ Himself:
“If your brother sins against you, go and rebuke him in private. If he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he won’t listen, take one or two more with you, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every fact may be established. If he pays no attention to them, tell the church. But if he doesn’t pay attention even to the church, let him be like an unbeliever and a tax collector to you. I assure you: Whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven.”
1 Corinthians 5:9-13
I wrote to you in a letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. I did not mean the immoral people of this world or the greedy and swindlers or idolaters; otherwise you would have to leave the world. But now I am writing you not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer who is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or verbally abusive, a drunkard or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person. For what business is it of mine to judge outsiders? Don’t you judge those who are inside? But God judges outsiders. Put away the evil person from among yourselves.
More about judging within the body later. One more verse:
2 Thessalonians 3:6
Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from every brother who walks irresponsibly and not according to the tradition received from us.
The believer who utters the defensive comment “God made me that way!” or, “Nobody’s perfect!” or, “No one can judge me!” is what I refer to as a “Christian cop out.” With the basic understanding of what it means to be a Christian, note the reason for using the “cop out” term. A simple definition of “cop out” is to avoid taking responsibility for an action, avoid fulfilling a duty or responsibility, or to fail to live up to expectations (Wikipedia). It is to perform in an insufficient, negligent, or superficial manner (Wiktionary).
A cop out, in this application, does not apply in philosophy to the non-believer. 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 affirms this. A non-believer is only going to behave according to where he or she is accustomed; therefore, it is expected that a non-believer will behave in a worldly manner. A Christian, on the other hand, takes on the additional responsibility of living in obedience and reverence for Jesus Christ. The expectations are vastly different for a believer’s behavior over a non-believer’s behavior. Interestingly, even non-believers have that same expectation of believers. They can tell the difference, and they know the difference between believers and non-believers, and it is the differences in behavior that can eventually lead non-believers to become believers.
Why am I picking on believers that are Christian Cop Outs? For three reasons…
- To identify these persons and their behavior for what it is—inconsistent in fellowship with Jesus Christ and a poor testimony to believers and non-believers alike.
- Their philosophical views will invariably allow for worldly viewpoints and philosophies to filter into the church and the body of Christ.
- To denounce this philosophy as a dangerous cat-and-mouse game with one’s Christian faith and with others who could be won for Christ.
First, let’s address one of the comments that may come forth as a Christian cop out—for example, “No one can judge me,” or “You can’t judge me.”
The comments are born out of a scriptural reference, and of course, it is taken out of context for the purpose of justification of one’s behavior (a cop out).
“Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. For with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a log in your eye? Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
Be mindful, however, on what prompts the first 5 verses…look at verse 6:
“Don’t give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them with their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces.”
Also, remember the narrow gate in verses 13 and 14, and look at verses 15 and 16 of Matthew, Chapter 7:
“Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. You will recognize them by their fruit.”
It is clear that in order for us to make a conclusion about someone or something, we have to make a judgment. Scripture is providing us examples of persons to be wary of, especially the false teacher or prophet that intentionally deceive others to accomplish his or her goals. In this context, the verses in Matthew Chapter 7 warn against hypocrisy, but there is nothing in scripture that claims we should never judge someone. In reality, we do it all of the time as we make our best efforts to live our lives in righteousness:
Speak up, judge righteously, and defend the cause of the oppressed and needy.
“Be on your guard. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and comes back to you seven times, saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
“Stop judging according to outward appearances; rather, judge according to righteous judgment.”
One may argue that to judge someone means to condemn him or her as if you were God. Your response would be that it is true that God sets the standard and will pass judgment at the appropriate time. You are the bearer of the information on behalf of God. If the Spirit moves you to speak and provide this information, let it flow.
I have treasured Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against You. Lord, may you be praised; teach me Your statutes. With my lips I proclaim all the judgments from Your mouth.
Therefore, with this evidence, the believer’s comment, “You can’t judge me” is defiant in nature and is in direct contrast to the very nature of a believer dying to self and living for Christ:
2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.
Which brings me to our first reason for identifying this philosophical cop out for what it is—an inconsistent walk with Christ and a poor testimony for all to observe. It is easy to see that the lifestyle will not match the spoken words of a person in spiritual conflict. There is no sincere effort to take God’s Word to heart and to break free from the ways of the world. No one can take what you say seriously because it can’t be supported by where you go, who you choose to hang out with, or how you dress.
Inconsistency in your life comes from instability in your thought process. It comes from failure to seek God’s wisdom through prayer and study of His Word.
Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect anything from the Lord. An indecisive man is unstable in all his ways.
Next point—Christian cop out behavior encourages compromise of the faith by allowing sinful behavior to be the norm rather than the exception. There is division within the body of Christ because of the foothold gained, for example, by advocates of the homosexual lifestyle. Rather than stand up for what God’s Word proclaims, many believers “cop out” and remain silent on areas where God has been clear with scriptural doctrine on this and similar subjects. While proponents of the homosexual lifestyle advocate tolerance, God declares that He loves the person but hates the sin. Many in the body of Christ fear derisive comments and reprisal from those who support alternate lifestyles, and, as a result, claim that it is OK to allow such doctrine in our churches. The backlash from a lack of acceptance comes from the deception of Satan himself. To cop out is to shrink from your responsibility as a believer in Jesus Christ. God has declared that we have a responsibility that must be fulfilled:
2 Timothy 2:19
Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, having this inscription: The Lord knows those who are His, and everyone who names the name of the Lord must turn away from unrighteousness.
As in any area where sin is present, God wants us to remain in the world but not of the world, and to be prayerful to Him to give the proper response, when called upon, at the appropriate time. God’s Word is never to be compromised by His people—it is to be communicated, corroborated (supported with evidence or authority, and clarified (made as easy to understand as possible).
Which leads to our third point with a cautionary verse:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My father in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!’”
What does this mean? Just because someone is giving the appearance to serve the Lord and acting on His behalf does NOT mean that this person has been saved by grace and will inherit eternal life. To live as a Christian cop out artist is to play a dangerous game with your soul and with the lives of others within your sphere of influence. Why? If your life as a believer is so easily thwarted by the desires of the flesh and worldly behavior, it is a clear indication that there is a lack of confidence in the power of the Holy Spirit through the presence of Christ in your life. Please understand that the comment about your soul is not implying that you would lose your salvation. It does refer, however, to how you are testing to see how far you can go outside of God’s will for your life before you become an apostate, which is one who ultimately denies Jesus Christ and faith in Him as your Lord and Savior. If your behavior cannot be distinguished from that of an unbeliever, you are on what I would characterize as “spiritual life support.” While you may think you are doing just fine, in reality, your spiritual heart is barely beating and is likely being kept alive by the prayers and petitions of others who are concerned for your well-being. The more that one practices sin, and becomes comfortable with it, the less likely that the same person will seek the Lord in repentance. One dire excuse that can be seen as a cop out is that one’s sin is the result of “bad breaks” or “God coming down on me.” This is another great deception and another game that one will play to see how far one can go in their so-called fellowship with Christ. God will not be mocked by such foolishness.
No one undergoing a trial should say “I’m being tempted by God,” for God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn’t tempt anyone. But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.
It also stands to reason that a person who declares they know the Lord and yet continues to abide in sinful behavior may very well not be saved to begin with. Consider this scriptural litmus test:
1 John 2:3-4
This is how we are sure that we have come to know Him (Jesus): by keeping His commands. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” without keeping His commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly in him the love of God is perfected. This is how we know we are in Him: the one who says he remains in Him should walk just as He walked.
A Christian can never cop out when he or she is faithful and obedient to God’s Word…while it is true to say that none of us are perfect, it is not an excuse to sin and remain into sin. We have the ability to make the decision to turn from sin and focus on the best that God has in store for us because the Holy Spirit gives us the ability to succeed in Christ and overcome any temptation that we face. We must be our own advocates of remaining faithful to Jesus Christ and not make any excuses for our behavior.
When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is: fear God and keep His commands, because this is for all humanity. For God will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil.
Copyright © Melvin Gaines. For more content, please see melvingaines.com and melvingaines.blogspot.com.