This past Sunday, I attended a worship service at which a missionary from Poland spoke to the congregation for about five minutes. During this brief time, he explained his mission in Poland, detailing that there is roughly one missionary for every one million Pollacks. I was surprised by this statistic, because it sounded as if the majority of the nation was unchurched. Assuming that is the case, Christians would be outnumbered 1,000,000 to 1.
As he continued, however, he made a few revealing statements. First, he mentioned that the Roman Catholic Church is prominent in Poland. Second, he made a the following statement:
“There are people all over Poland who think they are believers, but they really need someone to show them how to live it out, people who really live out their faith”
Wait, what? How is it possible for someone to think they are believer and not actually be one? If someone has confessed Jesus as Lord and is active in the church, how could they not be considered a Christian? And even if that is possible, how would you or I ever know that is the case? Aren’t we incapable of knowing the heart of another person?
I was left with an awful taste in my mouth. I was frustrated because the whole think stunk of ignorance and arrogance. Ignorant because it demonstrated that this person didn’t know enough about the Roman Catholic Church. Ignorance, because he didn’t refer to them as Catholic Christians; rather, he named them Catholics (leaving out the Christian) who think they are believers. Arrogance, because he privileged his own faith tradition (evangelical) over another (Catholic) when both are clearly within the Christian tradition.
This was a tragedy for me, because the good work he was doing was concealed by his lack of generosity toward Christians who do not think like he does. With him, I believe that the Gospel is meant to spread – I’m an evangelical, and I’m not ashamed of that. However, I do not share his belief that evangelicals have something to teach Catholics with our lifestyle. But most significantly, I don’t think it is possible for us to discern who is “in” and who is “out.” Salvation is God’s work, and only God can know the human heart.