By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
(1 John 3:16-18 – ESV)
(1 John 3:16-18 – ESV)
As Christians we are to demonstrate sacrificial love for those of the household of faith, but also to those who are not (Galatians 6:10). As we lay down our lives in service, we are doing so as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23), knowing that our labor is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). This is the driving force behind our benevolence, and the truth is that Christians have shined as lights in the world (Matthew 5:16 / Philippians 2:15), and as showers of blessing upon mankind (Ezekiel 34:26).
Now it is also certainly true that many horrible things have been done in the name of Christianity. However, for all of our many problems, it is the church that has maintained the moral standards that are the fabric of our society. The church has built the hospitals, the schools, the orphanages, and was the backbone behind the civil organizations as they were born. The church fed the poor, and ministered to those whom the world forgot. It is the church that is the first to respond to disasters, personal, regional, and national, giving sacrificially and giving when no one is looking.
Yes there are humanitarian and other religious efforts not associated with Christianity that reveal God’s love in an indirect way by their sacrifices to help other people, and these give glory to God even if they do not subjectively do so, because objectively speaking, they show forth the fact that God shows mercy through other people and that the Christian ideals are the right ones. But this does not constitute saving faith or Christianity. It is not Jesus teachings, but Jesus Himself that makes Christianity what it is.
Now as Christians, when we do these things, but also by our words and hearts give glory where it really belongs, to God, and do so proclaiming the gospel while we do it, then we subjectively and objectively give glory to God, and not only are people helped, God is praised and pleased as we rightly give Him what He is due in a conscious fashion. It is not merely social action; it is spiritual action. We speak of Christ, and His sacrifice, as the ultimate demonstration of God’s love, which is why we reach out to others.
It is not that these things aren’t good, in many cases they are, but the fact is that as non-Christians they are not thanking God for them, and God is the source of all that is good. It is good that they do civil good, but it is God that has made them do any good at all. This speaks of common grace, but as Christians we must speak of saving grace as we reach out to help. Let us thank God that we can do any good at all.