Thinking Out Loud…about Christians in Society
Christians are often conflicted about how to respond to cultural challenges. On many issues, we find ourselves at odds with the culture around us, i.e. matters of life and death, marriage and sexuality. For instance, Trinity Western University is in a legal battle to defend their “community covenant” that expects students to refrain from sexual intimacy outside of a marriage between a man and a woman. Not only is our viewpoint deemed odd in the culture, it is seen as outdated. We are considered irrelevant at best, and dangerous at worst. Our values are increasingly marginalized in western culture. We now live in a “post-Christian” world.
What then should be our response? Some have an instinct to fight. They feel compelled to take an activist posture, inclined to write letters to the editor or sign petitions. They believe that the loudest voice will win the day. They think that the Church should speak out to defend Christian values. I think that a loud angry voice may add to our irrelevance. It may reinforce the stereotype and undermine any witness for Christ that we have.
I’m convinced that the Bible does not call us to be loud and belligerent. While we may be certain of our position we will never win people with loud, angry protests. We must not use our ethical code as a hammer to beat on society. What then are we to do? “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (1 Peter 3:15,16) We need to see ourselves as exiles in the culture and to allow our consistent Christ-honoring life to speak as a quiet witness.
How do we live as exiles in this culture? We are called to live as disciples of Christ who reflect his values. We obey the Word of God in all that it asks of us. We refrain from the arrogance that often accompanies moral declarations. The Bible calls us to behave humbly, with gentleness and respect for other points of view. And then, when we are asked, we can give an intelligent answer for the hope we possess. That’s how Peter invites us to live. And when we do speak about sexuality, let’s do so with grace. Let’s speak kindly, showing a generosity of spirit with empathetic understanding.
This kind of approach is reinforced by Jesus’ example. He was not a fighter, but came meekly and humbly. He was never loud and demanding. He did not beat people up with the truth. “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps . . . When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:21,23)
Finally, let’s remember that our message is firstly about Christ, who came to redeem us and make us new. Once we are made new then Jesus can begin the process to change our behaviors (2 Corinthians 5:17). We cannot expect people who do not follow Christ to live with biblical moral standards (1 Thessalonians 4:5).
From Ian Lawson, Lead Pastor, Evangelical Free Church of Lethbridge.
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