Around 5th grade my parents sat my brother and I down in their bedroom. They said, “We need to ask you two about your thoughts on something.” Of course my brother, who is three years older than me, and I were more than willing to listen. My dad, who at the time was an airline pilot, said, “We can live anywhere because of my job. As long as we live near an airport, we can move to anywhere in the country. How would you feel about moving to a different state?” When my father finished asking that question, I lost it. I can remember breaking down in tears. Having a “complete meltdown” would be the biggest understatement of the century. I cried. I screamed. I was angry. It was not a pretty sight at all. Everything I had know, all of my friends, my school, it was all going to go away. It was all going to change, and I didn’t want it to change. I wanted it to stay the same.
If you haven’t been paying attention, you might have noticed that our culture has made a drastic move from what many people have known their whole lives. Morality is more subjective than ever. The church appears to have been marginalized in many parts of our country and Christians have lost the “voice” they once had to speak truth into our society. I’m not a sociologist, and I’m also not here to say whether or not this cultural shift is a good or bad thing. Here is what I will say. Many Christians are acting just like I acted when my father asked us about moving. There is screaming, yelling, and anger because you want to go back to the way things used to be. I’m sorry to break it to you, but we aren’t going back to “the good ol’ days,” and those “days” probably weren’t as good as your remember them.
Your world has changed and you didn’t have much of a choice in it. You can continue to get mad and scream and rail against anybody who is different than you, or we can see this shift as an opportunity adjust our approach. I believe this adjustment could ultimately lead the church to one of its healthiest places in history. So the world has changed. Now what?
What are you yelling?
The church for a few centuries has done its part to yell “The Truth” at anybody who would listen. They have not been afraid to point out where people are sinning. They are unashamedly willing to find all of the faults and flaws in society while often refusing to acknowledge their own sinfulness. It was easier for churches to rail against the new “R” rated movie that came out than to address the men in the congregation addicted to porn. The church became “Truth Yellers”. Culture heard the churches “truth” loud and clear, but when people looked for a place to be loved they found it everywhere else but the church. That’s because church screamed the truth while whispering love.
Eventually when people felt yelled at enough they stop listening. Truth can quickly turn into white noise in people’s ears when we only yell at them. Yelling means railing on social media. Yelling means using every chance you get to bash somebody with different beliefs than you. Yelling means boycotting the newest thing that “needs” boycotting. What if instead of yelling the truth and whispering love? We began to be a people who yelled love. We screamed from the mountaintops our love for other people. If we would show love first and foremost to other people, it would give us opportunities to address the truth. It is always easier to listen to truth when people know you love them. I understand you want to blame culture because it’s easier that way, but what if instead of blaming we stepped across the room and began to have conversations with others?
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:5-6
Worry about the right kingdom.
I love politics, and I follow it fairly closely. I like having political discussions with people who can have sane and rational conversations. It’s fun for me to talk about the implications government rulings can have on a society. You name it, healthcare, refugees, immigrants, fiscal responsibility. Those are all enjoyable conversations for me to have with the right person, but as a Christian this earthly kingdom is not my highest priority. It shouldn’t be yours either.
When Jesus gave us an example for how to pray he said,
‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:9-10
Jesus was way more worried about the heavenly kingdom than he was about this earthly kingdom. When people interacted with Jesus they would get a glimpse into what heaven would be like. If you look at Jesus’ life and Paul’s life, their number 1 priority was God’s kingdom. It wasn’t this earthly kingdom we currently live in. My question to you is, which kingdom are you more interested in? Do you spend more time thinking about this earthly kingdom or do you spend more time thinking about God’s kingdom?
You should absolutely worry about politics. How will decisions of the government affect our country’s future? How will it affect my kids and grandkids? These are all great questions, but all of these questions are temporary. When we shift our focus to God’s kingdom, then we view life from an eternal perspective. Our country and this world have a shelf life, but God’s kingdom is eternal. Are you more focused on the temporary or on the eternal? Which kingdom do you worry about more?
Get comfortable with different.
We no longer live in the world where people all think, act, and talk the same. You are going to come in contact more and more often with people who are different than you. When you do you are faced with a choice. You can either isolate and insulate yourself from everyone and everything that is different than your worldview, or you can begin to develop a relationship with people who are completely different than you. The Jesus method is that we lean into the messy and different. That’s what Jesus did when he left his glorious throne in heaven and stepped into the messy broken world. He engaged the mess. He built relationships with the different.
One of the reasons our society is in the current state of disarray it’s currently in is because people see others with opposing view as the enemy. Democrats see the enemy of a free society as republicans, and republicans think democrats are free loading and lazy. Then libertarians just think they are all wrong. Atheists think the problem with the world is religion. While many “Christians” think the problem with the world is the atheists. The contentious attitude has created a divide in our society that at times feels irreparable. It’s easier to have enemies than have conversations. From everything I can tell by the life of Jesus, it’s up to the church to take the first step to break down these dividing walls. What if instead of seeing people as enemies, we began to see them the way Jesus saw them. Jesus viewed others not as projects to be fixed, but rather He viewed them as people to be loved.
The church needs to become comfortable with different. This doesn’t mean we accept a lifestyle or we change our values. This means we need to love the Samaritan woman when everybody else in society can’t understand why we would ever do that. Here is a sermon I preached a few weeks ago about this very topic if you would like more information.
The world has changed and it will continue to change faster than you might want. You can either choose to be like I was when I was a child, or you can begin to change your mindset. The gospel method of Jesus Christ never changes. It has always and will always stay the same, but the methods we interact with society need to shift. God has called us to love people in a way that leads to change. This is why Paul tells us in Romans 2:4 that it’s God’s kindness which leads us to repentance. Let us be a people who never shy away from the truth, but also make sure we always show love first and foremost. Our love for people will ultimately give them a glimpse into who Jesus really is.
Let me help you take your next steps in the faith and never miss another blog post.
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