Provocative questions usually lead to at minimum thought, but usually an emotional “pendulum swinging” reaction. I was reminded of this by a brother/pastor who brought up such a provocative question in David Kinnaman’s book: “UnChristian”. (ironically, this same topic was brought up by another brother/pastor in a discussion yesterday) I had purchased and read the book 5 years ago when it had first come out and I found it helpful in some ways and unprofitable in others. I was fingering through the book last week and here was the statement that was made for provocation:
We have become famous for what we oppose, rather than who we are for.
To give fuller context, this quote was in light of a series of research polling and data mining by the Barna Research group, in which, one respondent made this statement:
Most people I meet assume that Christian means very conservative, entrenched in their thinking, antigay, antichoice (sic), angry, violent, illogical, empire builders; they want to convert everyone, and they generally cannot live peacefully with anyone who doesn’t believe what they believe.
It would be easy to absorb those statements and say “Amen, and amen” to them, especially if you find yourself in the 18-35 yr age demographic. (Full disclosure, I am in such age demographic) Two thoughts for this morning on these statements:
1. Where they went right
Biblical ignorance is growing at a massive rate. Scary fast. In truth, many self-proclaimed Christians view Jesus as the “ticket” out of Hell, and nothing more. The result is no relationship with God to speak of whatsoever, and to complicate things, a false sense of security that “God and I are on the same page” since we prayed a prayer. I truly believe a relationship with God will develop a visible compassion for people, to wit you will be “willing to suffer anything and everything that the elect may be saved.” (II Tim. 2:10)
This Biblical ignorance is appalling to many, in fact for some, there are atheists that know more about the Bible (with very little study) than many believers do. This is dangerous to Christian living. Christ has been so marginalized by the pursuit of the American dream, that Christianity is merely articulated by opposition to those social grievances that are politically incorrect, and humanly irrational.
The result is an inability to articulate what are Christians for, or perhaps more importantly, what Christianity is. What constitutes Christian faith and why do you believe it? Who was Jesus and what made Him significant? Why do you believe in an exclusive Gospel, and what makes it exclusive?
2. Where they went wrong
The wrongness of the statement ought to be glaringly apparent. At face value, Christianity will be perceived as irrational to “outsiders”-the cross IS foolishness to those that do not believe; although it is entirely logical. (I think few understand the difference between rationality and logic, but I digress) The idea of being “anti-gay” or “anti-choice” is measuredly disingenuous, for the mere belief that something is sin, doesn’t necessitate that a Christian “hates” or is “anti”. But then again, Christianity’s core is Christ and the work of the cross is our identity, not our sexual preference or the ability to choose whether or not to stop a beating heart.
If one were to extrapolate those statements to their logical end, the end will ultimately result in a post-modern view of life and interacting with others. In fact, a couple of pages later in the book, we see a disturbing statement in relation to these thoughts:
The most favorable impression is that Christianity teaches the same basic idea as other religions; more than four out of every five young outsiders embrace this description.
That is a deeply troubling statement. If Christianity is about a morality change in behavior or disposition, this makes sense. Buddhism is about changing your morality and disposition-true Christianity is far deeper than this surface treatment of your being.
The real question that must be asked is this: How was Christianity portrayed in the New Testament? Paul deals with “outsiders” to the Gospel in Galatians and deals with them in firm opposition and calls fellow believers to withstand their false beliefs. (even to the extent that he calls them “a cursed” people) John, in I John, deals with false beliefs by calling the believers to withstand against the “anti-christs”, for they were against the true Christ. Stephen in Acts 6 and 7, Peter in Acts 2, and Paul in Acts 17, while preaching to outsiders, did not preach “seeker sensitive” messages, in each of those instances they confront the real sin of unbelief and false religious “ways” to eternal life and a relationship with God. Paul’s call to Timothy in II Timothy 3 and 4 was one of stark contrast to the false teachings of his day.
A belief in Jesus naturally results in a belief in opposition to false teaching, and ultimately sin that damns mankind to an eternity of torment. In dealing with people, the existence and eternal consequences of sin is the most controversial and difficult roadblock to a relationship with God.
The reality is, if you are going to be “for” something; you will always then be against something in return. If we take the call to know Christ, and live in the power of His resurrection, and embrace the fellowship of His sufferings, there will be a natural result that occurs-we will be in opposition to the World around us. The truth is, in our multi-cultural America (especially in cities) combined with post-modern thought, this contrast is going to become more and more apparent as time goes on.
The call to Christians is to spend more time knowing Christ and all that He is, and when you communicate, communicate with compassion for others, yet with clarity of who Christ is and how He is unique and different than all others. The depravity of the soul will reject Him, and paint you as crazy and a lunatic. This, for 2,000 years, has been Christianity at its core, and is needed all the more today.