It can be embarrassing to identify as a Christian. Every time you turn on your smartphone, car radio, or cable TV, someone is mocking your antiquated, harsh, prudish religion.
You’d better avert your eyes from the comments sections and message boards. You don’t want to scroll your mentions on Twitter. And that’s just the Christians talking about each other. Sure, we’ve lost some credibility with the culture. But how did we also lose trust in one another inside the church?
You’re not sure whom to believe in this hazardous climate of perpetual outrage. Yet you feel pressured to pick sides. At least I’m not that kind of Christian, you assure yourself. I’d never attend that church with the sign out front that says, “Stop, drop, and roll doesn’t work in hell.” Or that church across the street promoting a “50 Shades of Grace” sermon series. Body piercing may have saved your life, but you let your actions and not your T-shirts do the talking.
It’s so easy to see the fault in someone else or in another group but so difficult to see the limitations in ourselves.
Even so, it’s not enough to disagree privately. You need everyone to know your disgust for whatever those bigoted/compromised/know-it-all Christians said this time. How dare that man on TV claim to speak for God and you!
Hell hath no fury like an embarrassed Christian.
We talk a lot about church unity. So where is the evidence that we actually want it? If you’re anything like me, you’re as much of the problem as the solution. You love other Christians so long as they make you look good to the world. You lament the divided church, yet you’re quick to speak about the problems you see with other believers. You bemoan the church’s ineffective public witness in a changing culture, yet you offer the same self-congratulatory solution to every new challenge.
You find problems at the end of your pointed fingers and solutions in the mirror. In reality the finger pointed toward the mirror tells you where to search first for the problem.
We all have blind spots. It’s so easy to see the fault in someone else or in another group but so difficult to see the limitations in ourselves. Unless you learn to see the faults in yourself and your heroes, though, you can’t appreciate how God has gifted other Christians.
Only then can you understand that Jesus died for this body, which only accepts the sick. Only then can we together meet the challenges of our rapidly changing age.
As we point fingers at each other in the church, the world desperately needs our helping hands.
Maybe God has softened your heart with compassion for the broken, weak, and abused.
Or he has gifted you with great courage to stand with truth.
Or he has commissioned you with particular zeal and effectiveness to make disciples in all the nations.
God doesn’t want us to look down on and suspect the worst of one another. Rather, he intends us to use these diverse gifts to love the world in a church united by the gospel of Jesus Christ. This moment demands our humility, bravery, and creativity. Why should the world know us by our disharmony, discouragement, and disillusion?
As we point fingers at each other in the church, the world desperately needs our helping hands. Consider our predicament. We in the West learn from a young age that we’re happy only if we’re free to choose our life adventure. So we trust no one and commit nowhere. Until we turn to Christ, we worship nothing more sacred than self. And we have no greater goal than to be personally healthy and wealthy.
Thankfully, the gospel speaks to every age, including one with no higher aspirations for life than the freedom not to need anyone else except on our guarded terms. And God makes you, Christian, an ambassador of that good news: we can be reconciled to our Creator and live at peace with one another.
Rather than see us as ambassadors of peace, much of the world views the church as oppressive and self-interested. As a result, religious authority has been displaced, despite two millennia of Christian formation that gave shape to nearly every hope and right the West treasures. The new reality can hardly be considered an improvement.
We, too, fear everyone else is out to get us by limiting our freedom. We can’t escape the culture wars.
The world wonders why our social ties have frayed. Why neighbors don’t look out for each other. Why couples don’t want to get married and don’t stay together when they do. Why we’re plunging into demographic crisis as we wait so long to have children and then stop at one. Why corrupt, ineffective politicians think shouting at each other on news programs will solve problems. Why businesses subsume ethics to the bottom line. Why revolutions depose one despot to replace him with another. Why media promise leisure but leave us nervous and bored with yet another reality TV show intended to make our lives seem somewhat tolerable by comparison. Why our children feel the need to look and act like porn stars if they want to feel affection.
The picture looks bleak. You see it every day in your neighborhood, on the TV, and on your favorite websites. Christians dare not gloat over such suffering. We share in both the responsibility and the effects.
We can relate to this disenchantment, because we’re tempted even inside the church to see life in terms of control and power. We, too, fear everyone else is out to get us by limiting our freedom. We can’t escape the culture wars.
Compelled by gospel love, however, we ambassadors of Christ know how to negotiate a truce — that is, if we’ll first lay down the arms we’ve taken up against one another.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
Content taken from Blind Spots by Collin Hansen, ©2015. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.