Core Ideas of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

Posts tagged ‘how to win the culture war’

Lay Down the Rocks, Pick up a Cross

CULTURE WARRIORSIt’s been another high octane week for being mad at the world, hasn’t it?  The cover of Vanity Fair featured a man who now says he’s a woman, and has been cited for his courage by ESPN.  Elsewhere there has been sexual abuse among reality TV stars, eleven year old kids from a private school being taken to an adult sex toy shop, and public schools opening girls’ restrooms up to boys with gender issues real or imagined.  What’s a follower of Jesus supposed to do? Get mad as Hell, right?

I was praying about all this cultural decay tonight when the Holy Spirit brought John 8 to mind.  Christ crosses paths with a bunch of fired up Jews who are infuriated about flagrant acts of adultery in their little neighborhood.  Things are so bad that they actually caught a couple in the very act of sin!  So they yanked them out of bed, told the guy he should be ashamed, and have dragged the woman to the center of town to stone her.  Then they ask Jesus if he agrees with the Law of Moses or not.

As usual, Jesus is a buzz kill.  “Sure, you can stone her.  But let the one with no sin in his own life cast the first stone.” The party is over and the guests drop their rocks and go home.  And strangely, the Lord isn’t indignant about anything: not the flagrant adultery; not the blind hypocrisy; not even the perversion of the Law.  He’s actually very chill, doodling in the sand with his finger.  Outrage is not his favorite color.

Granted, Christ didn’t have to deal with people who want to redefine marriage or alter their gender, but he had to live in a world he hadn’t had time to change yet. In Christ’s world, babies could be abandoned and left to die, and children could be sold as slaves to pay off a debt.  People could be bought like cattle and treated like beasts; beaten and abused.  Governments not only had the authority to tax people into poverty and destitution, but even local authorities could have you arrested and killed for irritating the governor. Kings and Emperors unashamedly swapped women, sponsored orgies and had their way with adolescent boys.   There was a lot of violence in the world of the first century, and not a lot of mercy- until Jesus walked in.

It’s weird: Jesus is not uncomfortable around irreligious and immoral people.  In fact, he seems to enjoy talking with them about life and culture and God.  Len Sweet puts it this way: Jesus ate a lot of good food with a lot of bad people.

You and I are called to be saints.  We should take sin seriously, but we should not take ourselves so seriously.  It’s true we are saved, but it’s also true we are sinners saved only by grace.  Paul was offended by all the idols of pagan gods when he visited Mars Hill, but he didn’t dwell on it.  To the contrary, when he stood to speak, he was almost affirming, telling the Athenians he could see they were very religious. It was irony, not flattery, but he was smiling.

Ecclesiastes teaches there’s a time and season for everything.  On the occasion of watching our friends and neighbors floundering in the swelling tide of decadence and destruction, it’s perhaps not the best time or season for throwing stones at failed but famous sinners.  Far better to love the lost, and speak life; to be all things to all people that by all means we might win some to Christ.

And lift up the cross!

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Hearts & Minds

ANGRY DEBATE

Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”  Matthew 10:16

Followers of Jesus Christ urgently need some new communication strategies!  Yes, I know that Paul emphasized preaching driven by the Holy Spirit rather than human eloquence. (1 Corinthians 1:17) Yes, I understand we don’t wage war as humans do;  our weapons are not worldly, but are powerful. (2 Corinthians 10:4)  Yet at some point, you have to  ask what Jesus actually meant when he compared us to sheep living among wolves, and warned us to be as wise as serpents but as harmless as doves. (Hint: wolves don’t graze with sheep; they eat them!)

I think that has strong implications for the way you and I talk about social issues in a pagan nation where there is no longer a believing majority.  In the 1950’s, we simply had to  make a biblical case and many voters would go along with us.  We could weave our biblical principles into the fabric of law because the majority rules, and we enjoyed a clear majority.  Unfortunately, that’s no longer true.  And I’m sorry to say that we have relied on voting far too long, and have neglected our responsibility to be sharing the faith and making disciples.  Now we are sharing the faith with a very different kind of audience, aren’t we?

If American Christians were truly as smart as serpents, we would all stand united in one public message we share with our unsaved world.  And that message would be this: “Finding peace with God through Jesus Christ is an amazing thing!”  If we American Christians were all busy injecting that central idea into the cultural buzz, lost Americans would hear that message again and again.  And along the way, some would discover that gospel message has relevance to their broken families.  Others would find Christ can give them strength in a dying economy.  Still others would find power for breaking out of addictions and destructive relationships.  If people like you and me could stop arguing about doctrines and strategies, and just lay the Gospel out there time and again, our lost neighbors would be deluged with the core message: you need Jesus and he can rescue you.

I know what you’re thinking: that’s just watering down the gospel to avoid conflict.  And I would reply, you missed the whole point.  My point is that our public communication should be simple, direct and easily communicated by every man, woman and child who follows Jesus Christ.  We stop publicly ranting against various sins and addictions;  stop openly quarreling about denominational distinctives; and begin to gently reassert the gospel in public every day in every office and classroom, in every city.

Privately and in our churches, we must still continue to teach and preach all those other important ideas, but we should be teaching them to Christians who accept the authority of God’s Word- not mindless voters.  And if we were publicly winning more and more people to Christ with a simple gospel message, we would also be bringing more and more of our countrymen into private teaching sessions where we could explain what a Christian worldview truly looks like:

  • We could teach baptism, holiness, Bible reading, and worship essentials to all those new disciples.
  • We could talk about the ethic of maintaining your body as a temple of the Holy Spirit and not being caught up in drug abuse.
  • We could teach the sanctity of life and the high priority of marriage between a man and a woman.

At the moment, we’re doing just the opposite.  We argue around the water cooler or over lunch about gay marriage, drug abuse, etc., etc.,  but talk about how to become a believer only when people finally arrive at our churches.  It’s a bad idea and we’re losing the war!  Secular people are not equipped to appreciate the case we make about sexuality or family because they have no core truths that guide them.  They don’t care what the Bible says because they don’t accept it’s authority.  Increasingly, Americans are led astray by their emotions simply because something “feels right.”  By contrast, if we led more people to Christ and then taught them the secondary principles of the Gospel, we wouldn’t need to keep changing laws.  We would win the battle by changing hearts and minds.

So think about this: how could my public discourse in the marketplace of life be more salty, more “serpentine,” more Christ-like?  Don’t shut up: just change the subject.  KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid.

And lift up the Cross!

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