“I wrote you in my earlier letter that you shouldn’t make yourselves at home among the sexually promiscuous. I didn’t mean that you should have nothing at all to do with outsiders of that sort. Or with crooks, whether blue- or white-collar. Or with spiritual phonies, for that matter. You’d have to leave the world entirely to do that! … I’m not responsible for what the outsiders do, but don’t we have some responsibility for those within our community of believers? God decides on the outsiders, but we need to decide when our brothers and sisters are out of line and, if necessary, clean house. (I Cor. 5:9-13, The Message)
Sometimes I love the direct language of The Message. Since the election, it has been fascinating to see all the articles about how bad our country is. Some are saying the culture war is lost. Others bemoan the loss of our status as a “Christian Nation.” Some are saying judgment is upon us. God destroyed cities when he couldn’t find 10 righteous folks. As I read somewhere today, I have more than that on my Facebook page.
Jesus never suggested that we were in a war we could win in the courts and at the ballot box. We should be joyful that the world is more clearly secular than perhaps ever before. Christians have always thrived in cultures in which they were the minority, particularly when they were persecuted as a minority. In a truly secular world, it’s easy to spot the true followers.
We will never “win” by the power of our numbers but by the power of our testimony. By that I mean our lived out, not shouted out, testimony. We just need to do what Jesus commanded us to do: love our neighbors as ourselves, care for the poor and the sick and the brokenhearted, stand up for the oppressed, be generous with our time and our money, and live lives filled with grace and gentleness.
Read again the passage from I Corinthians set forth above. Paul encourages the Christians to clean up their own affairs. Our teaching is to be principally by example. In Matthew 25, Jesus says that those who enter his kingdom will be people who feed the hungry, welcome strangers, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and visit the prisoners.
In a Barna Research study in 1996, 85% viewed Christians favorably. Ten years later, that approval rating had dropped to just 15%. People described Christians as judgmental, hypocritical, close-minded, insensitive, too critical and too political. According to Paul in Galatians we should exhibit “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Between 1996 and 2006, too many Christians quit trying to win hearts and focused on winning elections. They lost touch with exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit.
The problem we had as citizens of a “Christian Nation” was that what it meant to be a Christian was greatly watered down. Just being an American or going to church or being raised in a Christian family, gave folks the false impression that they were Christians. In our new post-Christian world, the followers of Christ, the authentic Christians, will stick out like a sore thumb, maybe better said like salt and light. Isn’t that the plan? Wasn’t that His plan all along?
Let them know by our love that we are following Him and they will follow right along.