In a place where sex, money, and happiness at any cost are celebrated, what is different about your life and values as a Christian? Your conversations, relationships, morals, and private habits?
Going to church isn’t a valid answer unless you consider yourself to be an active part of that church community and allow God to affect you and stretch you through it.
Just wanted to throw that out there since the US seems to be the current hub of what I call “social class Christianity.” More on that next week.
Daniel is one of my favorite people from the Old Testament. He was taken captive to Babylon and immediately put to use in the court of a king who worshipped himself. His nobility and an impressive ability to learn just about anything very quickly made him a valuable asset to the king, despite their differences in beliefs.
Slowly in some ways and immediately in others, Daniel engaged this Babylonian culture, which was completely and carelessly set against God. And he did it without allowing that culture to change who he was or, more importantly, who he worshiped. The end result was the Babylonian king publically declaring “Daniel’s God” as the true God. This was the same king who, just a few years earlier, erected a giant statue of himself and ordered the entire country to bow down in worship to it as their god or else be thrown into a furnace.
We are called to be different as Christ followers– salt (that is, preservers of a way of living that, without us, leads to rotting and decay) and light (that is, illuminators of God’s nature).
It’s one thing to fall short of this purpose from time to time. After all, we are still sinners. But it’s another thing entirely to not even try, which is what many of us are guilty of as we lovingly embrace a culture that is apathetic to God and obsessed with itself.
To call ourselves Christ followers while continuing to worship anything and everything but Christ (sex, money, accomplishments) exposes, at best, a severe misunderstanding of what it means to trust in the life Christ asks us to live, and, at worst, a complete lie that we tell others so they think we’re good people.
Without letting it compromise our values, our purpose is to engage our culture and illuminate how much better God’s way is than the ways we conjure up ourselves. That’s a difficult task in itself. But how much more difficult does it become when we don’t even try to hold ourselves to this higher standard of love, patience, and self control that we claim is the best, most trustworthy way of living? What reason would anyone have to give God’s way a try when we don’t even live by it ourselves?
No wonder the church is often discredited as a bunch of hypocrites and ignored by those who might actually love what they saw from us if it was actually the Gospel we were living out.
You know… the Gospel that Jesus taught? The one defined by an unnatural level of love and is sometimes difficult and even offensive because of how it goes against what our economy tells us is important?
This can’t be a “do as I say, not as I do” scenario. That won’t work because we live in a culture where we’re only willing to listen to the salesman who owns and uses the product that he’s trying to sell us.
As Paul the Apostle revealed in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, the goal is to serve and love everyone so that they might be influenced by our different values. The thought is that they will hopefully be won over to God because the light we shine has revealed His amazing character and made Him irresistible.
Our culture should look at the life of a Christian and think to itself, “Man, for the most part, they’ve got it figured out… I want to know what they know that makes them so different.”
It’s not that it’s necessarily an easier life to follow Christ. But it is definitely more peaceful and hopeful; more optimistic with stronger relationships and unpredictable stories of acting on faith. The point is to make people want to follow Christ because they see a positive and appealing lifestyle from us.
I think an alarming number of people decide to follow Christ with the careful goal of not becoming like many Christians they’ve met before. That’s embarrassing. Christians are actually pushing non-Christians away from God and making their relationship with Him a long-delayed journey because of the terrible example we set with unloving attitudes and inconsistent values.
We are here to represent Christ (to be His disciples) and show people how He loves us by how we love them. We are here to show that God’s way of living is really the best, most trustworthy way of living.
People who don’t have a relationship with Christ should want to be around us and come to church with us because they’ve seen our lives and they recognize that there’s something about our worldview, our demeanor, the way we make decisions, and how we invest in others that they want to be part of their own lives. The differences they see in us has to be more attractive than what the rest of the world puts in front of them.
This, in turn, makes our God more attractive to them as well. And that’s what it’s all about.