More and more we see the world rapidly changing. One thing that seems to always be constant is chaos. This chaos permeates every part of our lives—politics, social issues and even faith. During such confusion, what should Christians do? There are some Christians who simply retreat from the culture. These believers build insulated existences for themselves and their families. Living in these sterile surroundings help them to live sin free environments. Other Christians live as antagonist toward the culture. You can recognize these people because they are typically against everything and everyone. These believers are even against other Christians, who do not hold to their viewpoints. It seems to me, because of the Bible, that there is another way of engagement more in alignment to how Jesus operated in the culture.
In John 1:14, the scripture speaks of Christ’s arrival to earth, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus did not retreat from the culture of His day. He also did not come against the culture of his day; he was not mad at people who were far from God. He engaged the culture in His day by being in the culture. He had a wide variety of friends. Jesus went to parties and social gatherings. He was winsome and fun. Yet, he was serious about His mission. He preached hard truths and never compromised.
A lot of Christians I know, want to live as Jesus did. They really do want to take the good news of Christ into the world. They want to be relevant in the cultures in which they live. So how do we practically do this? The secret is living a life in the culture that is full of grace and truth, just as Jesus did. Jesus put on flesh and dwelt among people. He is not a God who is far off. He is the God who is near. Therefore, His followers must live in proximity of hurting people.
Practically, I like to sum it up in this axiom, “We must hold to God’s standard and reach out in love.” By holding to God’s standard, we mean to live by and never compromise his truth. Like Jesus, we are full of truth. We can ever lower the standard of Christ’s commands to accommodate the happiness of individuals or their lifestyles. God is more concerned about our holiness than our happiness. Further, we understand that Christ’s truth is where we find freedom. If we care about the culture and our friends in it, we must long to see them live in Christ’s truth so that they can experience real freedom.
Yet, we must reach out in love. Like Jesus, we must be full of grace. Grace is God’s unmerited love or favor. Like the song says, grace is amazing. Christians need to work diligently to let people who do not know Christ, experience His love. In the scripture, we are told that the greatest thing is love. If we love Jesus, then we should love who He loves. He loves troubled, broken, messed up, narcissistic, sin stained, crazy people. Simply put, He loves everyone.
But, how do we do this practically? Carefully. We must be careful never to forfeit truth because of grace, which happens a lot. When this happens, we give people freedom that Jesus did not sanction. Yet, we must be careful to never forfeit love because of a tendency to exaggerate the truth. Truth without love is religious legalism. Jesus is not religious. He was often ridiculed and labeled by religious people who did not understand grace and truth, but they had settled for religion. Religion is easy because it is rules. It says, “Do this and don’t do that!” And Jesus hated religion. Truth and love are like wings on an airplane. Both wings are needed to fly the plan right. Therefore, grace and truth keep us flying right.
So perhaps, in the future, as we hold to God’s standard and reach out in love, we will find that there will be tensions to be managed, but not problems to be solved. People who really follow Jesus will be misunderstood, sometimes maligned, and labeled peculiar. And, frankly, it is in this tension where the fun of Christian living begins. Who is better suited to step into a broken, messy, hurting, lost and dying culture than Christ-followers are armed with truth of God’s word and grace of Jesus? No one. Live the tension boldly.
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