Too many Jesus followers get caught up in the distractions of the today’s culture. We participate in meaningless arguments. We quarrel about things that in the end won’t matter. We debate who should be in and who is out of the church, even as the debates themselves push more and more people out. We say, “we don’t like the direction the culture is moving,” yet we offer no alternatives in our bickering. We make up strawmen-boogeymen, then prove our “intellectual superiority” as we tear down these so-called threats. Those with eyes in the world see through these phony tactics, giving further evidence to ignore the church and the Truth we are called to represent.
“Shout about the evils in the world,” they say. More and more people are willing participants in what was once called sin. “Preach the Bible,” they say. More and more people no longer believe that the Bible is true. Our megaphone yells fall on deaf ears. Our biblical quotes are meaningless to them. “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” seems to be the resigned conclusion of some groups. Pretend these unsettling times will simply pass over. They won’t. Short of an all-encompassing, miraculous revival, these days are here to stay.
Here’s the problem: If we imitate or ignore the culture for very long, the culture will soon ignore us. If we simply spout hate or biblical quotes with no love behind them, the ears of culture will not hear the message.
What’s the answer?
It’s always been Jesus. it’s not conferences. It’s not gimmicks. It’s not the coolest thing. It’s not gathering in a holy huddle. It’s Jesus. It’s living out the Jesus life. It’s calling people to be like Jesus. The Jesus way has always been counter-cultural (Jesus was crucified by the prevailing culture of his day). It shouldn’t surprise us that in an ever-increasing secular society, the Jesus way seems foreign too. Furthermore (watch your toes), it shouldn’t surprise us when the prevailing religious culture is also offended by Jesus (see the Pharisees). Yet, when those in the prevailing culture see genuine Jesus followers humbly incarnating the captivating love of Christ Jesus in their everyday coming and goings, it is still compelling.
The Jesus way doesn’t ignore truth (Jesus came full of truth). But the Jesus way presents truth not as a weapon to be brandished, but as a compassionate answer to our broken system. It’s the posture of Jesus to the woman caught in adultery, “neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” Jesus humbly embodied grace and truth. Our culture is like that woman in John 8. It’s is broken, hurting, and yet also guilty. The answer isn’t picking up stones (or picket signs). We can’t ignore her. We can’t condone her sin. We need grace and truth. Grace is being compassionate and loving no matter what. Truth is being honest, no matter what.
The lyrics of old the hymn, “Tell me the old, old story of Jesus and His Love” is still the answer to our cultural divide. The third verse is particularly true in these loud and continuous days:
Tell me the story softly,
With earnest tones and grave;
Remember I’m the sinner
Whom Jesus came to save;
Tell me the story always,
If you would really be,
In any time of trouble,
A comforter to me.
To have any effectiveness at all, the church must “softly” and “always” be like Christ Jesus, full of grace and truth.