What if I told you we were doing it all wrong?

We see changes in our culture and it is freaking us out

It has been written and said that we are living in a post-Christian culture. A post-Christian culture can be defined as “a culture where the Christian faith and worldview no longer has a dominant influence in society.” Many of us were brought up in a world where there was common ground when it comes to absolute truth and morality. That is definitely not the case any more. The problem is the way in which Christians are responding to the changing culture. Out of fear and insecurity about the loss we are experiencing we have become angry and have begun to fight a culture war.

We need to understand what is going on beneath the surface in the hearts and minds of the people all around us

What we need to do is stop and realize that the arguments we are having are, for the most part, symptoms of something much deeper. Let’s take sexuality for example. Many Christians are shocked regarding how our culture’s view of sexuality has changed. So, what do we do? We will argue with people (very rarely in person) about the issue of sexuality. What we normally find is that our arguments have very little power to change anyone’s mind. Why do you think that is true?

The reason that it is true is due to the fact that their world views have completely changed. Our culture’s view of truth, gender, and morality have changed massively over the years. Think of it this way, we are arguing with people about the software when the real problem is the hardware. It might just be possible that our “conversations” are having little impact because they are not going deep enough.

We need to go beyond throwing truth grenades and look to build relationships

So what do we do? One main idea that I keep expressing time and time again is that we need to build actual relationships. We have to give up the idea that the hard hitting meme we post or the political rant is going to make any difference. All that it is going to do is push people away and make it less likely that they will ever come to know the Truth personally.

Imagine this for a moment. Christians, working hard to build old-fashioned relationships with people who are very different from them. Listening. Showing genuine empathy. Asking lots of questions. Being open to the idea that we can learn from others who come from very different backgrounds. It is in the context of a relationship that we can go beyond the surface and talk about the basis, or the foundation, for what we say we believe. The online post or rant is easy, and if we are honest, it feels good to throw out an occasional truth grenade and pretend that we actually accomplished something positive. To go deeper in relationship will come about only when we love people more than we love winning an argument. But the question we are faced with is this, will we take the time, get out of our comfort zone, and actually build relationships with people very different from us?

Jeremiah 29:7. Does this apply to the church today?

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. -Jeremiah 29:7

How many times have you seen this verse quoted in such a way to encourage Christians to serve and love the city in which they reside? Let’s just say “a lot.”

The question must be asked, “do the words spoken by the prophet Jeremiah to the Jewish exiles in 600 B.C. really apply to the church today? And if so, how?” 

exileSo why should we apply the exhortations of Jeremiah 29 to the church today? In the Bible, we see the people of God living in three configurations. From Abraham’s day onward, God’s people existed as an extended biological family. From the days of Moses, they exited as a nation-state, with laws and a king and an army to enforce those laws by civil sanctions. During the exile, however, God’s people existed as a dispersed fellowship of congregations (synagogues) living in many different nation-states. God’s law did not take a civil form during that period-the disobedient were expelled from the congregation, but they were not executed.

After the exile, the Jews went back to being a nation-state. Yet the New Testament does not envision the Christian church in this way. Instead, it shows that the church continues to exist as a dispersion of people from every nation under heaven (Acts 2), just as Israel did in the exile (see Jas 1:1, Peter 1:1). Therefore, it seems reasonable to conclude that the church should continue to the human cities of our time, not as the people of God did under Abraham, Moses, or David, but as they did during the time of the exiles.” P.147-148, Center Church

Peter clearly tells us that as the church today we are called to live as exiles (1 Peter 2:11-12). One of the problems I see today is that many Christians are not taking the tone or posture of an exile, rather they are living as if they are in a position of power. Perhaps the post-Christian culture that we are living in today is going to force us to let go of the facade of being in a position of power and instead embrace the reality that God has called us to live as exiles for the good of the city/suburbs in which we reside. 

What does it look like when we live as if we are in a position of power?

  • We seek to impose our “rules” on society.
  • We come across as arrogant and angry.
  • We are shocked and outraged when others do not submit to our “rules”.
  • We end up putting too much hope and faith in politicians for the transformation of society.
  • Unfortunately we stop looking and sounding like Jesus

What does it look like when we live as exiles?

  • We listen to and serve people in our culture because we realize that we are not in a position of power.
  • We don’t assume that culture will play by our rules. Instead, we show them an alternative way to live. The way of Love.
  • Our tone and posture is less militant and more sacrificial and compassionate. Quoting John piper, “This is my main point: being exiles does not mean being cynical. It does not mean being indifferent or uninvolved. The salt of the earth does not mock rotting meat. Where it can, it saves and seasons. Where it can’t, it weeps. And the light of the world does not withdraw, saying “good riddance” to godless darkness. It labors to illuminate. But not dominate.”
  • We don’t hate culture, we see our role as salt (redemption) and light within culture.
  • We walk in the ways of Jesus (Isaiah 42:3, Matthew 20:28) and truly reflect the gospel to the world around us.

How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? -Psalm 137:4

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. –1 Peter 2:11-12