Scott Sauls asks the question:
“Do we feel more at home with people who share our faith but not our politics? Or with people who share our politics but not our faith?”
If you are like me you may feel more at home with the unchurched than you do with the “saints.” Don’t get me wrong I love church. But there are a lot of pretenders. Genuine faith, the kind of faith that is pure and spotless, is the faith that looks after orphans and widows in their distress. It’s the kind of faith that takes the call of Jesus seriously. And as Scott Sauls explains, “The call of Jesus is NOT to deny your neighbor, take up your comfort, and follow your dreams.”
Sauls reminds us that as we engage the political process. “Let’s not ask the question, ‘Is Jesus on our side?’ Instead let’s ask the question, ‘Are we on His side?'” In other words, “Let’s let our politics be shaped by our Jesus not our Jesus be reshaped by our politics.”
I am a millennial pastor. I understand why many of my friends left the church because I nearly left the church myself. The point of church is not to go to church, it is to be the church. The hands and feet of Jesus. To do that we have to engage a polarized culture that is skeptical of all truth claims especially when they come from the church.
We have a culture that’s drifting – how do we lead in this culture? No one drifts upstream or towards holiness. Going upstream takes work and determination. How we respond matters. Responding to a culture shift is important. The church of Jesus Christ has always been at odds with culture. When you try to become relevant with culture you become irrelevant.
There are 4 ways the church can respond to polarization and culture drift:
1. One option is to accommodate the drift. Remove all obstacles, tolerate every sin and go with the cultural flow. But ignoring our differences doesn’t fix anything. Clearly this is not a biblical option.
2. A second response is we could oppose all change because we are afraid. People who do this only listen to people who reinforce their own fears. But this only increases the polarization. And it also is not a biblical option. 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love because perfect love casts out all fear.” If we are afraid of people, if we view them as the enemy, then it is hard to really love them.
3. A third option is to withdraw completely. To assume that our voice doesn’t matter and that we can’t make a difference in a messed up world. But this isn’t a biblical option either. We are called to be the salt and light of the world.
4. The fourth option is the biblical one. We must engage a polarized culture with authentic love. We weren’t called to just love those that we agree with. We need to engage those who think and act differently than we do. The church needs to be known for its love.
We can’t call ourselves Christians if we withhold our love to anyone. But this is a prophetic love that speaks up with courageous empathy and boldness. We need to focus more on connecting with people than we do on correcting people.
EJ Wagoner put it this way, “Instead of hunting for faults that we may condemn them we are to hunt for sinners that we may save them” (Glad Tidings p. 124). But we aren’t even the ones that save them… Our job is to love people, not change them. Saving people is God’s job. Our role is to speak up with courageous empathy and act out with bold compassion.