Friday, July 5, 2013

Dear Christian, Please Stop "Standing Up"

Travel in Christian circles for any length of time and you will hear someone arise in some forum of Christians and declare, "what we need to do is start standing up in America." By that, the well-intentioned follower of Jesus means that the church of Christ needs to mobilize and defend Christian morality against the continuing rise of secular progressiveness in American culture. It reflects, in one sense, a turning-the-clock-back theology. As secularism continues to gain influence in America, politicians increasingly ignore the voices of Christians. The solution, for many, is to "stand up" against them. We need to "round up the troops," mobilize a political and social movement, and "make our voice heard."

As a pastor in the rural south, I hear this language almost every week. I have been invited to countless forums, groups, organizations, ministries, and action groups who either have this as their sole purpose or make this argument at some point. I always end up cringing, "here we go again."

Instead of standing up, the church of Jesus Christ needs to stand out.

The King James translation of 1 Peter 2:9 perhaps sums it up best: But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light

We are to be a peculiar people.

Scripture is clear from Genesis to Revelation that God's people are to be both a come-and-see and a go-and-tell people. Too often, however, the church has confused the gospel with a political party, a social message, or legalistic religion. Christians have been living in a pipe dream love affair with power, politics, pundits, and presidents thinking that cultural and public influence leads to repentance only to realize it leads to irrelevance and hell.

With that said, I want to offer four simple ways the gospel has called us to stand out.


1. Carry Your Cross

In Matthew 16:21-24 Jesus uses the word must twice. The first is in the context of the necessity of His cross - He must go to Jerusalem, suffer, die, and be raised. The second follows the first. After rebuking Peter for standing between Him and the cross Jesus says that the disciple must, therefore, pick up his cross and follow Christ.

This is not a message of comfort or easy-believism. Repentance requires us all to forsake our idols. The cross calls on all of us lose something. A peculiar people are a people who love Christ more than comfort; grace more than greed; spiritual adoption more than cultural ambiance; and the cross more than the culture.  

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote, When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. That is where we must stand and fall.


2. The Gospel Must Be Bigger & More Real

Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. That is not the gospel. And yet for decades that has been the message we have told the world we've been standing up against. The gospel is greater than this. The gospel is a complete transformation - really a resurrection. Through the gospel we become new people with new minds, new hearts, new births, new desires, and new wills. 

The gospel affects our worldview, our theology, and our lives. It affects how we view sex, marriage, life, death, value, truth, and power. The gospel also restores God's fallen creation. Thus sex is more than just "the exchange of bodily fluids" but is deeply theological. Marriage is more than a permanent live-in buddy, but is deeply theological. The gospel brings with it joy even in the world of depression; love in a world drinking from the well of lust; peace in chaos; contentment in consumerism. 

The gospel does not immediately address our felt need. It raises us from the dead.


3. Ministry Must Be Both Public & Personal

For many churches, ministry involves fiery sermons and social agendas. Most of our members know our stance on certain issues including abortion, homosexuality, and other "hot topics." However, most do not know how to approach, love, minister, and reach the out-of-the-closet homosexual, the womanizer, the alcoholic, the young woman who aborted her child(ren), etc.

For years we have been standing up to such groups without realizing that we have done greater harm to the gospel by pushing sinners out of the Kingdom of God. So dear pastor, explain warmly and urgently to your congregation how grace truly is greater than all of our and their sin. And dear Christian, love and reach those around you with the same kind of urgency.


4. Be anchored and grow in your marriage

Soon marriage will be limited to a religious institution for only the religious, especially Christians, will get married. Already this is a growing trend. The rise of cohabitation and perpetual licentious singleness makes this inevitable. Our post-Christian society doesn't know what to do with marriage. This could be of great benefit to the Church and the gospel. As light unto a dark world, our marriages create a vivid illustration of the gospel.

This means we must take marriage more seriously. We must, first, stop divorcing like we are. Secondly, we must grow in our marriages.


Conclusion

In short, the church of Christ must stop standing up because no one cares and no one is listening. We must instead stand out as a peculiar people by boldly living and proclaiming the gospel. The gospel is enough. With it God changed the world without an army or a Republican Congress. And He can do it again.
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