How should Jesus-followers respond to the world around us? As you look at the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, you get a pretty good picture of how we should engage with our world. But this hasn’t been easy for us to figure out, and throughout history, the church has had different ways to interact and respond to the culture around us. These fall into 5 major groups:
- Jesus against the world. This is the idea that we are at odds with the world and so we need to take a stand and fight. This is the theme of some great songs of the past like, “Onward Christian Soldiers, marching as to war.” Those with this stance think, “If our world wants a fight with us, bring it on! We’re armed and ready.” And of course, as you look down through history, you see this expressed through the Crusades, and you see this today when Christians get into social media fights. You can look in the sewage on the comments section on articles about Christians and churches on the internet and see how many Christians love a good fight. There are legitimate times to stand and fight, like the great theologian Aaron Tippin said, “You’ve got to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.” You may have to fight, but this should only be a last resort, not a first response. Remember, Jesus said, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17) Jesus isn’t against the world. He is for them and wants them to brought into His forever family.
- Jesus away from the world. This idea is that Christians should have absolutely nothing to do with the world. We are called out of the world to be holy and pure and blameless and we don’t want to get our hands dirty with all the mess of the dirty world out there. This happens when Christians get so busy in the church, doing church activities, that they don’t have time to get out there and really engage in their community. At it’s worst, they can’t relate to everyday people anymore. If that’s how Jesus wants us to live, then why does He leave us in the world after we surrender our lives to Him?
- Jesus in the world: This is where Christians get out there into the world, but they all look and act and talk exactly like those who are outside of the church. You can’t tell the difference. This attitude says, “Jesus saved me, and now I can continue to do what I want to do, and live however I want to live.” But how in the world is anybody supposed to know that you are a follower of Jesus? On second thought, maybe it’s better that they don’t know that you are, because you’re not representing Jesus very well. On the plus side, no one will give you a hard time for being a Christian, because no one can tell you are one. You’re a secret agent, and it’s working. But it makes no difference.
- Jesus with the world: In this one, you take all of the things in our world, and you just clean them up, slap a Jesus fish on it, baptize it and bring it into the church. You’re still separate, but you get all of the benefits of the world. This is modern Christianity at its best (and worst). Where we have a Christian alternative for everything, like Christian radio and TV, Christian coffeehouses, Christian Crossfit classes, Christian fast food, Christian fashion, Christian online dating services, and more. These let us enjoy everything you’ve always wanted in a faith. And less.
The last one, and the one that I believe represents the heart of God and who we are at The Connection Church is:
- Jesus changing the world: Here, we take what we have received out into our community and world to be influencers and change agents for the people around us who desperately need Jesus. They may not know it yet, but He wants them to know Him. This doesn’t happen by positioning ourselves against the people around us. God is for them and so are we. God SO LOVED the WORLD that he did something about it. He sent His Son INTO the world. And Jesus sends us INTO The world to share his truth in a way that they get it and they can finally understand it. He said, “You are salt and light.” Salt is a preservative of what is good and it isa flavor-enhancer. So you bring the flavor of God and who God made you to be into our world. And light shines brightest in the darkness.
We can’t go hide in our safe houses and our churches. Jesus said, “I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.” (John 17:14-15) He’s not taking us out, but He’s got our backs as we get out there and change the world around us.