As my friend Carey Nieuwhof has pointed out, the much-publicized decision of the United States Supreme Court in late June should come as no surprise to followers of Jesus, because it’s foolish of us to expect a secular society to follow Christian principles and practices.
We who are old enough to remember what a more ‘Christian’ Canada was like may have more adjusting to do than the younger generation. Just as some young people today are astounded to learn that the world existed before the Internet, some mature followers of Jesus are astounded to learn that we no longer live in a world where Christian principles and practices are universally known and lived out.
That’s a challenge for the church going forward, but it’s a challenge the church can meet if it has the will to do so. What will that look like, for us as individual believers?
First, it will mean pulling back the reins on judgment of people who aren’t Christians. Years ago, that judgment came out when someone showed up to church not dressed appropriately. Nowadays, that judgment can be unleashed in other ways, but we should refrain from judging, and welcome people who are brave enough to cross the threshold of the church and check us out.
Second, it will mean taking the church outside the four walls of the building and into the neighbourhood. As Alan Roxburgh has written in several of his books, the church in the 21st century must become “missional”. That means we don’t go to church, we take the church out into the neighbourhood. We get to know our neighbours, and learn how we can serve them in Jesus’ name. We take God’s love to them, wherever they are and in whatever state they find themselves; we don’t wait for them to come to us.
Third, it will mean being more intentional as Christians and as the church at living out God’s Word and his love, since we can’t assume anyone knows anything about the faith. I heard a story last Sunday about an individual who was asked to put on some music at work, and it turned out to be Christmas carols…and it wasn’t Christmas. This person simply didn’t know what Christmas music was; she or he had no Christian background (and, it seems, never visited the mall in December!). By not assuming people know anything about the faith, we can be sharper in our witness and more clear in our expression of God’s truth – with care and concern, not condescension.
Living Faith, a statement of faith of The Presbyterian Church in Canada, says this: “…in the spirit of humility, as beggars telling others where food is to be found, we point to life in Christ” (9.2.1).
God’s love for the world has always been sacrificial. Though the world around us – right now, anyway – might seem less Christian, God’s love is no less powerful. How will you be the living expression of God’s love today?
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3.15b, NIV).