Priest doing a sermon

Following Jesus in an Angry World

I have been thinking and praying a lot about following Jesus in the current climate. How can I represent the grace and love of Jesus in a culture that is angry and divided?

I read pundits and commentators saying terrible things about the motives of Evangelicals as if all people of faith act in lockstep. To be fair, some of their accusations are valid. I wrote a book called “When Bad Christians Happen to Good People Happen to Good People” so I would suggest I have no problem owning the shortcomings of Christians.

In some circles you bring up Evangelical Christians at the risk of getting your hair parted. Too often the church has made what we stand against the message of our faith instead of the wonderful and liberating Good News of the Gospel. The word Evangelical literally means “Good News”. Is that the connotation the word has in our culture today? Do we share in the degeneration of the name?

Instead of hearing about the forgiveness and love of Christ the secular community perceives that Christians care only about power and forcing their morals into their lives. In my experience these critics of the faith are not bad people. They simply have not seen grace lived out consistently in our lives. We have failed in our messaging to emphasize the radical grace that gives life, forgiveness, and hope.

On the faith side, people with genuine and sincere convictions see the cultural erosion and become afraid.  To my secular friends, in my experience these people of faith are also not bad people. They are worried about the cultures direction and their instinct is to regain control of the moral decline in any way possible. Sadly, the most logical path can be the worst one when the church tries to wield political power to influence morality. Philip Yancey has written a lot on this topic.

“The gospel of Jesus was not primarily a political platform. In all the talk of voting blocs and culture wars, the message of grace—the main distinctive Christians have to offer—tends to fall aside. It is difficult, if not impossible, to communicate the message of grace from the corridors of power. I see the confusion of politics and religion as one of the greatest barriers to grace. C. S. Lewis observed that almost all crimes of Christian history have come about when religion is confused with politics. Politics, which always runs by the rules of ungrace, allures us to trade away grace for power, a temptation the church has often been unable to resist.”

It breaks my heart that the loudest or the most quoted religious voices seem to be the voices of ungrace.  The Christian community is filled with selfless, giving, and kind people working tirelessly and without notice. I can introduce you to dozens of them that I know personally. But this community does not make the news.

How do we navigate this ugly climate as followers of Jesus? Here are a few things I wrote down for myself to pray over.

  • Try and see everyone through the eyes of Jesus because my eyes are prejudiced and prideful.
  • Try and love them like Jesus because my love is defensive and selfish.
  • Try and see that no one misses out on the message of grace, identity, acceptance and one-way love that is offered as a free gift of grace by the finished work of Jesus on the Cross.
  • Let others know that my relationship with Jesus and His grace has changed my life, given my life purpose, given me strength to endure tragedy, and real hope for the future.
  • Be gentle in relating the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ to people in every situation and not be judgmental of their current situation. My goal is to introduce them to Jesus and let them work it out together.
  • Walk with those who are struggling and remind them that God’s Grace always exceeds their sin. Always.
  • Exhibit grace and kindness to those who attack me for not sharing their views.
  • Freely give grace to everyone I come in contact so I can be salt and light to my little circle of influence.
  • Give generously of my time and treasure to those who have not been as materially blessed in my neighborhood, my country, and around the world.

Jesus has the final word on this topic and it is a powerful reminder of how His teachings do not align with cultural norms and especially with Twitter.

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:43-45, NLT

There is only strategy to live in such a counter cultural way. Understand, appreciate and lean fully into the Grace freely given to you by God.