We've been looking at the intersection of Christ and culture, how our culture influences our worship, and how today's Christianity is getting sucked into a cultural dialogue that we are letting dilute our message of hope, peace, and love. And truth.
Yesterday, we saw that it's not a stretch to believe that the world could have the wisdom to see its own failures, to understand its own brokenness. The wisdom of God is so woven into the fabric of all creation that it is impossible not to see it, even if you don't know what to call it. Now, here's where Christianity has to step in and do better for our world.
The world is absolutely capable of seeing and identifying its problems and its brokennesses. What the world does not have the wisdom to do is to adequately address any of them. This requires the wisdom of God.
As I said yesterday, when the world attempts to solve its own problems, even problems it has correctly identified, it ends up just shifting pieces around until it's completely out of balance in another direction. It moves this piece to here and that piece to there and then months or years later, realizes it hasn't actually fixed anything; it's just moved the markers. It's just taken one problem and traded it in for another.
One of the books that I read recently - one of those books that I mentioned earlier this week that agrees with the world and takes up the world's ideas couched in Christian language - suggested that the church should start paying reparations - yes, actual financial reparations - to Black persons and Black communities because of the oppression they have suffered under racism. The world is very much into reparations; it's been a hot topic of debate for a long time now. But what reparations don't do is that they don't change the fundamental nature of racism in our culture. At all. They don't fix anything. They don't solve any problems. They don't address the underlying issues.
It's the same thing that happened with affirmative action. The world decided to make a set of rules to make opportunities available for minority races, attempting to level the playing field right around the age of adulthood, but completely ignoring the foundational ages before that that would give those receiving affirmative action a true chance by the time they got to college and the work force. Basically, what we have is a rule that requires gatekeepers to embrace a certain number of less-qualified individuals because they are more-underprivileged, and the world calls this good but it's no such thing. The real good would be to hit the problem at the point of its underprivileging and solve it from the very beginning.
But this is all that the wisdom of this world allows for. It's the best that the world can come up with.
The thing about Christianity is that at every single turn, the Christian story is just better. It just is. It is more holistic, more comprehensive, more community-oriented. It has at its very heart a togetherness and a goodness that cannot be replicated by even the greatest wisdom outside of the Gospel.
Jesus lived in a world that didn't recognize women. But Jesus recognized them. And when He recognized them, He simply...recognized them. He didn't call out first that they were women. He didn't make a point of it. He simply engaged them exactly the same way that He engaged the men that He encountered. Contrast this with the world's notion of equality that puts on display every time it embraces a non-equal person by first identifying that person as lesser, then trying to pretend that she is not. In the very breath that you have to identify someone as unique, you have immediately lost their equality. The world doesn't recognize this, but Jesus does.
Jesus says to visit the sick and the imprisoned, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked. The world thinks it has to know why first. It has to know why this person is sick or imprisoned or hungry or naked, as if that matters. The world sets up a judgment system, a hierarchy of needs, in which you must be both sick/imprisoned/hungry/naked and deserving and then the world looks around at itself and is sickened by the number of naked among us. Jesus doesn't care about all of that. Jesus clothes the naked. Period. He visits the sick and the imprisoned. Period. He feeds the hungry. Period.
The truth of Christ is, at every turn, better than anything this world can come up with. And best of all, it's established on grace, so it's free.
And that's why we can't afford to be a people who are proof-texting the world with our Gospel, finding Scriptures to support why we should look more like the world. We can't be a people who are content to say, simply, you know? The world is right about that. Because the world may be right about that, but it's usually not good about that. God is the only One who is good about that. And if there's anything the world needs right now as it uncovers all of these truths about itself, it's goodness.
So yes, let's join these conversations that the world is having. Yes, let's step into them wholeheartedly. But no, let's not pretend that the world is on the right track here. Our story is better. Our truth is better. Our grace is better. Our God is good. And if that is not what we're bringing to the conversation - truly, wholly, from the depths of the Gospel itself - then we are failing our world.