We have reached another series of talking points in America, which generally comes out of either crisis or trauma. We are pushed to our edge on some issue or another and for awhile, it's all we can talk about. Or rather, shout about, as all most of us do is scream at one another and anyone who cares (or dares) to disagree with us.
These types of moments in our culture, which seem to be coming along more often these days, are a real crisis point for the church.
You might be thinking that already. You might be among those thinking that the church really has to figure out how to respond to these sorts of things or we're going to lose our "relevancy" or something like that. You might be thinking that the church has historically dropped the ball on these things and that it's time for Christians to stand up and stand with the world, stand with our culture, on these deep cries of the heart.
Or maybe you're someone who believes that moments like this one were made for the church, that this is exactly where the love and grace and goodness of God ought to be shining and that if we don't step up now, then when are we going to teach the world about Jesus?
On one hand, yes to all of that. On the other hand, not quite. I think the crisis point we're in is even tougher than this.
What we're tempted to do, as a people who understand the brokenness of the world and the consequences of sin, is simply talk about sin. We can't start spewing our church language all around, the kind of language that understands things like grief and grace and redemption and the Promise that was once wrapped in swaddling clothes and a few decades after that, in grave clothes. We can't talk about how the world is broken and it's not supposed to be like this and how what's really wrong with the world is our own depraved hearts.
We can't do this because the world doesn't understand the paradigm. To them, it's just talk. Just empty, random talk that isn't actually doing anything, although we know better. We know that what we are doing is drawing into our holy grief because that is the only thing that draws us to God. We know that through is the way out. But the world doesn't understand that, and it sits back and scoffs at us for what it calls "thoughts and prayers" - empty gestures, it says, that don't do anything for the heart of the problem.
So the other thing that we're tempted to do, because we can't do what we'd naturally do best, is to adopt the world's language about all of this stuff and stand in the front of the picket lines and lead the prayer before the riot. We use the same words our culture is using, and we affirm their ideas about things. And then, we slap the name of Jesus on it - because there's no way we're letting a good cultural moment when everyone is paying attention get away from us, not this fantastic opportunity for "evangelism" (okay, just mentioning the name of Jesus is not evangelism, and it's certainly not evangelism to simply tie Him to the cultural tides of the day, but again, I digress) and then, this strange thing happens where the world starts to say things like, "even the church agrees with us." Even those Christians, those fuddy-duddies who have everything backward and put our culture under attack, agree with us...and so does their Jesus.
And we can come up with some pretty good ones, too. We can twist all kinds of words to sound like God's Word if we want to. We can spin a story and preach a sermon and make even the most devout, the most studied, the most diligent and discipled Christians among us have to think hard for a minute. Or maybe even two. Wait a minute...what? Is that what Jesus is really about?
Often, sadly, the answer is no. And that's why this is part of the crisis point for Christians. Because we're talking like the world, we're using their language, and we're lending them our Jesus. It looks like a win-win-win, doesn't it? We maintain our relevancy, the world hears the message of Jesus, and Jesus gets a place at the table in the conversation. It's everything we - I mean, He - could be hoping for, right?
Yet don't forget that I've called this a crisis point, and it is. It's not the best thing that could be happening right now. It's not the best thing that could be happening for the church. It's not the best thing that could be happening for the culture. And it's not the best thing that could be happening for Christ.
Why on earth not?