Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Attitude Adjustment

As we think about engaging the world without entertaining it, and we establish that there is nothing in this world that is unclean for us, the next thing we really have to look at is our attitude while we're busy engaging the world. 

It's tempting for us to want to try to protect our reputation even while we're out doing the kind of loving that God has called us to. It's important to us that the rest of the world, whoever might accidentally see us, understand that this is not a place we are choosing to be because it's the kind of place we like, so we like to make a big show about not being part of the things we are, ironically, actively doing at the moment. 

I remember many years ago, a friend was talking about how embarrassed she was when she would walk out of the local liquor store with "that brown bag." She made it a point to let everyone know that she was only there to buy cooking wine (or whatever kind of alcohol she was using) and that she really just loves to cook. Then, she'd have long conversations with you about how much she loves to cook and her favorite recipes and how, exactly, she plans on using the alcohol...and how many recipes' worth that bottle would actually be. 

In case, you know, you get the wrong idea about her because she walked out of a liquor store with "that brown bag." 

It's humorous, but we're doing this sort of thing all the time. In the case of what started this conversation, maybe I choose to watch that television show with my niece - the one she's certain I won't like because I'm "very Christian." It's tempting for a lot of Christians to sit there and watch the movie or the tv show or whatever it is and point out everything they don't like about it. Point out every scene that is not wholesome. Wax eloquent about how God's way is so much better than this way and how what they're showing on the screen isn't as enticing as it seems. 

We make it a point, in other words, to engage whatever the world is asking us to engage, but to be extremely vocal the entire time about how much we are not enjoying ourselves. Just so no one gets the wrong idea. 

But if you go into a cultural engagement with the intent to judge it, if you go in having to protect your own reputation to the point that you're so vocal about your displeasure, if you spend all of your time in the world grumbling about the world, you're not really helping your case. You're no better than a Christian who refuses to engage at all.

Actually, I'm just going to say it - you're worse. 

The world has had enough of us looking down our noses at it, like we are so much holier than they are. The world has had enough of us pretending to come alongside them, but refusing to leave our judgment at home. 

No, you don't have to like the tv show or the movie or the bar environment or the brothel. But neither do you have to sit there and speak judgment over it. And if you can't help yourself, then just leave. Because you're not doing anyone any good - least of all, God. 

This is something we don't see Jesus do. We don't see Jesus engage a place - actively, openly, responding to an invitation, seeking a sinner engage a place - just to go in and grumble about it. Just to go in and pass judgment on it. Just to make a point to everyone watching and listening that this place is beneath Him and He'd rather be literally anywhere else. He never makes loving someone seem like a chore. He never makes it seem unenjoyable. 

Rather, we see Jesus relaxing with sinners. Breaking bread with them. Laughing. Grieving. Fully entering in, even while His heart is breaking for what this world is doing.

That's the kind of example we need to follow. That's the way we need to be while we're in these places. Fully and wholly there, even if our heart is breaking. Even if it's not the world we want to live in. 

Because it is the world we live in, and if we look right next to us, what we'll see is a fellow image-bearer for whom this little sliver of the world that so breaks our heart is all they know of it. 

Until, of course, we entered in. (I hope.)


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