YES, BUT HOW?

I was taken back last week by a comment on Facebook in response to an article someone else had posted. Giving his view as a Christian, he suggested we should “attack culture.” I noted “attack” was probably not the best choice of words and he blasted me making it clear culture wasn’t the only thing he was interested in attacking. How should we as Christians relate and speak to culture (or what we usually call “the world”)?

I’m pretty sure “attacking” will not do much to open doors or gain a hearing. I can’t imagine that the tactics of Westboro Baptist Church have resulted in welcoming many unbelievers into the body of Christ. Nor do I have a sense that protesting abortion by screaming “baby killer” leads to much reasoned discussion. Attacking and shouting the Gospel may make those who do it feel like they have stood up for Jesus, but I doubt the response is interest in hearing more about Him.

But to say we should not attack is not to imply we should remain silent. Christians are not called to just fit in and blur the distinction we have as followers of Jesus. Neither are we called to withdraw from the world. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus affirmed His followers were to be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world.” In order to be salt and light we must be in our culture.

Our commitment to the Lord shows up in our words, actions, outlooks, and attitude. It’s this matter of attitude that got my attention last week. Through the years I have been embarrassed as a Christian by the attacking attitude expressed by some believers. But more than that, I am convinced they have done more harm than good for the cause. And I must confess that too many times in my life I have been guilty of displaying the wrong attitude to both unbelievers as well as believers.

I return often to a passage giving instruction about how we should talk with others about the Lord and our faith. In I Peter 3:15 the challenge is given to be ready to give an answer when given the opportunity to talk about our hope. Then the verse concludes, “But do this with gentleness and respect” (NIV). The NLT renders it “in a respectful way” and the Message phrases it “with the utmost courtesy.” And the audience to whom I Peter was first written was to Christians living in a hostile environment.

I love the title and content of a book by Dallas Willard put together after his death by his daughter from his notes and lectures. The main title is powerful enough, “The Allure of Gentleness.” But the sub-title closes the deal for me: “Defending the Faith in the Manner of Jesus.” Remember Jesus said, “Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29).

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