Friday, February 21, 2014

Rethinking the "Culture War" - Becoming a Servant of All - Part I

My friend Darrell challenged my thinking again this past week. I love it when that happens. Darrell is a fourth generation Nazarene pastor who gets it. He gets what it means to be a "servant of all." He would never say he has perfected the art but he sets an example I want to follow.

I first invited Darrell to teach one of our Perspectives classes for Spring 2012. I had heard him share at a workshop in August 2011 about the organic church he had planted in his neighborhood and the success he was seeing in bringing his neighbors to faith. I thought his story would be great for Lesson 5 of Perspectives – “Unleashing the Gospel."

What I didn’t know about Darrell, at first, was how radical for Jesus he really was. I mean that in only a very good way. Sometimes we can think we are being radical and turn people off. The only people Darrell may turn off are some Christians – but that’s also good.

Darrell approaches life from a place of radical obedience to the love and grace of God that is so refreshing. That's not to say my friend is perfect, but then again who is? He does understand something more of the love of Christ for all people that is inspiring and has little fear of crossing the boundaries of our Christian sub-culture to share that love with others.

Because Darrell's tries to do his best at radical love, not only are his neighbors coming to faith but so are drug addicts, prostitutes, strippers and others who so often feel alienated from the Church. It can be said of Darrell, he is a friend of “sinners and tax collectors” - the lowest of society. But then he is only following the example Jesus set (Matthew 9:10-11), as should we all. What Darrell understands, just as Jesus did, is that broken people need Jesus – not judgmentalism, condemnation, nor the false face of religion - simply Jesus.  

If we want the homosexual, the drug addict, the prostitute, the down-trodden and broken set free from their sin, the only way that will happen, as Darrell teaches and lives out, is by entering their world. Darrell is simply doing what Jesus did, what every Christ follower is called to do, the best he can. That's what being a disciple is all about. 

What I really wanted to begin to discuss in this post is the “culture war.” Have you noticed we're losing that "war"? Darrell's example, for me, represents the only way the culture war could possibly be won, or at least the culture decline slowed. Not by fighting for laws and rights, which changes nobody and erects barriers to the Good News. Rather, the “culture war” will only even begin to be positively swayed by complete and utter surrender, on the part of Christ followers, to the mercy, grace and love of Jesus. 

That is why I am challenged. Can I let go of the comfort and convenience of my life to enter into the messiness of the broken world? As American Christians, most of us lead such sanitized lives that the muck and mire of the real world rarely enters - at least on the surface and in our suburban churches and homes. Sure, we may go on short-term "mission" trips to messy place but then we return to the comforts of home, with fond memories of "serving the Lord." And that’s the way most of us like it. 

All the while, people are dying without Christ all around us. The unchurched population is growing quickly. If the unchurched of the United States were considered a people group, they would be the third largest Unreached People Group on the planet – over 100 million people in the U.S. will not enter a church. But what is our response? 

Too often the unchurched hear, “clean up your act, get your life right, and come to church.” Often, if and when they do enter a church, they feel unwanted and unwelcomed. But people don’t need to come to church, they need to come to Jesus! They don’t need to meet your pastor, they need to meet Jesus! 

How can they do that when we erect barriers, build walls, and place requirements on them that obscure the pure and unconditional love of Jesus? We must become like Jesus, enter their world and live among them (John 1:14). They may be just across the street. We must become incarnate in our neighborhoods and communities.

What got me thinking about this was a recent article by Kirsten Powers. You may know Miss Powers, a Democrat strategist, from her frequent appearance on Fox News. You may also know that she recently made a public profession of her decision to follow Jesus. 

Kirsten was responding to a new Kansas law that passed the State House but was defeated in the Senate. The law would have protected the rights of Christian businesses to discriminate against gay couples seeking services for their weddings. The fear is that by serving gay-couples, Christian business owners are affirming their lifestyle. As a new Christian, Kirsten writes:
 “Whether Christians have the legal right to discriminate should be a moot point because Christianity doesn't prohibit serving a gay couple getting married. Jesus calls his followers to be servants to all. Nor does the Bible call service to another an affirmation.” 

Kirsten also quotes Pastor Andy Stanley as saying, "Serving people we don't see eye to eye with is the essence of Christianity. Jesus died for a world with which he didn't see eye to eye.” 

The article is here. 

When Jesus ate with “sinners and tax-collectors” he wasn’t affirming or seeing eye to eye with their lifestyle choices. As we know, for doing so our Lord was called out by the Church folk, sorry that should read Pharisees. 

When Darrell decided to help some of his church's ladies start a church inside of a strip club, he wasn’t affirming the strippers lifestyle or seeing eye to eye with those working in the club. Rather, just like Jesus, these lady missionaries were entering their world, extending God's mercy to those who were in desperate need of mercy. The very people Jesus came for (Mark 2:17). 

Isn't it time that we lay down our rights to what we think is important, for Christ's sake? Waging a culture war against those of other sub-cultures is not what we are called to do. We are called to let our light shine, our love be on display, to make God's mercy known and enter the world as "servants of all." (Mark 9:35). 

We are called to a life of surrender as Christ followers. Our rights may make us feel comfortable but if they get in the way of others coming to Christ, we have no right to hold them. The Apostle Paul put it like this, “We put up with anything to avoid causing an obstacle to the Good News of Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:12b). 

One story, among many, Darrell shares is of an atheist his home church befriended in their neighborhood. This neighbor was antagonistic toward anything to do with God, the Bible or church. One summer day, his AC went out in his home. Darrell’s home church prayed about it and desiring to be a “servant of all,” decided to use the funds they had been collecting to purchase their atheist neighbor a new AC unit. A door was opened for a Gospel witness. Over the next weeks this atheist became a Christ follower and now leads a home church.

What would happen if a Christian business owner decided to be a “servant of all,” displaying the love and mercy of God, and did business with a gay couple to provide services for a wedding ceremony?  

What we can pray would happen is that this gay couple would know they are loved, see the light of the Christian business owner (Matthew 5:14) and come to Christ. Then the Holy Spirit can do his sanctifying work in their lives, as he chooses. What we should pray would not happen is that other Christians would "judge" this business owner for being a "friend of sinners."

Questions we need to ask ourselves, that I am asking myself are: Am I willing to be a "servant of all?" Or, do I simply want my rights to my comfort?  Answering these questions are vital for Living Sent Today.

I’ll blog more about this topic in future posts. Please feel free to share this post with others or share your thoughts. All comments are moderated.

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