That’s all I published in 2017.
Not because I didn’t have much to say, but because I couldn’t figure out the right way to say it.
The world seemed a bit heavier.
Conversations more fragile.
People more emotional.
Privately, I wrote more than ever and spent hundreds of hours with friends processing through our lives and the state of the world. We shared hilarious stories, we walked through exciting and painful seasons, we shared our thoughts on social issues.
…and sometimes we sat there scrolling Instagram in silence like true Millenials.
But mostly we spent good times together.
As we did, two common themes emerged.
- I am overwhelmed by the weight of the societal issues in 2018, but feel passionate about engaging in some sort of solution.
- I don’t think I am alone.
There is a growing contingent of Jesus followers tired of the “Evangelical” label, though their lifestyle may indeed be evangelical. Men and women of all backgrounds who follow Jesus, yet hesitate to associate with his Church. Not because we are ashamed of Christ, but because his name has been charged with a divisive political weight I doubt he’s too interested in. On both sides, misconceptions plague us.
Our post-Christian society considers Christianity irrelevant. Ancient. Proven wrong. Backward. Exclusive. Mark Sayers refers to this as a “Third Culture.” A society interested in “the Kingdom without the King.” They want the social and political values of Jesus without Jesus himself.
Simultaneously, we were raised in a Christian culture known more for what they are against than who they are for. A culture insulted by nonconformity. Full of elders and laypeople alike who confuse their religious experience with political beliefs. Speak against “traditional” values and you can expect more than a few disapproving stares from the Conservative Christian Peanut Gallery.
Like a well-oiled pig dancing in a tutu, the tension between both worlds is awkward.
Jesus knows our situation well.
Religious leaders in his day placed themselves on top of the social ladder by twisting God’s commands into a set of rules while the world remained skeptical. Jesus did not shy away from expressing his passionate beliefs. He just lived among the people and loved them. He preached from the same temples and spoke of the same prophets. Through his actions and words, the masses realized there was a Gospel far greater than the religious leaders understood.
Today, Jesus is not afraid of the homosexual, the Muslim, or the immigrant. He Loves them. Not with baseless talk but with real action. If He were here physically today, the 21st-century religious elite would scoff at how uncomfortably close his life would be to theirs. How he would support them in the midst of their journeys rather than protest outside their homes.
I truly believe my generation of Christians desires to do the same, but engaging in the causes of justice and love like Jesus did is a risky adventure. There are no definite outcomes, but our mission is clear.
Love God. Love people. Make disciples.
Christians should be driving the causes of justice throughout the world.
Instead, we tend to react in one of two ways.
The Jerry Falwell Jr, Franklin Graham and Company approach is to twist Jesus’ mission into a justification for the conservative agenda in hopes of increased power amongst the powerful. As if Jesus would vote a clean party line in America today. As if Jesus’ biggest concerns are keeping immigrants out, guns in, and reducing your tax bill.
That Jesus is a figment of the power-hungry imagination.
Not to say those issues are or are not important—you can decide for yourself—but using Jesus as the justification for them is manipulative and weak. The 2018 equivalent of white southern pastors in the 60’s condemning peaceful protest against racial oppression as, “unwise and untimely.”
While some public personalities twist the words of Jesus for their own personal gain, far more choose not to speak at all.
I get it.
It’s tempting to act as if Jesus cares about what happens inside your heart but not in the physical space around you. Like he cares about your internal attitudes but doesn’t dwell in external issues. He has a lot to say about you and I being righteous… but gay rights? Gender inequality? Gun control? Immigration? Refugees? Abortion? Discrimination? Healthcare?
It’s tempting to remain silent when you feel short on answers.
For those of us who stand in the tension between the ire of Christian conservatism and the contempt of a culture that deems our faith irrelevant, the first step is to engage.
Engage people affected by injustice.
Engage your friends in real conversation about your passions.
Engage culture with real actions to address systematic failures.
God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven is an awesome picture of the spiritual and physical being reconciled. My generation of Christians—those who feel voiceless underneath leaders who either detract from the conversation or refuse to speak altogether—must quit waiting for others to speak.
Quit smothering the countercultural passions rooted deep inside you. Burn with compassion for the immigrant. Fight for the freedom of children to receive quality education without fear of gunmen in their hallways. March through the streets to give voice to racial justice.
Whatever the context, use your God-given design to cultivate Justice and Love all around you.
And maybe—if you’re really bold—just try being friends with somebody who looks and thinks differently than you. That might do the trick.