eight issues the world desperately wants from Evangelicals Rig … | The change
It seems that the world's esteem for evangelicals has waned rapidly in recent years – and perhaps not for the right reasons. It is not our bold and faithful preaching of the gospel that has been so repulsive – we should be persecuted for that as an honorary sign. No, it's something less inspiring, less noble and less selfless. It seems to amount to drawing lines and choosing sides in a cultural war.
And now it is not difficult to see that our reputation as evangelicals seems to lie somewhere between mild net neutrality of public willingness to help and a raging garbage container fire of self-interest that is continuously poured over glowing cultural coals. Many of us see the shock waves of harm that come from those of us who have confused our spiritual loyalties from an eternal kingdom to a less sensual political / cultural kingdom. We see it and don't want to participate in the same corrupt exchange.
What should our answer be?
What must the world see in those of us who claim the Kingdom of God as our highest loyalty? What does the world need to hear from those of us who are actively struggling to resist the carnal attraction to selfish cultural tribalism? Which signals have to be sent with confusing clarity to a world that increasingly questions the spiritual authenticity of our motivations or the fairness of our actions?
Allow me, with the trust and conviction that comes from Jesus' words, to articulate eight cultural attitudes that we as evangelicals must embrace wholeheartedly if we ever want to get a believable voice again. These eight positions were first articulated by the king of our kingdom when, through the weakness of preaching, he distilled the substance of his countercultural rule in eight beautiful, otherworldly attitudes.
1. Cultural humility. The world must see evangelicals as humble followers of Christ who have killed our self-righteous attitudes and acknowledge that we have no other standing before God than the gracious grace of Jesus Christ. We are all “poor in spirit” and every personal virtue in front of people is a front for the sacrifice made by a holy God. We do not claim superiority, no priority, no superiority. As evangelicals, we are a ragged, ragged cluster of sinful, spiritual underperformers. Every virtue that comes from our lives is the life of Christ that is lived in me. And so we enter the cultural dialogue quietly as "poor in spirit". We don't have the first word. We are not asking for the last word. We listen with great humility with open and learning hearts. In it, Christ prepares us for the next action that He will ask of us.
2. Acting empathy. The world needs empathetic evangelicals who are genuinely grief-stricken towards those affected by injustice. As my friend Dhati Lewis often says, "A problem is not a real problem until it becomes your problem." He says that problems are only really problematic when we personally experience their consequences. For centuries we as evangelicals have been on the wrong side of history in terms of racial justice, and again we sway there. We cannot “mourn” with those affected, but find all possible ways to legitimize the positions of our hardened hearts as we delve into the history of the victims to find a way to justify their perpetrators.
But Jesus calls His people to be "mourners" of injustice. To show empathy for those who have long endured personal abuse, overt discrimination and dehumanizing prejudice. If someone holds up a sign that says "Black Lives Matter", I can't imagine Jesus responding: "All Lives Matter!" When my daughter had a bad day and asked me, "Daddy, do you love me?" – How could I answer her: "Of course I love everyone." This is not an answer from love. When a good friend called me in an emotional state and said, "My father died suddenly last night." It would not be love's answer to tell a truth like "Well, all parents die". Grief requires empathy. Empathy requires selfless love. And selfless love requires that we are “poor in spirit”.
3. Position representation. The world must witness selfless evangelicals who pass on their power to those who are powerless. The world is used to evangelicals reaching for power – in many ways it has unfortunately become our defining signature. But it seems that our greed for power contradicts nature, which should characterize the people of the kingdom of Jesus – "meekness". Since "gentleness" speaks of strength under the direction, evangelicals should not use their power for themselves, but in the name of those who "mourn". Our political cause would be justice, not power as a dark end in itself.
Our call to show a culture of "gentleness" also requires a transfer of power by evangelicals. It seems that the public perception of us as evangelicals is that we are white – but that's a wrong opinion. There is incredible ethnic diversity within evangelicalism. Many denominations are founding new churches, the majority of which do not know, but are Afro-American, ethical and multicultural. But our face is still white. And as long as we remain in power, biblical "gentleness" could never be what the world would describe us.
4. Just need. The world needs evangelicals who are personally desperate for justice to rule in every area of society. Jesus describes the culture of his people as "hungry and thirsty for justice". The righteousness we long for is the gospel that works through my life and corrects everything that doesn't look like Jesus. However, this internal correction always has external ethical effects. I cannot "starve and thirst for justice" and at the same time feel good and comfortable with the unjust injustice that is around me. There is no consolation with injustice. It causes distress. We “mourn”, but we also move.
Our just distress turns our attitudes into actions. We are no longer silent when we see or hear injustices. We speak with the authority of Christ. When the darkness spits out its ugly poison – further excludes people or groups – the follower of Christ calls for bookkeeping. who agrees on that? Certainly not someone who claims to bear the name of Christ.
Can evangelicals regain credibility in a world desperate for the good news that we claim to know? Perhaps. We will gain a foothold as we demonstrate cultural humility, proxy empathy, position approval, genuine affliction (and the four other countercultural characteristics of the people in the Kingdom that we will look at next Monday).
Until then, God may give us the grace not to do anything out of selfish ambition or imagination, but in humility others count more than we do.
(1) See Matthew 5: 3-12
(2) Dhati Lewis is vice president of the Send Network (NAMB) and pastor of the Blueprint Church in Atlanta.
(3) It appears that many evangelicals threw the baby out with the bath water in this discussion. While the organization of BLM certainly stands for some positions that are far outside the framework of Orthodox Christian beliefs, we express our solidarity with those who have been wrongly victims and not a voice. Similarly, many will vote for a #Democrat or #Republican, although the party platforms have positions that many would disagree with. The weight of history must explain a truth that should always have been obvious – black lives are not indispensable. The attempt to compensate for this statement goes completely wrong.
(4) Philippians 2: 3