Many Christians, particularly Evangelicals, seem to be losing their will to stand up for what they believe when it comes to controversial social issues. Maybe this is just the pendulum swing from days gone bye when some Evangelicals showed little or no compassion for the people on the other side of the debate. I think it shows something deeper. Namely that we are more concerned about public perception than we are sticking to our purported beliefs.
Caving to public pressure in the name of relevance or to “maintain relational connections” makes no sense. Relationships are not impacted by what we believe but by how we convey our beliefs. Undoubtedly some will be offended by the belief itself. But that simply shows their hypocrisy regarding the idea of tolerance. People are drawn to those with firm, well-reasoned convictions even when those convictions are different from their own. When someone stands up for what they believe, you know they are being authentic. People would rather we be authentic than popular.
There is no denying that certain passages of Scripture are unpopular. They go against the prevailing beliefs and opinions of our culture. You could argue they make Christianity less appealing – especially to non-believers. As a result, it’s temping to interpret Scripture in “new” ways. We look for any and every reason to demonstrate why beliefs that have been held for 2,000 years are wrong.
The problem with this is that we tend to blend culture with our interpretation of Scripture. We lower the bar and the standard required of us. This is vastly different than what Jesus did. When Jesus interpreted Scripture in “new” ways, it was counter-cultural. It raised the bar and standard even higher. It elevated the requirements for the listener. If our “new” interpretations don’t do the same, than we should probably stick to the old.
There’s a trap that all of us fall into from time to time. It’s called the “ancient people were stupid” trap. The basic premise is that we are far more enlightened now than they were then. Therefore, our opinions about various issues must be right. While it is true that the past contains perplexing (the earth is flat) and grotesque (slavery is normal and acceptable) viewpoints, this type of thinking is dangerous. Especially when Christians start to think that the Bible was written by and for people who had no idea about the issues we would face today.
That kind of thinking puts us on a slippery slope. If we pick and choose the parts of the Bible we think still apply based solely on what we like and don’t like, it shows that we don’t believe in biblical authority. We have made ourselves the final authority. We have set ourselves ahead of God. We are guilty of making God into an idol that serves our interests and needs. And if we do that, why would we bother to believe in God at all? Why not become our own god and live however we want?
In an effort to convince people that Christianity is worth embracing, there is a natural tendency to soften and diminish the culturally unpopular aspects of our faith. Many of the people who do this mean well. But the more palatable we make Christianity, the more powerless it becomes. If everyone and everything is morally acceptable, then who needs a Savior?
Two thousand years of church history show that when culture redefines Christianity, the church loses its leverage and influence. Instead of lowering the standard, let’s speak the truth in love. Let’s invite people to embrace and rejoice in the grace made available to them through Jesus Christ, a grace that is greater than all our sin.