Christians Shouldn’t Be Culture’s Morality Police

We aren't called to demand that secular culture reflect biblical principles.

“I like your Christ,” said Mahatma Gahndi, “but I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

There’s a billboard outside the city limits where I live. The canvas is white and in large black letters, it reads, “The fool has said in his heart there is no God.” Nothing else. No relational investment and no mention of God’s immeasurable grace—just Scripture used to insult non-believers.

Church, the world is watching us. They see the articles we float around the Internet, they read our billboards and bumper stickers, and for many outside of the Body, they feel one thing with crushing weight: judgment. There is no invitation in condemnation and no love in passive-aggressive battles fought along the lines of a newsfeed.

We were never commissioned to demand that secular culture reflect biblical principles. We were commissioned to reflect biblical principles in the middle of secular culture, pointing to God’s redemptive story.

For many, the legacy being written does not point to Jesus. If the world will know we are His disciples by our love, but Christians are instead characterized by judgment, we will not be known as disciples of Christ but as hypocrites, much like the Pharisees that came before.

The values of our culture are often in conflict with the values of our faith, but this isn’t new. Many practices of the ancient world would be considered wholly unacceptable by society today. We are neither the first to live in an environment that challenges our beliefs, nor are we the first to disagree on theology.

However, we are the first with a hot and ready platform for serving quick, permanently recorded indictments, with minimal responsibility over what happens next. These instant splices are not used to reach the lost. They are only used to reinforce religious persons' sense that they have chosen the “right” team and that their people agree with them.

When Paul addresses important issues related to sexuality in his letters to the Corinthians, he is speaking to the Church and seems unconcerned with society as a whole:

“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral … In that case you would have to leave this world … what business is it of mine to judge those outside the Church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. ‘Expel the wicked person from among you’” (1 Corinthians 5:9. 12-13).

We were never commissioned to demand that secular culture reflect biblical principles. We were commissioned to reflect biblical principles in the middle of secular culture, pointing to God’s redemptive story.

So how do we walk the line of conviction and intention, engaging with culture in a way that is meaningful, without crossing over into a role to which we were never called? Let’s begin with what we know about Jesus.

Jesus Shared Meals and Intimate Conversations with the Non-Religious

If more Christians were eating meals with non-believers, or with believers they didn’t always agree with, the Internet might look nothing like it does. We often replace face-to-face conversations with insensitive, irresponsible use of social media.

The toughest discussions are the ones that require slowing down, pulling up a chair and pouring a drink together, because the words we type or affirm from a distance would so rarely come through our lips sitting inches away from another person, looking directly into their eyes.

And if we find that there is no one around our table who disagrees with us, well, we’ve found the larger problem and we must confess that our lives look much less like Jesus' than we may imagine.

Jesus’ Love and Compassion for People Preceded Their Repentance

Right belief or behavior was never a pre-requisite for spending time with Jesus. When the religious leaders dragged a woman into the streets to stone her for adultery, Jesus loved her and protected her first, before (and possibly without) any change on her part.

We are either the ones holding the stones or the ones fighting to protect the woman on the ground. Jesus’ example is clear.

Jesus Didn’t Hide from Culture

He met people where they were, ate with them, talked with them and invited them to come with Him. He didn’t stand on the shore and yell across the water that Peter better follow or he’d be going to Hell. He invited him into a relationship and offered him a role in the story.

Jesus Kept Moving

Rather than huddling up and making camp in a town surrounded by His own people, Jesus knew what was at stake and He kept moving. His goal was healing and restoring the broken, not circling around those who were already following.

How can we communicate Christ’s love to the ends of the earth if we are lost fighting battles in our own neighborhoods?

What Could We Be Known for?

If we were to take a bird’s eye view of the country, we might find that, as a whole, Christians are not known for their love. So it’s safe to assume that, as a whole, Christians are not known for showing Jesus to the world.

What if we painted a new picture? New York Times columnist David Brooks recently wrote: “The defining face of social conservatism could be this: Those are the people who go into underprivileged areas and form organizations to help nurture stable families. Those are the people who build community institutions in places where they are sparse. Those are the people who can help us think about how economic joblessness and spiritual poverty reinforce each other. Those are the people who converse with us about the transcendent in everyday life.”

What if Christianity was truly known for radical love and passionate pursuit of justice? Perhaps this life would serve as a powerful invitation to come and see, like Peter leaving his boat.

We can change the legacy that is being written; and the best place to start may be with Paul’s own words: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.”

Top Comments

Brandon Halvorsen

5

Brandon Halvorsen commented…

I appreciate the author's emphasis on the need to love our neighbor and to get actively involved with community, including those outside the faith. However there's a few holes in this piece that I need to point out.

I don't think it's wise to assume that if the world judges us as being unloving that they in fact are ALWAYS correct in that view. There are many gay people, for example, that insist that if we don't embrace and affirm their views, or if we don't allow them to be the "moral police" in society, then we are unloving and bigoted.

To take a stand for traditional marriage isn't unloving or even un-Christian. Jesus called us to be salt in light in society and salt preserves. To argue against "same sex marriage" in order to preserve traditional marriage is an attempt to not deny people their rights but rather to protect an institution - traditional marriage - that is one of the greatest guardians against poverty and emotional problems for children.

By the way, anyone who votes is seeking to force their morals on society by voting for a candidate who will write or enact laws that will affect the moral code of society.

Yes, Jesus is the answer and our primary gift to the world. We must share the gospel if we are to see people changed. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't be active in the political system to help facilitate a society that protects its citizens from harm. By arguing for or against some political issues, is in no means being judgmental or suggesting that our ultimate faith is in a political group or political system or government. Being involved in the political process can reflect our faith, at least in part. God commended Job for expressing his faith in many areas of his life from how he treated his neighbor to protecting the vulnerable. And Jesus rebuked pagan cities that were unrepentant after seeing His miracles and (by inference) heard His message. (Matt. 11:20-24)

One more thing - Gandhi may have liked our Christ and disliked Christ's bride but we need to remember that he didn't like our Christ enough to follow Him and that's what he and all others will be judged on in the end. It's not Christians fault for his refusing to submit to Christ.

Sure the church needs to grow in her love walk but doing so doesn't negate her call to take a stand for righteousness - the righteousness that Jesus died to give people.

Sandy Palmer Perry

4

Sandy Palmer Perry commented…

This. This. All of this! They will know that we are Christians by our love, not by our political affiliations. We were not given the sword of the Spirit to bash people over the heads.

104 Comments

Sam Cheung

5

Sam Cheung commented…

Whilst I agree that we should be known for our love and far too often we are known for our judgementalness and hypocrisy, but I have to disagree.
If we follow this argument, then where does it stop? Do we turn a blind eye to injustice? To murder or rape?
It was Christians who led the charge against slavery. It was Christians who were at the forefront of many of the biggest charities and organisations that aid the poor and send aid to the third world today, it's Christians all over the world who are running orphanages and other shelters for the poor and needy, and it's Christians who are leading the charge against human trafficking.
I believe that our primary role should be in witness, evangelism and encouraging our brothers (and I agree with what the author says about getting out into society), but should we also not stand as societies moral compass, simple because shouldn't we be ashamed if someone else does?

Jim Lehe

1

Jim Lehe commented…

It is much easier to accomplish evangelism in a culture where we have not allowed our young people to become enslaved to the cultural deception of gender confusion and homosexuality. Most people that go down that road, don't come back because it requires a major alteration of the conscience. People who remain open and respectful of the law of God are able to be convicted by it and repent. Those who have renounced God's law in favor of an immoral identity often place themselves in a position of being abandoned by God. It is the deceptive and enslaving nature of sin that causes us to reach that point. As those who are called to be the salt of the earth, that means that we do what we should to make this world "taste" better and to be a preservating agent. Notice that God didn't send evangelists to Sodom and Gomorrah. He sent judgment. And probably the reason was because they were too far gone. That is the peril of not standing up to cultural rot. It causes a culture to descend to the point of no return. God does abandon people to their sin.

Royce E. Van Blaricome

32

Royce E. Van Blaricome commented…

There's just too much wrong with this story to comment on it all. Typical Osteen Seeker-Sensitive, Easy-Believism, Emergent Church. So I'll just quote from the second paragraph that proves the author was walking in the Flesh when he wrote it.

"No relational investment and no mention of God’s immeasurable grace—just Scripture used to insult non-believers." First, there's nothing in Scripture that says one must have a "relational investment" before speaking the truth of Scripture. Second, and more more importantly, the author violated numerous commands of God by assuming the billboard was "used to insult non-believers".

And then, to drive the point home, in the very next paragraph the author says, "for many outside of the Body, they feel one thing with crushing weight: judgment." Well, evidently the weight isn't crushing enough. If it were they would understand the gravity of their sin, fall on their faces before God, die to themselves and beg Christ to save them. THAT is what happens when the realization of the Holy Spirit's conviction finally gets thru to one and past their love of sin.

But what should one expect from a "freelance writer and work-from-home-mom living on the East Coast with her husband and three sons. She loves hanging out with college students, watching Scrubs and eating chocolate"

The sad thing is this is the kind of source that far too many are getting their idea of Christianity from.

John Eaton Morris

1

John Eaton Morris commented…

This is why you will continue to remain NOT relevant. No matter what, you people continue to find every reason possible to bash the LGBT community, to continue treating us as second class citizens at best, and molesting criminals at worst.

You are vile and cruel and mean spirited and there is nothing of Christ in you.

Ted Larson

33

Ted Larson commented…

So, are you advocating that Christians not call sin for what it is? Or to stop preaching that there is, indeed, a place called Hell? If so, you are publishing heresy. If people are not told the truth about their sinful practices, then where is the conviction of the Holy Spirit? And if there is no conviction, then where does the repentance that leads to salvation in Christ come from?

Has the Christian community become so cowardly? I sincerely am wondering.

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