Postmodernism finds new, imaginative ways to creep into the church all the time. If we’re not careful, we can easily begin to rationalize our way out of our beliefs because it’s all relative. One such way that today’s chief moral philosophy has invaded the church is in the way we talk about cultural issues. Because disagreement (and room for disagreement) exists, some think we should avoid these subjects altogether. A few such topics:
- Personal relationships
Church and state issues/politics
If you hadn’t noticed, we at Focus Press don’t exactly shy away from these issues. We’ve released a book on courtship vs. modern dating and another on a Christian look at education in America, and Think magazine is dedicated to looking at current cultural issues from the Christian worldview. However, some believe it’s more noble for those who work in ministry to avoid getting into specifics on these issues. Some Christians today get annoyed when they see a focus on what they consider to be “fringe” topics.
The problem with the people who don’t want Christians discussing these issues is that they create a false dichotomy. For example, “Christians really need to focus on Jesus instead of government issues” implies that a Christian can’t be concerned with both, or that the two don’t ever intersect. Or, statements like “Why do we have to talk about what people should or shouldn’t wear? There are so many bigger things we should be focused on,” show a heart that thinks only the important topics (read: only the topics that individual feels are important) need to be discussed. The false dichotomy is this idea that we have to choose between one or the other. Choose to talk about Jesus, or choose to talk about (fill in the blank). Why do we have to choose? Can’t we do both?
Not only can we, we should. Here are 3 reasons why.
The Bible talks about them. We may not have direct commandments as to what we’re supposed to do, as in “Thou shalt court instead of date” or, when we do, we may not have specifics like “Dress modestly, and that means no bikinis,” but the principles that frame the discussions are in place. If the Bible talks about education (which it does, in multiple places – Deuteronomy 6:7, Proverbs 22:16, Luke 6:40), so should we. If a cultural pursuit regularly crosses into moral issues, as government does, then we should expect to find principles as to how we should interpret those issues and respond. Beyond that, most issues in this vein have eternal implications. To once again use the examples given above: Education is about developing the minds of young souls. Marriage symbolizes Christ’s relationship with the church, and it should be taken just as seriously. Modesty crosses into the area of stumbling blocks and our outward example. Politics are often a matter of life or death for many. To label such discussions as though they’re as equally insignificant as choosing which sports team you support or where you’re going for lunch is dishonest and dismissive of inspired words.
If we don’t talk about them, who will? In the culture we live in, the world has the privilege of shaping these discussions (largely because Christians shrunk back from doing so, but that’s another article). So if we decide that it’s not worth our time to have a dialogue on what is modest for Christian men and women to wear, we’ve forfeited the discussion to the world. Additionally, we’ve given in to their idea that it’s all relative and what you believe doesn’t matter one bit. If Christians aren’t carrying God’s principles into these discussions, you can guarantee that they won’t be factored in at all, and then we’re left with what we have right now – a culture that has no ability to see God’s reach or relevance beyond the doors of a church building.
Greater holiness should always be our desire. Rather than defiantly ignoring any discussion of issues you don’t deem to be of utmost importance, why not listen to the case a person might make for a more godly way of doing something? Again, we’re not talking about direct commandments, but if we insinuate that we aren’t interested in a verse because it isn’t a commandment, we’re being legalists, saying that all that matters is the checklist laws we have to keep. And, we’re being lethally prideful in saying that our adherence to those commandments is all God wants from us. Everybody talks about how Christianity isn’t a checklist, but if we really believe that we’ll want to explore ways to develop holiness outside of doing the bare minimum of the commandments and avoiding only the things expressly condemned as sins. (I wrote more extensively about this dangerous attitude here.)
I agree with those who point out that our focus should be on Jesus and taking Him to others. That’s what Christianity is all about. But I disagree with the idea that a focus on Jesus would eliminate any need to focus on practical ways to let Him rule our lives, even in the “small things.” Sure, there’s room for disagreement on these issues, but discussing them openly shows that we’re all interested in growing more like Him, even if we see different ways of getting there. We’re not going to stop talking about these issues, and neither should anyone else.
By Jack Wilkie
Jack Wilkie is the author of “Failure: What Christian Parents Need to Know About American Education” and is the speaker for Focus Press’s “The Lost Generation” seminar. To schedule a seminar at your church, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.