Leading Through the Culture Wars


July 22, 2015

No Great Issue-01

I want an excuse not to write this post… It’s summer and I want that to involve sno-cones and pools and my kids but this is burning in me. I get online and it feels like the pressure is building, like a balloon that may pop at any moment and it isn’t one complicated difficult thing, it’s so many difficult issues…

Racism.

Homosexuality and the Church.

ISIS and Muslims.

Planned Parenthood Videos. What?! Please God help us all.

Certainly these are each unique issues with unique sets of difficulties. But together they can leave us feeling a little helpless.

And maybe you are a very vocal one on the internet about such things or maybe you are a quiet one… sitting back and wondering what to think or what to say?

Do we keep silent hoping it all to go away or do we give our voice to the convictions we hold dear?  Most days I look at my feeds and wonder because I go online and see people I love dividing on issues I didn’t know were going to divide us and my head spins and my heart breaks because at the end of the day whether we are winning or losing (whatever that means) it feels like publicly, we are all losing.

And I wonder what hurts God most? That’s what I think everyone that loves Jesus is trying to answer..  What does Jesus most care about?

I hear…

Jesus cares about truth.

Jesus cares about love.

Jesus cares about holiness.

Jesus cares about the oppressed.

But while everyone is yelling online what they think Jesus cares about- humble, real-life, meaningful conversations and relationships are fading.

I think the trajectory of Christendom in these moments has been to fight our side of a culture war, but Jesus is growing something deep and beautiful behind the scenes in this moment and it is part of why these issues aren’t simple to us.

Our hope is not to redeem culture… our hope is that people would be redeemed.We want to be wise and we feel torn over how best that could happen. Love or Truth? They seem, at the moment, to be in opposition. It feels like we have to pick one.

When I was in seminary and we would get to doctrines that seemed to oppose each other, my favorite theology professor used to say, “you must learn to embrace tension or you will become heretics.”

We must embrace tension.

But we hate tension.

When you think of a rubber band held tightly from both sides- no one wants to be that strung out rubber band… so you let go. You may hear tension and think I am speaking of compromise. But that is not what Jesus did- He showed radical love and held truth and holiness always- constantly calling us to this difficult way.

You can’t have love without truth or truth without love. They are dependent on one another. Without both- your love is built on a lie or your truth is just a law. As the Church, who loves Jesus, we must be: Unwavering and committed to the authority of God and His Word and unwavering and committed in new and beautiful ways to radically pursue, engage and love people within our churches and outside.

So you may be saying, Great- but Jennie can you give me an example of practically how this could play out?

I will give you one, but I should mention that this is not the easy way. It’s easier to pick a team, see who is on your side, pick a hashtag and start throwing tweets at the other side or to sit back and do nothing.

This is a humble, quiet, brave, messy way. 

It happens over tables and difficult conversations, 

it happens when you pursue friendship instead of judgement,

it happens when you are honest about your own sin rather than point out someone else’s.

Recently, I was sitting backstage before speaking at a conference, when a man I recognized walked in. I knew his name and from his views online I knew him to be a gay Christian who was fully affirming in the church and when we sat down to talk,

I leaned in. I embraced the tension.

I asked questions. I listened and I learned.

I learned more about the immeasurable hurt the church has caused in the lives of the gay community.

I learned how to love better.

Never once did he ask me to change my views on scripture and homosexuality. But he increased my compassion and love for those who actually are affected daily by those views. I count him a friend and I hope he counts me one as well. He comes to mind as I write today, though I know he sees this issue differently than me, I think about him and how he would feel if he read these words.

And maybe that is the beginning of a way through this…a friend.

A real-life, eye to eye friend, who we think of when we approach these difficult issues with our words.

Just as I won’t lay down what I read so clearly as God’s design for marriage between a man and a woman in His Word, I also cannot lay down what I read so clearly as Jesus’ plan to build His church and save souls…

Christ said just before His death, By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. Jn. 12:35

It is a time for us to engage- I suggest we do that in new bold ways but let’s be sure we know people on the other side to help us be sensitive and humble as we go.  I think we will naturally love better online if we are loving well off line in these spaces.

And friends- we need to know our Bibles more than we ever have- not depend on others’ to feed us the truth. We need to be in the Word ourselves.

Let’s take the energy we are wasting on fear over these issues and move it to a passion for people’s souls- we could see God move in our midst. Friends, “we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.” 2 Cor. 5:20 We are the current ambassadors for our God – we must figure this out.

And may no great issue of our day distract us from the greatest issue of souls and eternity.

We are here for a minute and if we lay down love or truth, we lose the two greatest weapons we have to fight for the souls of men. We hold to truth and we love with relentless pursuit and we repent for our own sins and we pray for God’s Kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is heaven.

There is work to do- let’s get on with it.

God, make us humble and bold.

Tell me what you think.

172 Responses to “Leading Through the Culture Wars”

  1. I am one of the quiet ones who says nothing (on certain issues anyways) and honestly, I am afraid. I see things online – i see genuine people trying to be loving, and being torn apart and called bigots and hateful when they are just trying to be faithful. I see people compromising on these issues and then calling those who stand firm “judgemental”. And I just don’t know what to do. I have two sons, and I keep thinking about putting my oldest in school in a couple years and I am scared because it is an increasingly hostile environment. But I don’t want to keep him home out of fear either. But how do I parent him through difficult issues when I myself am scared? How do I send him to school knowing in his innocence he might say one little thing to the wrong kid and send some parent into a frenzy? I don’t know. But it freaks me out. I feel like I am saying nothing, but I am not sure I should say anything online because it just always blows up no matter how good your intentions. But then in my day to day I am home with kids so how do I make a difference? And I am also self-righteous sometimes – I know that my heart can be proud and so sometimes I feel like when I do say things, they are not said for the right reasons or in the right way. So I say nothing. It’s a big mess. But like you said – we have to figure it out.

  2. Colleen K

    What hurts God most? That is exactly the question I ask myself. I tend to stay away from these issues on social media because I don’t know the answer, and I don’t want to do the wrong thing. You nailed this Jennie.

  3. Oh Jennie,

    These are words right into my soul today. These issues are so heavy. This world is so dark. There is so much evil among us, but is it really so different than an other time in history? Or just in time of American history? I just want to love others well, but also but speak in truth. I don’t really think both can be done effectively online. It has to be done across the table, face to face, so we can really hear all that one another is saying, not just words on a screen with our own inflection. Thank you for this encouragement and reminder. And indeed, let’s get to work.

  4. Lauren

    I have struggled with the very things you have and I have stayed silent. I have stayed hurt in the midst of feeling demonized for being a person of a particular belief, and so I have taken it. Silently. Now I speak to say that I refuse to be a person who allows my personal belief to trump God’s design and more importantly invade God’s plea for obedience in my life. So for the same grace I give to those who oppose my beliefs, I give to the same people who are in the margins, as well to the same culture that indoctrinated me into believing a particular way with apathy and without the grace that I seek to give and live into. I will fail undoubtedly more than I will ever succeed, but I will fight my opinions and my personal beliefs and the heritage I have been born into to extend love and be invisible so that Jesus can be visible through me.

  5. I JUST blogged about this same exact thing a couple of weeks ago! It is nice to see your take on all of this and I love what you say about “As the Church, who loves Jesus, we must be: Unwavering and committed to the authority of God and His Word and unwavering and committed in new and beautiful ways to radically pursue, engage and love people within our churches and outside.” As a new believer my life is seeing radical changes every single day and social media has been an area that I am hurting in the most. To see all of this conflict, yelling and a culture that’s truly at war with each other – it really hurts. It digs deep and I have been trying to navigate through it all. Would love for you to take a look at my blog post on the topic and share thoughts: http://www.emilystadler.com/blog/2015/7/8/cat-got-my-tongue

  6. Lawana

    I was talking to some friends last night on how we are to deal with the issues of the day. I love how you put it: relationships. So simple and so hard at the same time.

  7. Thank you so much for this post. You have said beautifully what I have been struggling to formulate for so long. I have felt pressured to “stand firm in my beliefs” which I think really means declare which side I am on and fight those on the other side. This I have refused to do because I feel so strongly that there is a better way. It bothers me so much that some Christians in our culture fight so hard against certain issues like gay marriage when there is so much work to be done for God’s kingdom. Let’s quit fighting each other and start helping and praying for each other!

  8. I love this, Jennie! I often think that we have so many denominations in the church now because we refuse to embrace tension. Instead of hashing things out or living with differences in doctrine, we just split off so we can all be with people just like us. It’s no wonder that we can’t navigate these cultural issues well with “outsiders” when we don’t do it well within the body.

  9. Rachel

    Thank you Jennie, for a great post on all these difficult issues. I don’t respond online. I have not wanted to argue or get into conflict. I also don’t want to stay silent. Thank you for giving this picture of tension–love without compromise–and friendship.

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