Book Club Channel
Read an Excerpt from "Godspeed"
We also withdraw and cocoon because the world is tempting. We sense the warfare for our personal holiness and purity, and our reaction is to hunker down. We fail to lay hold of the victory and new nature we've been given through Christ Jesus. For many Christians, personal holiness and purity become the primary goal. But they are not the goal—they are a goal. Participating in and enjoying the life of Christ is the primary goal of the Christian life.
The second way Christians err is by combating. We are in a battle this side of heaven, there's no doubt about it. But in the midst of that battle the church has to realize that people are not the enemy; people are the prize.
"Our struggle is not against flesh and blood," Paul said, "but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness."
In UnChristian, David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons researched Christianity in America today:
"The primary reason outsiders feel hostile toward Christians, and especially conservative Christians, is not because of any specific theological perspective. What they react negatively to is our "swagger," how we go about things and the sense of self-importance we project. Outsiders say that Christians possess bark—and bite. Christians may not normally operate in attack mode, but it happens frequently enough that others have learned to watch their step around us."
That is a tragedy. If people are watching their steps around us, how are we ever going to step into their lives?
Too often the church has set itself up in a purely antagonistic stance. "We are known for having an us-versus-them mentality," wrote Kinnaman and Lyons. "Outsiders believe Christians do not like them because of what they do, how they look, or what they believe. They feel minimized—or worse, demonized—by those who love Jesus."
We've taken the prize, the men and women who need Jesus most, and set them up as our enemies. We've let the fight define us instead of love for people.
The final error Christians make in the world is to conform. We become like the unbelieving world, when Jesus called us to be salt and light.
Salt is only useful when it's salty, and light is only meaningful when it's in contrast to the darkness. Jesus was distinct, and His people should be distinct as well. Romans 12:2 says, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."
While humanity was hostile to Jesus, He went to them. He then sent you and me into the world and asked the Father to protect us from the evil one. When we withdraw from humanity, treat people as the enemy, or conform to the world, we dishonor the teachings of Christ.
Today Christians in America are known as antihomosexual, judgmental, and hypocritical.
That should hit us like a ton of bricks.
Not a single attribute of Christ—loving, compassionate, generous, kind, merciful, humble, caring, or self-sacrificial—makes the list.
The world thinks we're antihomosexual because we're combative. We fought some of the wrong battles on the wrong fronts for the wrong reasons. They think we're judgmental because we cocoon away from them in our little Christian enclaves. They think we're hypocritical because they watch us eventually conform to culture and end up looking like everyone else.
Britt Merrick is the founding pastor of Reality, a network of churches with locations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Ventura, Stockton, Santa Barbara, and London, England. He is the author of Big God and blogs at www.brittmerrick.com. Britt lives and surfs with his wife, Kate, and their two children in Carpinteria, CA.