But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.” For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me and Silas and Timothy—was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.” For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.
— 2 Corinthians 1:18-20
Say “Yes” When You Can
The answer is “yes!” We all love to hear that, and especially as children, we were anxious to hear whether the answer to our hopes would be “yes.” As a young parent, I remember hearing this advice: Say “yes” to your children whenever you can. You will need to say “no” so often, and this discourages the children. Choose your battles wisely, and allow them to do what they want when it won’t be harmful to them. I thought this was good advice, and I tried to follow it.
When I think of the goodness of God, I believe God is a better parent than any of us, and so when I read the above verses, I’m encouraged. God never says “no” out of exhaustion or contrariness. Instead, in Christ the answer is always “yes.”
Can We Protect Too Much?
As parents, many of us fear our kids’ messing up, getting into a situation they can’t handle, going too far, etc. And I agree that saying “no” is often the only wise thing to do when children are growing up. They do need protection from us, but what about as they grow older, and what about us as adults? And what about the church’s role in protecting the flock?
Artist Makoto Fujimura discusses the church’s protectionism in his book “Culture Care.” He writes about the current practice in many churches:
“We have created rigid tribal boundaries with high barriers and closed gates to keep our sheep in the pen, safe from the wider world…. This leaves our lively young sheep with a perceived choice between complying with a community’s norms and starving culturally, and leaping the fence to get cultural nourishment.”
This isolation not only deprives our children and ourselves culturally, but it also means we have no witness in the world. Or, even worse, the witness we have is a negative one. We are so afraid of contaminating ourselves, we decline to associate or be involved with anything that isn’t explicitly “Christian” in nature. And instead of loving our neighbors, our neighbors feel that we judge them and despise them.
Influencing Culture—or Not
I don’t think Jesus was like that. Instead, he dined with “sinners” (Matt. 11:19). Now, to be sure, some of us need to be careful. If you’re an alcoholic, don’t go to a bar. Know your weaknesses and stay away from strong temptations. But maybe our country is so divided right now because we never talk to one another! Christians only go to “Christian” events and therefore have very little influence on culture. In challenging areas, such as the arts, we’ve created Christian music, Christian movies, and Christian visual arts groups. We’ve divided ourselves from the broader culture forming two separate people groups in our country.
I’m not saying that it’s wrong to have Christian groups, movies or music, but surely some of us believers are called to be a part of the broader culture, to love people and participate in the creative pulse of our cities and be messengers of love and hope, not condemnation. I say this as I am participating in a community theatre production. It’s not a “Christian” play, and honestly, I’m a little nervous about criticism from my Christian friends. Even though the production is labeled “appropriate for all audiences,” it may not be the brand of “appropriate” that some of my friends require for their approval. When Christian artists are nervous about acting in a G-rated production because their tribe has become so judgmental, well, maybe we have a problem.
In Him, the Answer Is Yes
How did we get to this place of division and negativity? We didn’t get it from Jesus. In him we have freedom and grace. There’s no need for fear—even when we fail. Nothing can separate us from his love. In him, the answer is always, “Yes!”
What do you think it means that God’s promises are “Yes” in Christ? I would love to hear about it in the comments.
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