We don’t have to be geniuses to figure out that the influence of Christianity is on the decline in North America. The reasons for this are as arguable as they are many. But if only we had some better evangelistic programs… And if only we had a stronger ministry outreach among the community… Then we might just…
But might the problem just be you?
And other Christians?
For Us Who Wish to Argue
Before you reactively dismiss my accusatory question, consider these words from the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2:14-15:
Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky…
The instruction here is offered to a church where at least two sisters in Christ are in conflict with each other (cf. 4:2). And if the Philippians are like most churches, other Christians were likely already taking sides and lining themselves up against each other. Trust me, I’ve been a part of church long enough to know how that works. So the entire church then and now is put on notice
So what is Paul saying? Earlier in chapter two Paul recalled an early Christian hymn which told the story of the humility and self-sacrificial obedience which Christ lived with even to the point of death. Paul recalls this because it is the mindset that we must live with as Christians. So for Christians, “grumbling or arguing” is rooted in selfishness and is antithetical with the life of Christ we are to embody. But there’s more. When we learn to stop such grumbling and arguing, we not only become “pure and blameless” among a sinful world but we also “shine… like stars in the sky” among the world.
There’s another interesting point to make about these instructions, taking notice of what Paul doesn’t say. Paul doesn’t mention a word about better evangelistic programs or stronger outreach ministries not because he’s against either but because they don’t matter much at all if the church is full of grumbling and arguing, failing to live from the mindset of Christ.
Better Posture Please
So here is why I suggested earlier that the problem is us. Whether it’s Christians vs. Christians or Christians vs. The World, we – Christians, in general – grumble about everything we don’t like or disagree with and argue in protest. Just turn on your Facebook or Twitter feed and you’ll see what I mean. For example, take the recent film Noah or the decision of World Vision to employ couples in same-sex marriages (and the subsequent reversal of that decision). Or go back to when Rob Bell published his controversial book Love Wins or every time a state attempts to pass legislation that redefines the traditional view of marriage. The typical reaction from many Christians is a barrage of grumbling and arguing. Those Christians who disagree voice their protest and then those Christians who disagree with the protest bite the bait and respond with an equal amount of protest.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s a time for speaking up but not every time is that time. It takes wisdom to know the difference and our propensity towards a reactive posture shows a lack of wisdom in this regard. More often, our grumbling and arguing is about us… we’re offended and so we complain or our way, whatever way that is, is disregarded to some extent and so we complain. And our emotive reflux blinds us from seeing what everyone else sees, just how self-serving such grumbling and arguing really is.
If we want to influence the culture at large, which is part of what evangelism and ministry aims at, it begins with us learning how to posture ourselves among the world at large. This posture takes us back to the mindset of Christ. Our gospel witness is spot on when the way we live among the world reflects the humble and self-sacrificial obedient life of Christ. This begins by ceasing to whine and complain every time someone says or does something we dislike or even disagree with. Let’s let our example lead, speaking only from the posture of Christ among the world at large and see what happens as a result. We might just be surprised how bright stars can become!