Our world is broken. Death is a daily occurrence, many of you may have heard that the latest loss was Billy Graham. It seems that every day some horrible information breaks. The news is full of headlines about shootings, bombings, and scandal. The debate about humans being inherently good vs. being inherently evil seems to grow quieter with each passing day. The questions of a good God seems at odds with such an evil world. In so many conversations, despite belief systems being held, I am regularly confronted with dialogue on how broken our world is.
So what can be done…
Billy Graham had a lot of memorable quotes. This is one of my favorites:
Seems simple enough. Especially when you consider that he came to this conclusion after in-depth biblical study. It’s something that most, despite their belief systems, would tend to agree with. The problem, however, is there seems to be a difference of opinion as to what “loving” looks like.
Take Martin Luther King Jr. for example. Love meant laying his life on the line to combat the injustice of a racist legal system. It meant calling others to take a stand, to take a beating, and to sometimes pay the ultimate price so that others may benefit from it. See, we can tell it was love because of how selfless it was.
When Love Isn’t Loving
Billy Graham had another quote that is worth mentioning (Here is a collection of them):
“Many people are willing to have Jesus as part of their lives—as long as it doesn’t cost them anything. They may even profess faith in Jesus and join a church. But Jesus to them is almost like an insurance policy—something they obtain and then forget about until they die. What keeps you from being His disciple?” – BG
Sometimes love costs us, and sometimes we try to be loving in a way that cost nothing. What does that look like? Being unapologetic about how your actions or words affect others. Excusing your judgemental and condemning words by claiming they are the truth. Using a verse from the Bible to oppress, to condemn or to personally attack someone you don’t like or agree with.
Guns and a Post Christendom Church
So first this… Christendom. Maybe you have heard of it? If not, here is the gist. Church has been mainstream since Constantine in around 312 AD. Since then Christianity has been a significant part of the human existence. Christendom defined is simply this: the worldwide body or society of Christians. In essence, it is the normalization of church, a prevalence of “Christian” ideals within a society and even at the heads of state. A perfect example of how Christendom permeated our culture until very recently can be seen when some reminisce that “Back then, if a man didn’t come to church on Sunday, his boss asked him about it at work on Monday.*”
You went to church, that’s all there was to it. It was cultural and perhaps that, in essence, is what defines Christendom. It was a cultural norm. Like Billy Graham said, it didn’t really cost us anything. Now it might…
It might cost you some friendships, some family ties, some neighborly relations. Today, in light of brutal attacks by mentally compromised individuals armed with assault rifles Christians are at odds with one another. Some rush to defend gun rights, to challenge any who oppose their beliefs, to immediately make the issue political. Their opponents are not better. They do the exact same thing, only in complete opposition to guns.
Somehow, gun rights become what Christians are more associated with than a man named Jesus.
The stereotype of a Christian today is a red-blooded American who has a lifted truck, likes drinking beer, shooting guns and voting Republican.
Notice what is absent there? Yeah… Jesus…
You can love America, truck, beer, guns and vote republican and have absolutely nothing to do with Jesus. We should be known for Jesus, not for the things of this world that we like most.
How to live Post-Christendom Lives
See, for a long time the church got along smashingly with the United States government. Billy Graham himself had direct access to presidents. His son tries to fill his father’s footsteps, but the world has changed, so have presidents. Claiming to be a “Christian” is generally something a politician does to get votes and doesn’t really mean anything anymore. We are officially in a post-Christendom era but we have many who are trying to cling to the world of yesterday, ignoring what may be coming around the corner tomorrow.
The past is just that, past…
Churches and the Christians they are comprised of, need to look to tomorrow instead of desperately clinging to yesterday. They need to stop being known for all the wrong reasons, and humbly extend love to those they disagree with. Yes, even those who think they care more about their guns than they do human life. Post-Christendom or not, the church and those in it need to be known for one thing and one thing only…
Billy Graham was known for preaching Jesus’ words… it is what defined him, why so many mourn the loss of his life today… not his thoughts on guns…
Sure we have different opinions, but Church, we should be able to look past those difference and be united in our desire to follow Jesus with our everything.
“Churchgoers are like coals in a fire. When they cling together, they keep the flame aglow; when they separate, they die out.”
If we aren’t united in mind, body and soul, a post-Christendom existance will be all the more difficult for it.
Look to tomorrow, and let faith guide your steps.
Until next time…
*Bolsinger, Tod. Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory (p. 11). InterVarsity Press.