In the New Testament, Jesus ministered to and taught people from all walks of life — from the religious elite to the “least of these.” His tactics were loving but direct, honest and countercultural. In 2018, being direct, honest and countercultural is not perceived positively. If we are called to be like Jesus, what should teaching, ministering and sharing about our faith look like in a time when disagreement is associated with hatred, shame and judgment? We spoke with Associate Professor of Bible Nathan Guy to capture his perspective.
When we lived in the so-called “post-modern” era, disagreement was all the rage — challenging paradigms, offering alternative positions and calling for multiple voices. Many Christians were encouraged by the desire for openness but concerned about the dwindling interest in objective truth. But things are changing. We might now be entering a post post-modern era where a clearly defined set of cultural values are held sacrosanct, and dissenting voices are judged as wrong or even malicious simply for challenging the controlling narrative.
I would suggest that in such a time as this (as we enter a post-Christian era), we adopt the first-century mindset that sought to prepare a pre-Christian culture. This means three things.
First, we must re-evaluate our assumptions. Simply quoting a Bible verse or suggesting certain values are “obviously” right or wrong will yield precious little fruit. We must build from the ground up, showing what concepts like truth, love, justice, meaning and peace actually are — in Christ.
Second, we must allow authentic, loving behavior to take the lead over verbal critique. How we live — shining like lights in the world, drawing people to Christ’s beauty and goodness — may be the catalyst for further invitation to consider questions of truth.
Third, we must not retreat from encroaching darkness but fill darkness with light. Christianity is often painted as an anti-intellectual, fear-led mob that seeks only to banish those who disagree. Let us be different. Let us reengage our culture through knowing, loving and serving those around us. Instead of being known for what we are against, let us recapture a thirst for knowledge, relearn the art of Christian persuasion, and reaffirm a commitment to consistently live what we say we believe.