Today, we in the West are living in a new era or a new world that is very different from the one 50+ years ago. Today, there is no social benefit to being a Christian. In fact in many cases, there is a social cost. Christian values are seen by many as oppressive, incomprehensible, and/or outdated. Today, Christian values are very countercultural. So how does a Christian interact in this new world?
We need to be intentional. We can not wait for people to ask about our faith. We need to identify ourselves as Christians, and explain what we believe. Note today many people think they have an idea of what a Christian believes, but many times they have wrong ideas. Christian ideas can seem strange to a non-Christian (e.g. people are not naturally good). We may need to start by explaining some very basic Christian concepts, because these concepts have been forgotten by society.
Society today is hyper-individualistic. Everything revolves around oneself, and freedom is a key concept. The ideal that is promoted is that you are free to be whoever you want and to do whatever you want. Ultimately this means everything is dependent on you. All moral values are determined by you. All relationships end up being transactional since you are at the center. Your identity is fragile because it depends on you and others’ opinions. And life fulfillment is also dependent on you and your circumstances. The end result is that many of today’s young adults are struggling with anxiety and depression, and with life in general.
We Christians have the answers for a full life with purpose. Because of Jesus Christ’s saving work, we have a purpose and meaning to life that suffering cannot take away. Circumstances cannot take away our joy or satisfaction with God in control. Because of our secure identity as a loved and forgiven child of God, our relationships can be more than just transactional. Because of God’s forgiveness, we do not need to be burdened by guilt and we can offer forgiveness to others. We also can offer a generous justice to those oppressed without becoming an oppressor, because of God’s love for all. And because we know God is good, we can face the future with a sure hope that not even death can take away. We Christians have a lot to offer this hurting world. We need to help them see that their needs and longings are really echoing their need for God. We have God’s love as our driving force, not power or the need for freedom.
And it all comes down to the fact that throughout history our attempts to create a utopia, a good full life for all, have utterly failed. We are broken beyond our repair. We can not save ourselves, but God can and in Jesus Christ he offers freedom from our brokenness, so we can live that full life to his glory.
Because society in the West today is at best neutral-Christian and at worst anti-Christian, we need to make certain ourselves and our children are well grounded in the faith. The dominant worldviews today are not Christian. We need to not only know why the Christian worldview is the right one but why the dominant worldviews are lacking when compared to the Christian worldview. This way we can be “vaccinated” against the dominant worldviews. Not only should we teach ourselves, but we need to let society know the love of God and what Christians are all about. One of the best ways to do that is for Christians integrate their faith life into their work life. Do not compartmentalize your life.
The early Christian church formed a unique community. They were racially, ethically, and economically diverse. Everyone was welcomed. They were highly committed to caring for the poor, the sick, and the marginalized. They did not retaliate but rather were committed to forgiving. They were strongly against abortion and infaticide, so to make certain any unwanted baby was cared for. And they had a unique stance on sex. It is only for married couples. Today when we look at these five characteristics we would call the first two liberal and the last two conservative. You can not pigeon hole the early Christian church, so we Christians in today’s non-Christian culture should not be pigeon holed. We might want to model that early Christian community today.
Looking at what is happening in the West, one might think Christianity is on the decline, but that is not the case. By God’s grace, Christianity is growing (but not in the West). At least 70% of Christians live outside the West. The Christian Church is definitely global, and because of that there is hope for a revival in the West. God can do it. God has started sending missionaries from “deepest darkest Africa” to the West. Some have already arrived.
This post was based in part on the article “How to Reach the West (Again)”.
One thought on “A New World”
Really relates to life today… I will be re-reading this one over and over to keep a perspective on Christianity and how it relates to us today !