How do we engage with a culture which seems to be running as fast and as hard as it can from anything resembling Christianity? Some advocate that we must respond with compassion. Unfortunately, sometimes a compassionate response is taken to mean an acceptance of another person’s soul destroying sin. Ironically, this kind of tolerance is the opposite of compassion. On the other hand, some believe we must respond with firm conviction and stand on the front line of the culture war. But this is sometimes taken to mean that if we want the Christian worldview to prevail, we must stand on the throats of unbelievers and force their submission.
The problem is, both of these extremes are rooted in fear. For those who advocate for compassion without conviction, they fear being rejected by the culture at large. For those who advocate for conviction without compassion, they fear having their way of life taken away*. But what is needed, if we desire to engage our culture biblically, is a balance. And the truth of the matter is, only the gospel can actually make such a balance possible. Here’s why…
The Gospel Has An Exalted View Of God And A Humble View Of Man
That might not have been quite what you were expecting to hear, so let’s spend a couple of minutes together unpacking how the Gospel can help us to engage our culture.
The good news of Jesus begins by heightening our awareness of our own sinfulness by pointing us to God’s holiness. If you find that most of your time is spent lamenting the sin of people “out there” rather than the sin in your own heart, it’s safe to say that you’ve become self-righteous (extreme conviction, little compassion ). Alternatively, if you’re always making light of your sin or trying to find ways to justify it, then you’re also likely to be more accepting of the sin of others (extreme compassion, little conviction).
But… if you begin to see your own sin and how grievous it is before God, something interesting happens. When you’re confronted with the sin of others it will trouble your heart to watch them pursue their own destruction (compassion) and you’ll desire to call them to repent and place their faith in the wrath-absorber, Jesus (conviction).
When we begin to engage our culture in this way, you can bet that we will still be met with rejection. The mere suggestion that somebody’s preferred lifestyle is sinful is enough to get a few doors slammed in our face! But brothers and sisters, let’s lay aside the weight of our fears and engage our culture with compassion and conviction. Let’s engage them with the gospel!
*When I mention the fear of “losing our way of life” I do not mean that Christians should give up on stopping the moral decay of our society. Passages like Romans 13 communicate to me that Christians can and should utilize all legal means to halt evil, such as abortion and homosexual marriage. Rather, what I’m hoping to communicate is that if we believe in the sovereignty of God we also realize that our hopes are not to be ultimately met in this world, but in Him. But while we’re here let us seek to be agents of common grace and gospel grace.