[Letter #2 from MISSISSIPPI - Part 4 of "A Conversation between Seattle and Mississippi", a chronicle of honest discussion between two friends.]
Superb response!! So good to hear back from you. I love how much time you spent responding and how thoughtful and helpful to me this is. I agree with you about the attitude of humility, and this is something I can learn from….of course.
I’m relieved to know that picture wasn’t from the actual protest and wasn’t actually a picture of real Christians protesting. Putting it in your blog about Hutch is really misleading (I’m glad it wasn’t you) and it illustrates my feelings pretty well. I do agree that there was likely a better way for him to go about this. But for the sake of argument, let’s say that he didn’t do this to make himself feel good or hold on to any rights but because he prayed about it and genuinely thought his message needed to be heard by a hurting, lost world. Maybe more as a prophet. The picture which is not even from a real event, somehow ends up illustrating his message. Fair? No. But maybe that is the very picture of what Jesus did, in laying down his personal rights to popularity, to being liked or loved, to not being a target for persecution and murder; I think he had to lay down those rights in order to speak the truth to people who didn’t want to hear it. Yes, he did it lovingly and through sacrifice but his message of repentance was never absent.
I think being persecuted for speaking truth is also a Christ-like way of laying your personal rights down, not keeping silent about the truth so people will look more favorably on you and your beliefs. I just don’t think we can be caught up in how we might be represented in the media, in a world that is hostile to Christ. If you’re angry at the picture of Christians that gets portrayed in the media, you should actually be angry with the media. They ignore all the good that churches and Christians do and focus on the few cases they can find that misrepresent Christ; or they distort the actions of genuine Christians themselves, kind of like that fake protesting picture being shown in the context of Hutch’s protest. But since Christ was treated no better, maybe we shouldn’t be angry at all—maybe we should expect others to see us this way and continue on faithfully, not bending our message to suit the fancy of those who are convicted by it and don’t wish to be.
I’m not so worried about the slippery slope, or keeping intact a culture that recognizes the moral truths that have produced a wonderful society. I understand that Christianity has thrived more in cultures that are hostile to it. My thinking is all about how and what Christians are saying about the truth. Are we ashamed to be recipients of his grace, to know the One way and the One truth? Are we ashamed of the privilege and blessing of being saved, of telling others they need saving too? Are we ashamed of the material blessings God has given us, as we have lived faithful, generous, disciplined lives, and as we use it to bless others in ways that no other group of people does? I hear this “Christian guilt” everywhere I turn and have a hard time squaring it with Scripture. “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes;” Rom. 1:16
It seems that more often than not especially with Christians our age, there is a public bashing of Christianity, and of those who would preach the Word or call sin what it is, and many of us are changing the message or watering it down because the world sees it as intolerant. The world feels condemned in the presence of truth, but truth is not the problem. The world WILL see our message in a very negative way if we are at all true to it. Jesus promises exactly that. We have to be true to the Word and let that be seen by the world—as much as they may then hate us, or Jesus for it (He promises us that too). Only then will the hurting lost people who are actually looking for an answer, see any difference between our message and that of the world’s message of moral relativism. To do otherwise is to hide our light under a bushel. Obviously, there are more and less effective ways of doing this but I have to say I am weary of hearing Christians say that we should apologize to non Christians and never ever tell them the truth about their lives. I’m not saying we should cast stones by any means, but we go so far as to agree with the lies the media is spreading about who we are! Talk about doing something because it makes us feel good…I’m pretty sure no one is going to want to throw rocks at our heads or crucify us for such statements.
Anyway, that’s my concern and where I’m coming from. I hear what you’re saying too & have read Miller, Claiborne, Camp, Wallis etc. I have really enjoyed this dialogue b/c usually people get kind of uptight, over serious or angry and I can almost hear your laughter and smile coming across through cyberspace. God has blessed you with a beautiful compassion for the lost and hurting in our world and no doubt, if all Christians were like you then I do think our message would have a lot more weight. I do. So, you have been a really good example and given me a lot to think about with your blog and email. Thanks so much for taking the time to read all this and respond. I will be thinking about what you have said and pray about my understanding of these times and our role in them.
Have a great Thanksgiving!