Christians and Culture by Dr. Tim Woodroof
For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God (1 Peter 2:19, 20).
I’m not ashamed of Jesus. I not ashamed of his gospel or testifying to my Lord. But there are times, I confess, I’m ashamed of my fellow “Christians.”
Ouch! That was hard to say. I’ve spent much of my ministry trying to build bridges to other believers, tearing down the walls that divide and separate us. I believe in the importance of unity in the church universal. I wouldn’t go back to the bad old days of thinking that “anyone-who-doesn’t-think-and-act-just-like-me-isn’t-my-brother” for a moment.
But then I hear about a preacher who proclaims Hurricane Katrina God’s punishment for the sins of New Orleans. Really? Or the “Christian” groups that burn abortion clinics and copies of the Koran. Seriously? Or a church that pickets funerals, waving signs like “God Hates Fags” and “You’re Going to Hell.” Good grief! Or a church hierarchy that covers up child abuse and shields pedophiles. Should I go on?
Such things, such people, make me ashamed. It isn’t just that their pronouncements and positions reflect bad theology (they do). It isn’t just that these outlandish words and behaviors are light-years removed from the heart of our Lord (they are). It is, rather, that we live in a world increasingly hostile to the Christian faith and increasingly suspicious of those who claim to be his followers. And the instances listed above (plus the hundred others I could give) only deepen the prejudices of a hostile world about those who wear the name “Christian.”
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not arguing for a kind of Christianity the world will like. This world always has and always will hate truth and truth-tellers. But I would at least have the world hate us for the right reasons. When the world hates us because we are hateful, no one wins—least of all our Lord. When worldly people strike out at us because we are acting like them—doing what they would do, saying what they would say, treating them as they treat each other—we are not advancing the kingdom.
When those who wear the name Christian behave in worldly ways, they shape our culture’s perceptions of all Christians. They give our faith a bad name. They give the world opportunity to paint all Christians with the same brush. Don’t expect the world to be wise enough to distinguish bad theology from good, worldly actions from godly, poor representatives of our faith from true. The world is not that wise. It doesn’t want to be that wise. It is looking for any excuse to nullify our witness and dismiss our Lord.
Time to Speak Up
So what are the rest of us to do?
One of the persistent questions asked of moderate Muslims in our terror-torn world today is why they don’t speak out and condemn the violent actions of their extremist co-religionists. Are they in secret agreement with these actions? Do they share the same attitudes and beliefs even if they don’t engage in violent actions themselves? Why don’t they say something?
Christians should ask themselves similar questions. There are certain people, acting in the name of our faith, who force us to speak out and condemn what they are doing, to distance ourselves from them and from their violent words, attitudes, and actions. There are times Christians need to stand up and say, “That is not what we believe! That doesn’t reflect our Lord or our faith! That simply isn’t Christian, whatever name they may use to label themselves.”
Speaking up like this won’t feel good to us. We’d rather say nothing at all than say something that isn’t “nice.” But we cannot afford to be silent. The world is watching. The world is shaping their perceptions of us and our faith. The world is wondering whether all Christians are in secret agreement with those on the fringes.
We are not. And the time has come to say so clearly and
Dr. Tim Woodroof is a freelance writer and speaker. He and his wife Julie make their home in Nashville, Tennessee. www.timwoodroof.com