5 Reasons Every Christian Should Engage Others Even in a Hostile Culture
By Carmen Fowler LaBerge
No one said representing Christ was going to be easy.
In fact, the Gospel writers all record Jesus forecasting quite the contrary. Every New Testament writer warns Christ followers of opposition to the good news of Jesus’ reality, resurrection, and reign.
And yet, Christians are compelled to engage. We can’t do otherwise. But why?
Let’s look at five reasons Christians are compelled to engage with those who oppose the message of the gospel.
It’s who we are.
As the sent people of God, Christians are, quite literally, on a mission in every moment of every day. The person who is authentically in Christ is no longer their own, but an agent—an instrument, a minister, a servant, a missionary—of Christ and His Kingdom.
What are ambassadors of the Kingdom of heaven supposed to do in kingdoms largely ruled by foreign powers and principalities? We’re supposed to take our diplomatic post seriously, engaging with those who live as if this world is all there is, and its ways are the only way to go.
Into the kingdoms of this world, we bear the light and truth with Jesus. Just as Jesus did, we show and tell others about the King and the Kingdom, engaging in diplomatic discourse and the free exchange of value-laden ideas as resident aliens seeking to bring the principles of heaven to bear on earth right here and right now.
Truth matters, even in post-truth culture with postmodern people.
Christians are truth people. We follow the One who is alone the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
We’re truth seekers, truth tellers, and truth doers. We think about the truth, we speak the truth in love, and we stand for the truth even when the world becomes convinced of delusions and lies.
John identified Jesus as one full of grace and truth. If we enter into the conversations of our day with anything less than the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, we will have become false witnesses.
Along with goodness and beauty, truth is one of three transcendental virtues, the properties of God expressed in all He has made. Where you find authentic goodness or beauty, you’ll also find truth as the three can’t be separated. We’re truth’s witnesses even in a post-truth culture.
No one promised us a rose garden but God did set us as cultivators of a garden.[epq-quote align=”align-right”]Instead of seeing cultural engagement as a war, think of culture more as a garden that Christians are called to tend.[/epq-quote]If you continue to see cultural engagement as a culture war, consider seeing our culture as a garden. It not only gets us back to the original intent of the Author of life, who started the story of humankind in a garden; it gets us working in such a way that we fixate less on issues and more on the possibility of harvesting righteousness.
Most of us don’t like the harvest of unrighteousness evident in the ideas, words, and actions of many people today. And if God had called me to be the world’s fruit inspector I’d know exactly how to scrutinize every blemish.
However, in much the same way Jesus instructs us to allow the weeds and the wheat to grow up together and trust God to sort it out, we’re called to serve the One who was mistaken by Mary as the gardener upon his resurrection.
Christians are cultivators of the culture garden, preparing soil, removing rocks, tilling in good ideas, sowing the seed of the Word, watering parched plots of earth, propping up drooping vines, setting protective cages for vulnerable plants, keeping watch for predators and thieves, and pruning away dead plants.
Gardening takes time, requires work, and ultimately depends on God to give the growth. That sounds a lot like Christian cultural engagement in the world today.
It glorifies God and edifies people.
Receding from the conversation and enjoying the benefits of God’s blessings away from the fray of the world’s problems might be tempting, but it’s not Christian.
It’s literally not what Jesus did.
Jesus took on flesh and engaged the realities of the human condition. That’s cultural engagement. While we’re called to glorify God in Christian community and in private spiritual disciplines, our personal sanctification is not the end of God’s glory. We’re compelled to go into the world by a God who sent His only Son, who in turn, sends us.
Culture engagement, particularly in the area of justice, is compelled by the gospel. It’s not an optional activity for Christians. When we pray God’s Kingdom come and God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven, we’re praying for God to empower us as the living agents of the already/not yet Kingdom of heaven, instituted by Christ, awaiting its consummation.
God has revealed His plan and it includes the deployment of His redeemed people to make visible the fullness of the beauty and truth of the gospel.
That requires we not only worship God with all we are, all we have, and all we do; it also requires us to do all we can to change temporal realities, confronting the principalities and powers of darkness seeking to steal and kill and destroy people in the world today.
The love of Christ compels us.
Remember when Peter and John got arrested for speaking to people about Jesus and the resurrection of the dead?
After a night in jail they were brought before a religious court and shared the power of the name of Jesus. Peter declared the truth, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
The evidence of the power was a healed man literally standing before them, so they ordered the disciples to stop speaking or teaching in the name of Jesus. Luke records in Acts 4:19, “But Peter and John replied, ‘Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.’”
The disciples today are as compelled as the first disciples! We can’t help but testify to the reality of Jesus’ nature, incarnation, life, atoning death, resurrection, ascension, and reign. The disciples of Jesus in the world today share the same motivation and message as the apostle Paul who declares in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, “The love of Christ compels us.”
CARMEN FOWLER LABERGE (@carmenlaberge) is the author of Speak the Truth: How to Bring God Back Into Every Conversation, and hosts a radio program, “Connecting Faith.” She blogs at ReconnectwithCarmen.com.