It’s not just what Christians are saying, it’s how we’re saying it.
We have many issues right now in Western societies that are dividing opinions in the local church and the wider community. This isn’t a passionate defense of any of those issues – I’m not looking at the what right now, I’m more interested in the how.
In Matthew 23:23, Jesus says to the teachers of the law: “Hypocrites! … you are careful to tithe even the tiniest income from your herb gardens, but you ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith.”
Throughout my time in church life, and never moreso than the present, Christians seem to be obsessed with jumping onto hot-button issues that they view as wrong or harmful. Now I agree that Christians need to have a voice, and to speak up on thing that we care about – but perception is so important. What perception are we giving people when our entire message seems to focus on right and wrong more than why we care?
Reflecting on the words of Jesus in Matthew 23 and the Gospels, we often see him engaging with the teachers of the law – the experts in what is right – and reminding them that the aim of the law is not so we can affirm our own righteousness, but to show all the world that there’s a standard we all fall short of, and that in Christ everyone can find life in all its fullness.
Like the Pharisees in the Bible, so often the current Christian dialogue seems to talk about what we’re saying is wrong. But if we focus our attention on how we’re engaging, we might find ourselves actually listening to what the gay community has to say about equality, or why someone might want to have women leading in the church, or even how condoms in schools might be ok. We may even find (horrors!) that people are more willing to listen to us when they don’t feel we’re looking to isolate and oppress them.
If we’re dedicated to making this world a better place, then we need to do it not simply in what we do, but in how we do it – through sharing the truth in love.
In the words of Andy Stanley: “We’re not just here to make a point; we’re here to make a difference.”