What If Public Grace Generated Opportunities For Private Truth?

Do you like politics?

I hate it.

I’ll sound more Christian and say I strongly dislike it.

For a short season in my early twenties, I thought I wanted to be in politics. At least until a close friend told me I was WAY too honest and opinionated to be a successful politician. I’ve never played relational games for sport and I certainly will never be blamed for telling people what they want to hear. That’s the type of person I want in political office, and there are some like that serving today, but I’m not sure we as a people are ready to vote for that person en masse.

I guess we like to hear what we want to hear. We are certainly drawn to what we like to hear.

The portion of politics that would have been most challenging to me was fund-raising. To raise political funds, a candidate must make big, bold statements that rally the home crowd enough to drive funding — whether they believe it or not, or plan to act on it or not. It’s this type of “red meat rhetoric” that dominates the political landscape today. Every political commercial or staged speech rips apart the opposition while passing off the strongest of opinions only to strengthen internal support and raise funds. Politics is a game — not of truth and justice, and in many ways not even about votes, but a game of winning and losing dollars (which are then converted to votes).

To me, the Christian landscape in our country often mirrors the political landscape in our country.

When I see Christians — especially prominent Christian leaders — making bold, public statements, it sounds almost indistinguishable from political red meat rhetoric. Just as a political candidate will say anything to rally his or her troops and raise funding, Christians seem to be taking the same approach, boldly proclaiming what God is against, what’s wrong with their opposition, and more. I wonder if for the same reason as political candidates?

Are Christian leaders more concerned with funding their ministry than reaching those outside of their ministry?

Who knows? If so, they’d never admit it. They might not even know it. This red meat rhetoric approach to the message of Christ does accomplishes two things, though:

1. It rallies the allies, and it
2. Alienates the opposition.

Sounds similar to politics, right?

One thing it doesn’t do, though, is draw those in the dark to the light.

Ironically, Jesus didn’t seem to offer up red meat rhetoric. In fact, he quite often did just the opposite.

He said things like:

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” – Luke 19:10

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” – Mark 2:17

“So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” – Matthew 22:21b

Paul agreed, giving the church in Colossae instructions on interacting with the world:

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” – Colossians 4:2-6

There’s a bunch more, but we already know this — we just don’t do this.

Red meat Christian rhetoric succeeds in raising insider support while destroying outsider influence.

I wonder what would happen in our communities and our country if we stopped spewing Christian red meat rhetoric and focused on fostering real relationships with those far from God?

Here’s a few questions I’m pondering today:

What if we stopped making public statements that only serve to rally the allies while alienating the outsiders?

What if we decided to be “wise in the way we act toward outsiders?” What does being “wise” look like practically?

What if we refused to offer sound bites and instead offered hugs?

What if conversations took priority over condemnations?

What if public grace created opportunities for private truth?

Christianity is losing influence not because of shifting truth, but because of our public red meat rhetoric. Every statement we make will either help us gain or cause us to lose influence. We must find a way to follow Jesus’ example and follow Paul’s advice in our world today, lest we lose what little influence we have left.

In my opinion and supported experience, you can’t offer up red meat rhetoric to appease the base and reach across the aisle to win others to the faith. I wish we could all agree that the Great Commission is more important than any culture war.

  7Comments

  1. Lee   •  

    I agree with comments.

    What I find interesting is that Jesus publicly called his dinner friends, sinners. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” – Mark 2:17 Not so subtle. Jesus is saying this to the Scribes of the Pharisees about Matthews tax-collector friends. How offensive is that?! Can you imagine inviting your gay friends over for BBQ and then publicly explaining to the dinner party the reason you are hanging out with them is because they are sinners. Is that grace with truth? Seems like a whole lotta truth.

    My question is for the churches who say nothing. Where is the truth? I get the grace part, but when the senior pastor never addresses the issue with truth, what then? Paul says “Pray that I proclaim it clearly, as I should.”

  2. Angela   •  

    Thanks for your thoughts Gavin. I appreciate your desire to lead Watermarke church well and to send the message of love to the world. We could all do better at that. This is what I see as a bigger issue- there are many people who profess Christ as their Savior and are still clearly confused about what is considered sin. Out culture tells us one thing and the church is often silent. I also see many professing Christ followers, that in the spirit of “love wins” send the message that sin is to celebrated. I see that as a huge problem. It is true that these conversations are best handled in the context of relationship, but at the same time, silence is often confused as agreement. It is clear that we are not to judge non Christ followers the same as Christ followers. We want to draw them to Jesus through loving them as He does. But again, I see the bigger issue as those who do profess Christ but send the messge that certain sins are to be celebrated. All the while the church stays silent and the silence leads to confusion or the message of agreement. It’s tricky since we belong to a church that by its very nature, attracts believers and non believes alike. How do we show grace to the non believers and still teach that sin is sin is sin? No matter what culture says. As leaders in the church, and I’m speaking to myself, we need to be careful that our message of love does not always mean agreement. Thanks again for this dialog. I don’t profess to have it figured out but appreciate the forum discuss it.

  3. Mark   •  

    We can catch a lot more flies with honey than vinegar. We must use more open arms like our Lord and less pointing fingers. This is being Christ like. Thanks for sharing these words of wisdom.

  4. bill   •  

    So, so, so good. In the words of Jon Foreman, “I’m tired of being right; I’m retired from that fight.”

  5. Corey Mann   •  

    Thank you for your thoughts on this Gavin… “Every statement we make will either help us gain or cause us to lose influence.”
    It goes against our human (political) nature to lose a fight in order to maintain an opportunity to show our love for one another. It is exactly the nature of Jesus to lose a fight, to be disgraced, to show His love.

  6. Brian   •  

    Gavin,
    We as Christians always want to be right when we make our point. We miss the opportunity to engage in a conversation because we are thinking how to bolster our point of view. It makes us feel good in our own eyes.

    We all love it when someone we just met takes a real interest in us. As Christians, we need to engage with people and our culture! Jesus attracted all people and engaged with all.

    Why do we not see that? Why do we love to proclaim the truth, but have no genuine concern for others?

    Jesus showed love and concern, then showed them the truth.

    Gavin, what has caused us to be that way so often in our culture?

  7. Brian Jones   •  

    I agree with this…. Yet I also think social media and the ability for people to smoke their keyboards when hot topics surface, news breaks or they simply need attention. There is a line that can be quickly crossed, but as Christians, we are called to stand for what we believe in and to hold other Christians accountable. The latter, in my opinion, needs to take place outside of social media where real relationships take place. I love reading your blog… Thanks for sharing

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