The condition of our church culture here in suburbia is troubling. We have a minimum standard mindset and the minimum standard has dropped below the biblical standard. Generally, we are all very nice people who are slow to offend others. This is a great quality which breeds a fairly kind culture in which to live. I often observe the kindness of others in my day-to-day interactions with people around our community. However, we are not commissioned to proclaim merely a gospel of kindness.
The minimum standard of biblical living seems to be a little different than living an overall kind life. In Luke 9:23-24 Jesus communicates the minimum standard of Christianity. At the root of the gospel (Romans 3:21-26) is the realization that we do not have the ability to overcome the sinfulness within us. There is not a single one of us whose kindness has placed him/her into a place of good standing before God. Although, I’m thankful to live in a culture where kindness is valued, it does not change the way the church must function. Honestly, it could make the call extended to the church and to those who follow Jesus MORE difficult.
In cultures where kindness is less valued, the call to follow Christ would appear to be a radical departure from the cultural standards. In a culture in which kindness is widely practiced, the perception of biblical values easily becomes blurred. In these settings the work of the church becomes blurred as well. The temptation, and too often the reality, is that we would create large gatherings of kind people who gather under the banner of Christianity learning how to be kind people.
Kindness is an important aspect of the Christian life (Galatians 5:22), but the kindness exhibited by those following Jesus is forged through a process of self-denial and Christ-dependence. Understandably, we know that the gospel will be palatable to more people if we skip the self-denial and God-dependence and move directly to the kindness discussion.
Is it possible that a concern for being overly offensive has actually domesticated our culture’s understanding of the gospel? I would suggest that bold must be beautiful. After all, our scripture is full of bold people who are making incredibly bold statements about the way people live. Jesus exemplifies this clearly in Matthew 12:34 when He is calling a group of men out of their hypocrisy. The beautiful model of Jesus Christ has been given to us as a tool of instruction for emulation (John 20:21).
Maybe it is possible there was a time in history when people needed to be cautioned about how they communicated the radical truths of the scriptures. If there has been, that doesn’t seem to be the struggle within our suburban culture of moral righteousness. In Acts 17:22-34 Paul begins with a spirit of kindness and understanding toward the men to which he is speaking. However, we must not miss the fact that He also communicates the radical truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ to these men.
Questions: Does gospel boldness come easy for you? In what ways/circumstances can you speak about the radical nature of following Jesus which places it in contrast to living a kind and moral life?