In his book, UnChristian, David Kinnaman cites a Barna Research study that asked non-Christians whether they viewed the role of Christians in American society in a favorable or unfavorable way. In 1996, 85% viewed Christians favorably. Ten years later, that approval rating had dropped to just 15%.
After the election, I published an article in this space that struck a chord with many Christians. I suggested that engaging in a bitter ‘culture war’ in order to preserve America’s formerly dominant Christian culture has been largely a failed strategy. We cannot win in the courts and at the ballot box that which we have lost in the court of public opinion. Instead, I argued, we should embrace the strategy that has successfully attracted people to Jesus for two thousand years – authentic Christianity.
What if we simply stuck to what Jesus commanded us to do: love our neighbors as ourselves, care for the poor and the sick and the brokenhearted, stand up for the oppressed, be generous with our time and our money, and live winsome lives filled with grace and gentleness?
Christians have always lived, and often thrived, in cultures where they are minorities. Christianity began in a Jewish culture and thrived in a pagan Roman one. The apostle Paul, writer of nearly half the New Testament, actually offers advice to the church in Corinth which lived in the midst of a very pagan society. His words should guide us today.
In I Corinthians 5:9, Paul encourages the Christians to clean up their own affairs. The church was in a mess with sexual shenanigans, internal bickering, and a deep division between rich and poor. Paul gives them some advice, but he also says Christians shouldn’t worry about whether others follow Christian moral teaching.
“I wrote you in my earlier letter that you shouldn’t make yourselves at home among the sexually promiscuous. I didn’t mean that you should have nothing at all to do with outsiders of that sort. Or with crooks, whether blue- or white-collar. Or with spiritual phonies, for that matter. You’d have to leave the world entirely to do that! … I’m not responsible for what the outsiders do, but don’t we have some responsibility for those within our community of believers? God decides on the outsiders, but we need to decide when our brothers and sisters are out of line and, if necessary, clean house. (I Cor. 5:9-13, The Message)