I’m in a spot where “be in the world but not of it” and “change your world for Jesus"—two of Christianity’s greatest rallying cries—are bouncing around in my brain. I have been wondering if we can live in this world, not be of this world and yet still impact this world mostly because my wife and I are taking on the responsibility of leading our church’s college group, and we know they are struggling with fulfilling these two great missions. Just like we are. I grew up in church and have heard these things preached my whole life. And no matter how many times I’ve heard them, no matter how many steps I’ve been presented (steps aren’t bad), I was still wondering if it’s possible. How do I do both?
After wrestling with this issue over the past few months, here are three things I’ve come up with as starting points.
Conquer or Be Conquered
We all know that the most important tool to communicate beliefs and ideas is the arts. The battle for hearts and minds is being waged in this arena, and, sad to say, we are losing. Why? Instead of setting the pace, many Christians have sat and criticized the junk on TV or in movies or in art galleries. If you aren’t one of them, good, because I was, and I now realize there’s no one to blame but myself. Looking back, we as Christians haven’t set the trends, so they’ve been set for us.
It doesn’t have to stay that way. If those who are gifted in the arts will express their faith in meaningful, thoughtful, inventive ways, they can make our voices heard. And people will listen. Just look at Mel Gibson or Bono or C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien. They’ve woven their faith into their art in amazing ways, and people have paid attention.
Talent is abounding in churches, but many artists have stayed hidden, afraid to express their faith to the world because they might cast us as zealots and deem us “irrelevant.” So here is what I propose: If you make films, submit them to film festivals. If you paint, get your art into a gallery. If you write, send your stories, articles, whatever to “secular” magazines, newspapers and Internet sites. Christians can turn the tide and impact their culture with positive, relevant art. And as the art floods the marketplaces, what we—as well as the next generation—are seeing, hearing and experiencing will change for the better.
Act on Faith
“Faith without works is dead.” This is a truly powerful statement that needs to be examined. In light of what is currently going on in our world, where people with deeply held religious beliefs are committing suicide for their faith and taking the lives of those who don’t believe as they do, I think our culture is looking for people who are willing to live for their faith.
Christianity is a faith built on action. God had faith and acted by creating the world and man and everything else we see. Jesus had faith and acted by raising the dead and walking on water and feeding the 5,000. You and I have faith and can act by volunteering at food banks or churches where they feed and clothe the poor. We can act by going next door and seeing if our neighbor needs help with their yard or house or anything else. We can act by being on time to work, working hard and treating our fellow employees with respect.
People want to see faith, not just hear about it. Our culture is visually driven, giving us a perfect opportunity to show them that Christ is alive is by our actions.
As we live out our faith, two things will happen:
1. The works will bring life to our faith, which will in turn bring strength to our walks with Christ, making it a little easier to live day in and day out for Him.
2. It will open up doors to tell others about Him because people will see what we believe and then want to hear about it.
Allow me a cliché: “garbage in, garbage out.” What we put into our hearts will come out. Jesus said that what comes out of our hearts destroys our lives. Our hearts are our most valuable possessions, and like a mirror, the heart shows everyone around us who we really are.
As the father of two young boys, I’m trying to stop every now and then and take a look at what’s in there, making sure my heart isn’t full of garbage. A simple way I’ve found to accomplish this is to listen to what I am saying. At times, some ugly stuff comes out, and it—unfortunately—is directed at my kids. I thought, Is this the image I want them, or others for that matter, to have of me? No. So through prayer and reading the Bible and managing what I watch and listen to, I’m working on cleaning it out and keeping it clean.
Check out 1 Corinthians 10:31: "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God" (TNIV) and Colossians 3:23: "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord" (TNIV).