By Jeff Krajewski
When Aerosmith sang, “There’s something wrong in the world today,” the band stated a reality that very few would contradict. There has been something wrong with the world for many thousands of years.
We believe we know how things should be. But we don’t see it in our culture. It appears that most, if not all, of our Christian values have been completely removed from the fabric of a society.
In his book Families at the Crossroads author Rodney Clapp says this,
Scant decades ago, most Westerners agreed that lifelong monogamy was ideal, that mothers should stay home with children, that premarital sex was to be discouraged, that heterosexuality was the unquestioned norm and that popular culture should not corrupt children. Today not a single one of these expectations is uncontroversial (p. 10).
Something is wrong in the world today.
When Peter told Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” Jesus responded with a promise that will help us today. He said that upon Peter’s confession, Christ would build his church and the gates of Hades would not overcome it (Matthew 16:16-18).
The gates of Hades in Jewish tradition are the gates of death, a seemingly insurmountable enemy. Jesus is clear that those who recognize and submit to Christ as Lord need not fear even the greatest enemy to humanity. There is confidence and power for the people of God in their confession of Jesus Christ as Lord. Even death cannot touch them.
We may get so caught up in what’s happening around us that we forget Christ is Lord. He is not waiting to become Lord. The rule and reign of Christ is underway, and the power of the resurrection in the person of the Holy Spirit serves as the first reminder of what is to come. The church has been called to bear witness to everything Jesus began to do and teach with confidence and power.
But the church today is somewhat reactive in the way we go about living the mandate of witness. We often find ourselves merely reacting to the latest court rulings and election results. We seem to be frightened of the liberals, those with alternative lifestyles, and people who teach our children about science and its various theories. We tend to allow the world to define the lines of the battle and we simply defend and launch our counterattacks.
The problem with this is it gives the power to the authorities of this dark age. In our defensiveness, we are actually affirming what Jesus came to deny. The ruler of this age has been defeated. The church is the declarative voice and active witness to this reality. Does our defensive posture communicate a lack of confidence in the power of the gospel?
Jesus was not afraid of trouble. He was confident that no one could do anything to him that his Father in Heaven was not aware of. No power or institution in this present age can stop the revolutionary movement of the kingdom of God. In that same Matthew passage quoted above, Jesus tells the disciples that the church would possess the keys to the kingdom of Heaven. Whatever they bound up on earth would be bound up in Heaven, and whatever was loosed or set free on earth would be set free in Heaven.
The confessing community has been given the power and confidence to advance with the message of the kingdom. Jesus is our example for sure. Instead of running scared or always defending himself, Jesus would reframe an attack by redefining the battleground. He would not take part in meaningless conversations. He recognized the real battle is for the hearts of mankind and no system of rules can change a person’s heart.
One of the greatest examples of this reframing is when Jesus is asked, “Which is the greatest commandment?” (Matthew 22:36). Jesus completely reframes the question through a story and establishes a new battle line. The battlefield is not about who is right and who is wrong, but who loves rightly and who does not.
Instead of seeing the world and its self-centered philosophy as an obstacle, we have a wonderful opportunity to declare the praises of the one who called us out of darkness and into his wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9). The church is the community called to bear witness to this reality. And it is most clearly seen in how we love. We are to love those who hate us, mistreat us, and who falsely say all kinds of evil about us, because we have given ourselves to Christ. We are called to demonstrate a new way that is true life. And we cannot do so if we allow the world to determine the lines of battle.
What if the greatest battle to be won is not anywhere on the field where the church typically engages? What would it look like for the church to begin to reestablish the battle line where it belongs and demonstrate the greatest commandment to those whom we have typically attempted to discredit, malign, and drag through the mud? What if our call is to confidently and boldly love those we have historically demonized as the enemy? What would that church look like? Where would that take us? What kind of weapons would be required to fight that battle?
I recently received an e-mail from someone who has attended our church on and off for the past couple of years. He asked a question that we get with some regularity:
How do you feel/believe about welcoming gays and lesbians into Common Ground? How do you feel the community of Common Ground would react to having gays and lesbians attend Common Ground and making it their home church?
The question can be answered differently depending on what we believe to be true about the gospel. There is a loving response that believes the good news is power unto the abundant life that God has created us for. And there is a fearful response that sees sexual brokenness as an enemy to be feared rather than an opportunity to be engaged.
The church has a great opportunity today. We have been given authority and power in the name of Jesus to overcome evil with good. It is time we begin to live as if what we confess with our mouths we also believe in our hearts. If we are passionate about Christ and his kingdom being made known to the ends of the earth, then we must begin to live as people who trust the way of the cross.
We must teach our children about the God who created the heavens and the earth. Then they’ll be able to navigate as witnesses in an educational system that teaches we emerged from tar. We must demonstrate faithfulness to our wedding vows. Then we will portray the beauty of the marriage covenant in a world that teaches marriage is simply a contractual arrangement to be tossed aside when it is no longer convenient. We must serve those who are aliens and strangers among us so they can see that God does not show favoritism. We must love and not fight those who claim there is no God; It is in our loving those who curse us where Christ is most clearly known.
This is the offense of the gospel. It is an offense of love, compassion, mercy, and humility that drove Jesus to save us from hatred, self-centeredness, fear, oppression, and death. We must be confident, not afraid. In our demonstration of true love the world will see that Jesus is the way to the abundant life God desires for all of his creation.
Jeff Krajewski is lead pastor with Common Ground Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.