In the last two posts we began the discussion of how to preach Christ to the culture in which we live. We considered in the last post the various philosophies about how we should approach the culture. Today I want to share where I have come down on this subject. You may disagree. I believe that we should practice preaching grace to our culture.
The Approach in the US
I know that many of you readers are in other countries, and that what I describe here as culture may not be entirely accurate to your situation. However, it is my hope that you will be able to translate the principle that I am going to propose to your situation.
For many years now, ever since the Moral Majority was formed by Rev. Jerry Falwell in 1979, Christians have tried to form the United States into a “Christian” nation. In practical terms, that resulted in a pretty negative message. There were many sermons preached condemning the moral failures of our country. Abortion clinics were picketed, the “homosexual agenda” was attacked from pulpits around the country, and God’s judgment on our country was given as the reason for many natural disasters. It didn’t seem that many pastors were preaching grace in their sermons. The Old Testament prophets were pretty popular as source material.
The Moral Majority was very effective. They drummed up support among Christians for Ronald Reagan, and surveys said their support was instrumental in him winning the presidency. Why vote for him? Because, the leaders said, he will have a “Christian” agenda for the country.
However, as we look back now, we see that rather than returning the country its Christian roots, decline in Christian influence was the outcome of all our political activity.
Why? I think it was because we lost the message of what makes Christianity unique among the world’s religions. Of all the world religions, it is only we Christians that say that God loves us simply because of his grace, his unmerited favor.
How did stop preaching grace to the culture?
In his book, What’s So Amazing About Grace?, Phillip Yancey reflects on the rise of the Moral Majority and other such organizations in the 1980’s and 1990’s. He cites several instances where Christians attacked other Christians who had a different political viewpoint. He himself received many hate letters, all because he sat down with President Clinton, and wrote about it for Christianity Today magazine.
The Church attempted to become a political force, rather than seeking to change the lives of people by introducing them to God’s grace. We even became very concerned about who should be President. Here’s how Yancey puts his reflection on that subject:
I went through the Gospels for guidance, only to be reminded how unpolitical Jesus was. In the words of P.T. Forsyth, “The largest and deepest reference of the Gospel is not to the world or its social problems, but to Eternity and its social obligations.” Today, each time an election rolls around, Christians debate whether this or that candidate is “God’s man” for the White House. Projecting myself back into Jesus’ time, I had difficulty imagining him pondering whether Tiberius, Octavius, or Julius Caesar was “God’s man” for the empire. (p. 260)
How preaching grace can change the world
I have come to believe that the only way that we are going to win the world is to begin preaching grace in a compelling way. It strikes me that Jesus was a magnet for people because of his kindness, his grace. He could tolerate prostitutes anointing him, eating with tax collectors and “sinners”, and could forgive an adulteress with hardly batting an eye. He even had a tax collector and a Zealot among his disciples!
What he couldn’t tolerate was a group of proud, self-righteous, ungraceful people. Like the Pharisees.
Preaching grace is going to draw people–to Jesus. Preaching Judgment only will likely push them away.
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