Disclaimer: This is for the Christians. It is not to be used as ammunition toward any specific Christian, church, or denomination; nor has it been written motivated by the actions of any specific person, church, or denomination.
Instead, I’m writing because of something I’ve periodically observed in myself. I believe it’s something many Christians might observe in themselves if they’d search; this desire to be relevant. This is not specific to Christians, but that’s what we’ll deal with today.
Relevance in and of itself is not evil; but the desire for it must be qualified. Why do we want to be relevant? What does relevance look like in the life of the believer? Does it mean I can’t be fun anymore? How do I serve God without being out of touch with “reality?” To whom do we want to be relevant?
These are all important questions and our answers to them reveal something about the posture of our heart toward God and the things of God. So, let’s dive in.
First, I want to deal with two different perspectives we may observe in the Church (the Body of Christ, followers of Christ) concerning relevance. People often swing to one extreme of the spectrum or the other.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “in the world, but not of it?” Yes? Well, this is an understanding of several verses in the Bible; though it is not a verse itself. Basically, it means even though we exist in this world, we are not of the same nature of the world. There is a culture and citizenship we possess that supersedes that which we experience here. We (children of God) are of a different world which is unseen. Below are some of the verses which compile this theological idea of ‘in the world, but not of it.’
John 15: 19
“If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”
1 John 2:15
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
“…and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”
The First Extreme
Some interpret these verses to mean we can’t do anything that appears even remotely ‘secular‘– which means ‘worldly.’ For example, some believe we can’t have any sort of relationship with those who aren’t believers–not even any association. Granted, a believer must be wise and discerning when pursuing intimate relationships with unbelievers.
However, there is a difference between being separate and being separate. What? The kind of separation required of believers is one that distinguishes. It is not to isolate or quarantine our faith but to live separate to GOD. Being separate to GOD means we seek to become what GOD desires for us to become.
This was a common issue the Messiah encountered while He walked this Earth. He was constantly brought under scrutiny for spending time with sinners and the ‘unclean’ of society. This didn’t line up with the idea the religious leaders of that time had about being separated or holy.
In one account, the Messiah is eating dinner with tax collectors (oftentimes manipulative con men) and other sinners. One of the ruling religious groups in Israel at the time, the Pharisees, reasoned among themselves and concluded that He was unclean because of this.
You can find some accounts of this encounter here: Matthew 9:10-17, Mark 2:13-17, and Luke 5:27-31.
Believers, we do ourselves and the world a disservice by segregating (isolating) ourselves and the truth we know. Be careful not to build and sustain cozy environments that only welcome those who agree with you (even specifically those of the same faith as you). In response to His being questioned about His interaction with sinners, the Messiah responded, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance (Luke 5:31-31).”
This inclination to isolate in comfortability without challenge hardens the heart of the believer and allows religion to calcify our minds. This causes us to lose sight of the call of EVERY believer–that is reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:11-21). We are called to reconcile people to GOD. This cannot be done if we’re walled up physically or spiritually within four walls of a quaint church that make us feel comfortable, secure, and unchallenged.
There are people who are falling away daily and many more who have not heard the truth and love expressed in the Gospel of the kingdom of GOD. If we’re honest, in our hearts, there is often fostered this culture of ‘staying’ — of finding a safe, comfortable place and resting there; comfortable in our religion. Our call was never to stay, but to ‘go.’ (Matthew 28:18-20) That doesn’t mean everyone is going to live the life of a traveling missionary or what have you. It does mean that we have to come outside of ourselves to reach the lost and those who have fallen away wherever we find ourselves.
The Second Extreme
The other extreme of the spectrum typically involves this need to prove likeness. “I’m just like you.” “We’re the same!” “I like that kind of music too.” Have you ever met a believer who is always trying to convince people to follow Christ or accept them by proving believers aren’t that different from everyone else? Better yet, have you ever been that believer? I know I have.
It didn’t happen overnight though. I’ve always been very vocal about my faith and the importance thereof. However, over the years, I saw a gradual change. I started wanting to compel people to come to Christ by convincing them that things wouldn’t change much or that I was still like the ‘Darveiye’ I was before.
This is problematic because I was compelling people based on a lie. I’m not just like you. We’re not the same. We may seem incredibly similar on the surface, but there is an inner change that differentiates us. It doesn’t mean I’m better, it means I’m renewed. It means I’m saved. It means I’m redeemed. It means my mind has been changed. It means some things will not and cannot stay the same. It means I have a new nature. I may be “in the world, but I’m not of it.”
I found the reason I was trying to be “relevant” was not because I wanted people to accept God, but I wanted people to accept me. I’d spent so much of my life being rejected and bullied for my interests, my looks, my faith that I found I started to work hard to prove I was normal. However, the reality of the life of a child of God is that you will not be accepted by the world and you are not normal. It’s not something that “gets better” or changes with time.
If there comes a point at which I am completely embraced by the world or indistinguishable from it, I’ve ceased being separated. I may find I’ve begun to seek relevance from the world compromising my reverence for God — which is the result of seeking relevance.
For you cannot completely love and embrace God and still look like, think like, and live like the world. You will hate one or love the other. “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other (Matthew 6:24a).”
This dynamic isn’t often easily detected. Sometimes, we’re still doing all of the things we usually do (go to church, read the Bible, talk about God) but will find our hearts are far from God in the process. This is why checking your heart is so important. Always ask, “why am I doing what I’m doing?” “Why am I saying what I’m saying?” “Am I trying to get people to accept me or accept God?” “Am I cutting myself off from the people who need to hear about the God I know?” “Am I discerning or am I just judging people?”
We often treat this walk with Christ as a one size fits all. Granted, there are elements that are one-size-fits-all (salvation, loved by God, call to reconciliation, and many others). However, we have these misguided ideas of exactly what it should look like and get lost in trying to look like that (clothes we wear, how we talk, going to church, reading the Bible, being kind to people, etc) and forget to check if our hearts are truly one with God’s heart.
To sum all of this up, choose reverence over relevance.
Be sensible. Be fools.
Over and out.