This is a strange time for patriotic American Christians. On the one hand, we will observe the 4th of July this weekend. Most of our neighborhoods are ringing with fireworks and are adorned with symbols of American pride. Many will celebrate the 4th with family, friends, and an open grill. At the same time, our stomaches are still turning by the fresh reminder that we and our Christianity are increasingly not welcome here. This is truly a strange confluence of emotions.
Feeling Unwelcome Here
In talking with a number of Christians last week I was struck by how the Supreme Court decision to legalize same sex marriage brought such an unsettling clarity to their perspective. Any morning fog that lingered in our minds that this was a nation that was at least neutral towards biblical Christianity was quickly eradicated last Friday. With the court’s affirmation, the chorus of celebrations on the news and in our neighborhoods, and then the White House being lit up in rainbow colors to celebrate the decision, it seemed to bring clarity. Most Christians knew this deep down but for some it did not home until last week. At some point they looked up and said, “I’m not welcome here.”
What Not To Do
What do you do about this?
Well, we definitely should not turn into a bunch of evangelical jerks. As tempting as it may be to join in the tit-for-tat sarcasm, mocking, and crudeness, we must remember that we have a higher calling than such sophomoric trolling. We reflect Christ in our speech, conduct, and love.
We also should not shut-up. The court’s decision on marriage does not change what we believe about marriage. The Bible is still very clear and the church’s practice remains very clear. This changes nothing for us; we still have a prophetic voice to speak the truth of biblical marriage and how it displays the glory of the gospel. We still have something to say.
What To Do
We do need to remember that this is not our home. Christians have for centuries lived in communities that did not welcome them. However, they made it and the gospel made it. The writer of Hebrews, writing to Christians who were feeling the pinch of a culture around them that did not approve of their religious convictions, provided these words at the end of his letter:
“For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” (Hebrews 13:14)
We today do not have a lasting, abiding, continuing city. Everything has an expiration date on it; it is only a matter of time. We have to remember this as Christians living in America (or anywhere else in the world). While you you may have a physical address where you lay your head at night you are not home. Because as Christians we seek the city that is to come. This seeking is an ongoing, intentional pursuit. It is to characterize our lives. We keep on seeking the city that is to come. Hebrews uses several words to describe this city. It is described as heaven (12:23), rest (4:11), kingdom (12:28), a better country (11:14), a city that God built (11:10), a heavenly Jerusalem (12:22), and a heavenly country (11:14). We are looking ahead to the city that will come down from heaven where we will dwell with God and all his blood-bought saints forever! There are no feelings of being unwelcome there when we are gathered round the great table to enjoy feasting and fellowship with the church. Oh, and Christ will be there, ruling and reigning with all of his people giving themselves to him freely (Rev. 21-22).
We are a people who pray earnestly the words and intentions of the Lord’s Prayer: “Hallowed by your name…Your Kingdom Come…Your will be done…” We want God’s name to be honored rather than disregarded. We want the King to rule and his will to be done. This is our great desire. When this is not happening here it serves to unfasten our grip upon this present world and lift our chin the look ahead, to seek the city that is to come.
If the events of last week knocked the wind out of you and made you feel unwelcome, then remember that we seek the city that is to come. If the current events serve to remind you of this, than bless God for his kind providence to you. Realizing you are not welcome here can actually be a blessing.
Finally, remember that Jesus never called the church to redeem culture or create a Christian America. Our job is to glorify God by declaring and demonstrating the gospel. The church is an embassy of grace on foreign soil. And we must remember that this church has been, is being, and will be built by Jesus Christ (Mt. 16:18). The gospel will advance and the church will be built whether the cultural wind at our backs or in our face. Our death-conquering King ensures it.
Note: this is an excerpt from Sunday’s sermon. The rest may be accessed here.