Picnic or Pilgrimage?

A friend of mine posted this quote below on his Facebook page. I liked it so much that I decided to use it as a springboard to a new post. I tracked it down to its source, and it's from an article that Eyvonne Sharp wrote in her blog called: “Real Faith in a Hard World.” 

“Christians act as if we have the right to live in a society where our 'Christian' sensibilities are never offended. We want the world to be beautified, anesthetized, and purified before we step foot into it. Instead of facing the ugliness we see and sharing the best news of humankind, we create impenetrable fortresses for ourselves where the dark cannot get in and the light cannot escape. We don’t realize how bad life really is for many because we’ve insulated ourselves from it. If Jesus acted like many of us, He would have stayed in heaven.” – Eyvonne Sharp

The article in question is about a decision by “Lifeway” books to stop selling the movie “The Blind Side” in its stores due to “explicit profanity, the use of God’s name in vain, and racial slurs.” It's a very balanced article that expresses the sentiments of a great many people, if the comments section is any indication. The quote above, by itself, struck me enough to make me want to comment.

I grew up with a “fortress mentality,” being told that it's a big scary world out there and we needed to do everything we could to avoid it. This was well-meaning, and partly true. There are, and always will be, things that we need to stay away from in culture. There are also things we need to stand up to and confront. But, I think more than anything else, there are things we need to understand, and people we need to love. It was Billy Graham who wrote, “Jesus didn't call us to a picnic, but to a pilgrimage.”

When the early church began, it was in the context of a hostile environment. Jesus had been crucified just forty days before in the same city where Peter stood and boldly proclaimed the Gospel. It wasn't long until persecution broke out and the church was spread out throughout the Roman Empire – which was also hostile. In fact, a cursory glance at history will reveal that the Church has had to learn to thrive in cultures where they didn't call the shots, and was often healthier.

There are a whole lot of subjects rolled up in this, but the main point I want to make is this: we are responsible to reflect the love of Christ regardless of the context within which we find ourselves. This speaks of Jesus' call to be “in the world but not of the world (A paraphrase).” How did they live this? In a time when infanticide was common in Rome and babies would be left beside open sewers to die, Christians would rescue them and raise them as their own. When disease spread through cities and the healthy would leave town, it was the Christians who stayed to care for the sick and dying, risking their own lives in the process.

It was the church's unconditional love for the people around them that was the “salt and light” that transformed society from the inside out. They demonstrated a better way with their lives, often laying down their lives in the process. Much of what is good in Western society is a result of Christians assessing and engaging the culture with love, attempting to live out Jesus' prayer, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Much of Christendom has either forgotten how to do this or simply stopped trying.

It's past time to stop with the angry protests and pick up a servant's towel. The old saying is true: “People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Thanks for the reminder, Eyvonne. If you are called by the name of Christ, go out there, find a hurt, and heal it in Jesus' name. Do something to enhance God's reputation in the world. Lord knows there are enough people tearing it down.

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