Radically Ordinary

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” -Edmund Burke 

The other day I was in a coffee shop waiting by the bar for my tall vanilla flat white. The gentleman working behind the counter solo began quietly singing a spiritual song as he crafted my caffeine. I couldn’t place the song, but heard phrases like, “Come, Lord Jesus”, “Hallelujah”, and “Coming soon”. It was a wonderful moment of kinship to realize the barista and I (hopefully) share the same faith, family and Father. He handed me my coffee and I thanked him adding, “Hey I like your singin’ too!”

It got me thinking about how Christians live in our culture today. When the LGBTQ “community” wants to identify themselves with their sex life, they wear rainbow colored t-shirts and accessories, or dress in drag. You know where they stand. This is true of any group- wearing a MAGA hat, donning a shirt with ‘I am black history’ or ‘Black Lives Matter’, sporting 2nd amendment rights, or a Choose Life bumper sticker- all speak volumes as walking billboards. But how do you spot a Christian stranger?

One reason I believe this country looks like Sodom and Gomorrah is because Christ followers in particular have acclimated, capitulated, and kept our heads down. Instead of heads up, shoulders back, smiling and speaking as God’s ambassadors, we have allowed the world to dictate what subjects are acceptable to talk about in our communities. Why is it polite society cannot comment on politics and religion? The topics go hand in hand as politics make policies that affect real people, reflecting the things we value as a society. Do we champion life in the womb or murder of an unborn child? Do we support homosexual marriages or Biblical marriages? Do we believe God created two genders, male and female, or 100 fluid “identities”?

Reformed Christian circles in particular have moved away from preaching these values to a muddled, merging with the world over the last ten years. We are no longer clear in where we stand on issues that should not be debatable as Christians. Instead of remaining set apart by using discernment in how we engage the culture, some have welcomed Vanity Fair with open arms inside the church walls. This is defended by well meaning church leaders as “loving” and “winsome”, all the while your unconverted neighbor remains content and oblivious in their sins because Christians have watered down truth, making it less offensive and more palatable for the general audience. It sends the message of not taking the Bible too seriously, because who would want a sermon when we can put on a show? Calling out sinful lifestyles is branded as judgmental and legalistic instead of what it actually is- loving someone enough to tell them they are about to fall off a cliff. The opposite of love is not hate but apathy. Even God has righteous hate over sin (as should we) but He is never apathetic. The definition of how we love our unbelieving neighbors has become skewed. In reality, mainstream Christian Reformers have morphed into another brand of a seeker sensitive church. The Christian’s response to all this confusion should not be unity at all costs (especially when that unity is tied to a secular world), but truth at all costsTruth is what unifies believers from every tongue, tribe and nation. If we cannot stand together on God’s inerrant Word and the commands He gives us, then what is our foundation but sinking sand?

David Platt wrote a little book called Radical years ago about how Christians should sell everything and move overseas as missionaries. That was the gist of it. Shortly after that wave, Michael Horton came out with a book called Ordinary, arguing believers are called to stay faithful right where God has placed them to influence the spiritual landscape. It doesn’t mean some are not called to be missionaries overseas, but we need faithful Christian engineers, doctors, pastors and homemakers here too. I think Horton was on the right track, but Platt has a point too. What if Christians in the Western world were radically ordinary Christ followers? What does it look like?

Whatever your profession, we must live differently than the world by the choices we make. This is our antidote. How we spend our time and money, what we watch, read and listen to, all play a part in shaping how we think and feel. Most of the time the messaging is subtle, yet over time these choices influence our worldview. Whether it is watching ESPN (which has become culturally outspoken), Disney+, the 24/7 news cycle, or even a show on Netflix, we start to listen to the commentary or plot as Gospel truth instead of fact-checking with Scripture. Even when we know a statement or action is unbiblical, it may not affect us as much because Christians have become more tolerant, passive and apathetic to the sins which grieve our Holy Father. By choosing to think critically ourselves instead of absorbing whatever Twitter says, we can learn to swim against the current instead of drifting like jellyfish.

Ideas have consequences, good and bad. Christians since the Fall have needed discernment, and we are in dire need of it today. We as fallen humans are susceptible to fear, pride, gullibility, idolatry, and indulging self-love over servant-love. Our daily choices, however small they seem to us, can alter the culture we live in. Choosing to not shop at a store which brazenly promotes self-mutilation and the breakdown of nuclear families; knowing when to speak up and when to keep walking; turning a show off when the content is anti-God; thinking critically about current events instead of being swayed by our emotions; learning all the facts before listening to mob rule; voting for leaders who support Biblical values; daily feeding our spirits with Scripture; being Spirit-led and not gratifying the flesh; practicing a healthy prayer life; and fellowshipping with other believers, are just a few ways you and I can become radically ordinary Christians. 

Obedience is how we worship. Obedience then to what or whom is the question. Are we trying to satisfy the world and live like God fearing Christians? Its getting mighty hard to do the splits these days. In the Old Testament (1 & 2 Kings), even good kings left “the high places” for people to worship false gods. It was a compromise for fear of public opinion. The worship of idols was popular and ingrained into the culture so these godly kings let it slide under the radar, except that their lack of total obedience led to more disobedience from the people they were meant to protect not just from physical harm but spiritual apostasy.

In the same way Christians will not look different from the dying world when we remain milquetoast. Acts of kindness are encouraged by Christians and unbelievers alike. What sets a Christ follower apart is not merely acting nice so everyone will like us, but also speaking the truth about sin even when it is uncomfortable. Being winsome toward others we disagree with is how we advocate the truth, not by compromising the truth.

It is easy to feel helpless as wicked leaders takeover and God’s values are mocked. But we have ways to engage the culture by combating the hell-bound lies which have been normalized, even seen as righteous, in the eyes of men. Let us make the most of the opportunities given to us individually, not merely speak on approved subjects to our neighbor, but initiate conversations about Truth. In our society today that is jaw-dropping radical. Our language needs clarification, or rather purging, about what truth is and the source of it. It is up to ordinary Christians to take back the dictionary as we learn to communicate frankly, openly and unashamed about what the Bible has to say about sin. The Gospel is the greatest love story, with the power to break the chains of sin that have so many enslaved. This is what loving your neighbor looks like right where you live. Perhaps God will use our personal obedience to spark spiritual revival and repentance in our world.

Grace upon grace,

April

Growing deeper: Ephesians 5:1-21

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