Inscription: Writing God’s Words on Our Hearts & Minds
Part 91: Engaging a Hostile Culture
1 Peter 3:13-17
October 14, 2012
SCRIPTURE READING: 1 Peter 3:13-17 (Brandi)
MAKING THEM LOOK BAD
LAST WEEK, I talked about how HARD WORK GLORIFIES God and how glorifying God is the best to ENGAGE our CULTURE.
After service, Doug and I were talking about that, how we had been DISLIKED for WORKING HARD and showing everyone else up.
Q Have you ever had a job where you WORKED really HARD and inadvertently made the others LOOK BAD?
* MCDONALDS in San Dimas (Sound like the training video).
Q HOW can we “engage culture” in that situation?
Q Do we work SLOWER and start STEALING from the company to “become all things to all men”?
* EG: PARENTS who BUY for the friend to be cool.
I realized when I talk about engaging culture, I usually assume that doing what is right would be met with APPROVAL. What happens when that is what makes us HATED?
This is the world that PETER was WRITING to. There wasn’t wide-spread persecution, but Christians were very UNPOPULAR: The Jews thought we were HERETICS and the pagans thought we were FREAKS.
* Christians were losing FRIENDSHIP and JOBS because of faith.
But a STORM was looming on the HORIZON. The emperor at the was Nero, a nut-job of a emperor who would go on to introduce the first major persecution of Christians.
* Within a couple of years Peter would be EXECUTED under Nero.
As in the book of Hebrews, Peter’s readers are getting DISCOURAGED by the trials they were facing. Peter is writing to encourage and PREPARE his readers.
1 Peter 1:7 These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Then, as now, we can have this SUBTLE EXPECTATION that when we do right we will be REWARDED and get in trouble for doing wrong. Most of the time that is true, but:
Q What is the BEST TEST of your character: Doing the right thing when applauded or when cursed?
Q Are you more impressed by MLK’S stand against racism or modern politician’s unanimous stand against it?
Being HATED for doing what is RIGHT REFINES us, it tests our motives. Are we truly doing it “as UNTO the LORD,” or for how it will HELP US out in society?
* It one thing to do what is right because it is POPULAR, another to do it to the GLORY of GOD.
In some small way, EVERY TIME you ENCOUNTER RESISTANCE for righteousness, God is showing you your motives. When:
* Your CO-WORKERS hate your integrity.
* Your BOSS demotes you for not fudging.
* Your FRIENDS mock you for your morals.
Q How are your MOTIVES holding up?
FIRST WORLD PERSECUTION
Emphasis on “in SOME SMALL WAY.” The persecutions we face are just barely worthy of that name.
Around the world, Christians are still persecuted. If you convert to Christianity in some MUSLIM nations, you could be LYNCHED or EXECUTED. In India, churches are being burned down.
* The persecution we face is PALTRY in comparison, but it is our world nonetheless.
I am not trying to teach you how to survive in India, but in AMERICA.
Q HOW can we ENGAGE culture and shine Christ’s light in a world that is hostile to him and his claims?
WE ARE ALL JERKS
That is the question we need to answer, but it is a little more COMPLICATED than that:
When I was younger, I assumed that people rejected God because of their own sin. Then I started to see just how RESPONSIBLE we as Christians are:
“I like your Christ, I do NOT LIKE your CHRISTIANS. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
* This is attributed to GANDHI; though that is questionable, that is irrelevant – it represents how many people feel.
Then I went into what I call my “NOBLE PAGAN” stage – assuming that they were honestly seeking truth and it was our fault they had missed it.
Then I started reading “SKEPTIC: magazine and saw that atheists have all the wishful thinking, arrogance, manipulative techniques, etc that annoyed me about Christians.
* I realized JERKDOM is a HUMAN CONDITION, not isolated to Christians or non-Christians.
REASONS FOR HOSTILITY
That to say, in order to glorify God and ENGAGE a CULTURE that is frequently HOSTILE, we need to look carefully to understand WHY they are HOSTILE. I see at three reasons:
1. We are being jerks.
Q WHY does Hollywood use these STEREOTYPES?
Because they are just about the only SAFE cliché. However, they work only because many people KNOW CHRISTIANS like that.
* The BITTER IRONY is the church is not known for GRACE, but JUDGMENT – because we expect non-Christians to act like us.
Face it; we can be real jerks – SELF-RIGHTEOUS, ARROGANT, JUDGMENTAL, HYPOCRITICAL. Add to that the ignorance of “God said it, that settles it” Christians.
* “God’s name is BLASPHEMED among the Gentiles because of you” (to borrow from Romans 2:24).
So Peter says:
1 Peter 2:12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
Our goal as Christians is to so consistently live good lives that when Glee uses that stereotype, it rings as HOLLOW as a “lazy Mexican” stereotype, that viewers say, “That’s not true!”
* We can only work on OURSELVES, but that is challenge enough for a lifetime.
Q HOW can we change?
EXAMINE if there is any truth to the allegations of JUDGMENTALISM and HYPOCRISY.
Q How would your CO-WORKERS DESCRIBE you?
The answer is not “TRY HARDER” but “Jesus, change my heart more, help me lean on your GRACE more.”
OWN UP TO THE CRUSADE
In addition to changing how we live, the second most important way to refute the Christian jerk stereotype is to humbly OWN UP to Christians FAILURES and APOLOGIZE.
Q Have you ever heard a politician disagree with his party? He gains credibility.
2. They misunderstand us.
A lot of times we are just MISUNDERSTOOD, and people say a lot of dumb things about us. At the Porterhouse I overheard a guy say Christians CAN’T EAT FIGS because Jesus cursed them.
Q Did you know that the Christians of Peter’s audience were accused of being ATHEISTS, CANNIBALS, and INCESTUOUS?
They saw US as the THREAT to MORALITY! What’s more, because we would not WORSHIP CAESAR, they believed we were rebels and a threat to law and order. That is why Peter wrote:
1 Peter 2:13-15 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.
Peter specifically has them contradict the PREVAILING FALSEHOOD about being rebels. He tells them to SUBMIT to the government in EVERY WAY POSSIBLE to SILENCE the foolish talk.
Q What is some of the “ignorant talk” about us now?
* That we hate SCIENCE.
* That we are idiots who believe in FAIRY TALES.
* That we hate GAYS.
* That we are JUDGMENTAL and think we are better than everyone else.
What is the best way to contradict this ignorant talk? To PROTEST GLEE? To write NASTY LETTERS about “Bill Nye the Science Guy?” Or is it to live differently?
What I do when I am with non-Christians is try to figure out which piece of IGNORANT TALK is PREVALENT in their mind and then try to contradict it.
* EG: ATHEIST – “You can have DOUBT?”
3. They don’t want to obey God.
But, and this is the important part, the atheists, skeptics, and pagans don’t come to this whole thing UNBIASED either.
We can do everything right: Not be JERKS, live great and GODLY lives and be great AMBASSADORS for Christ, yet still be HATED. Like the lineman who hates you for working hard, non-Christians may resent you for SHOWING THEM UP.
* We are called to be DIFFERENT from the world and that can make us UNPOPULAR.
GOOD DIFFERENT VS. WEIRD DIFFERENT
It is crucial that we understand the difference between WEIRD DIFFERENT and GOOD different.
* We don’t try to be DIFFERENT for its OWN SAKE, as a goal, but because we try to GLORIFY GOD, we will by nature be DIFFERENT.
Since we are a CHURCH that ENGAGES CULTURE and doesn’t condemn MOVIES, DRINKING, or listening to “SECULAR MUSIC,” we’re accused of being “LIKE the world.” But those aren’t the KEY DIFFERENCES.
* We still EAT, LAUGH, DRESS, and WORK, and in many ways, we will be INDISTINGUISHABLE.
The KEY DIFFERENCE is that God is king, that he is on the throne and EVERYTHING we do is done to God’s GLORY. It is done to REFLECT his nature as LOVING, KIND, JUST, and GIVING.
* This world values GETTING, we value GIVING.
* This world values LIVING for the MOMENT, we value ETERNITY.
* This world values being SERVED, we value SERVING.
* This world values PRIDE, we value HUMILITY.
* This world values being RIGHT, we value FORGIVENESS.
* This world values FREEDOM to SIN, we value FREEDOM to OBEY.
The key difference is our VALUES, GOAL, and PURPOSE. We are PURSUING the GLORY of GOD as our HIGHEST JOY in contrast to their PURSUING JOY and THEMSELVES as their highest god.
When we live to glorify GOD instead of WORSHIPPING SELF, we basically become a huge BUZZ KILL for the world:
1 Peter 4:3-5 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do – living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. 4 They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. 5 But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.
Q Assuming we are doing everything right, WHY do they HATE us?
Because we are SHINING a LIGHT into their darkness, because we are forcing them to look at something they would RATHER IGNORE.
FORCING A DECISION
We are showing them clearly the WAR that WAGES in them: “THY WILL or MY WILL.”
* What they do at that point is THEIR DECISION. Some will run TOWARD his GLORY, some will run AWAY.
We CAN’T CONTROL how people will respond, only that we GIVE good EVIDENCE to God’s character.
* The GOSPEL is indeed a STUMBLING BLOCK.
* The problem is when people STUMBLE ON US instead of Jesus!
It’s “FINE” if people reject God because they HATE him and his RULE, meaning we can’t DO ANYTHING about it. And we should expect to be UNPOPULAR for the sake of the Gospel.
* If someone is AVOIDING GOD, they may NOT WANT to be with you.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Q So HOW can we engage this kind of hostile culture?
There is ONLY SO MUCH can do. If you are genuinely hated because of your LOVE of GOD, then it is out of your hands. Persecution will occur.
1 Peter 3:14-15a But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.
Christ is Lord, he is YOUR LORD, all things are done to him, REGARDLESS of how the WORLD RESPONDS. And because this is true, you DON’T FEAR what they fear.
* You don’t fear DEATH.
* You don’t fear POVERTY.
* You don’t fear SICKNESS.
* You don’t fear REJECTION, God has accepted you.
Keep CHRIST LORD, don’t give in to PERSECUTION. Don’t be RULED by fear.
* Please text “Sunday School Teacher” ; service is almost over
WHAT CAN WE DO FOR THEM?
Q But what can we do FOR THEM? YELL louder? MAKE them believe?
In the end, we CANNOT CONTROL what they do or how they respond to Christ in us. All we can do is LIVE to the GLORY of GOD, and see what happens:
1 Peter 3:15b-16 Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
BE READY. It just may be that your PEACE, your JOY, your PATIENCE in the face of persecution may make some of them curious.
* And PRAY – pray for a SOFT heart, for TRUTH to break through, for OPPORTUNITIES.
Then be ready to tell them WHY you are different. CHRIST is LORD, not NERO, not the Almighty DOLLAR, not FAME, not SELF, not FAMILY. Only Christ.
Don’t EXPECT to be LOVED, don’t TRY to be HATED – glorify God and let the CHIPS LAND where they may.
Q & A