We’re back with guest Trip Lee. Trip, in your new book, Rise, you write this: “I don’t mean to sound like a conspiracy-theorizing doomsday prophet with canned food stacked ceiling high in my basement. I assure you I only keep enough canned food in the house for the week ahead of me. But we do need to think about what it means to be faithful to Christ in a culture where our presence is less and less appreciated” (162). We do need to think about this. We all want to be liked and accepted. But faithfulness to Christ means we won’t be liked by the world. How do we live in the world, seeking to influence the world, but without living for the approval of the world? How do you personally find balance in this?
That is tricky, and something I had to think a lot about even while writing this book Rise, because I am writing to a generation that is growing up with that really decreasing appreciation for serious Christians. And I think Scripture really gives us lots of ways to kind of think about this and navigate this, because it is not like after Jesus and the apostles and the early church everybody always loved Christians and was excited for them to be around and then just recently people have started not to like them.
Show Off God’s Goodness
Peter writes to young Christians in 1 Peter, saying, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12). Peter is really clear: Hey, live such good lives among them that they will see your good deeds and glorify God. He is saying: They are going to speak against you as evil doers. That will happen. But you should live such a good life that, even when they try to do that, they will look into your life, and they will see so many good deeds that it is going to lead to glory for God himself.
And I think that is what we are really seeking to do: to live these really faithful lives in public that show the goodness of God. And so it is not as if while living in the world we just say, Hey, we are going to do what we do. We don’t care what anybody thinks about anything. No, no. We do absolutely care about the way we live our lives, because it does say something very, very clearly about the God that we serve.
But when people still don't even like us, even though we are trying to do what Peter is calling to here, there are a few things I talk about in the book that I think we should do. One of them is we should stop being so surprised. We should stop getting shocked when people are annoyed that we are serious about Jesus. Jesus never said, “Follow me and people will love you for it.” Jesus says, “Others will hate you for my name’s sake” (Matthew 24:9; Mark 13:13; Luke 21:17). So we should stop being so surprised.
And we have to fall out of love with being cool and being liked by everybody because, at the end of the day, it is not going to be cool to really pursue Jesus with everything you have. And so we have to be okay with the fact that we won’t be the ones that the culture looks to as the coolest, or, even in our day and age, the nicest. They are going to really speak against a lot of the things that we do.
Speak Truth in Love
But we also have to be compassionate and not combative because the temptation is going to be: they are fighting me; let me fight back. Or we have some Christians for whom the only way they can think of to really fight for the glory of Jesus is to yell at people for everything they do that they don’t personally like or that they don’t see in Scripture. Instead, we want to be very compassionate. It doesn’t mean we don’t say hard things to people, but we want to do it in a very loving and gentle way.
So the gospel itself is already offensive enough. We don’t need to add offense to it by being jerks about everything. We don’t need to add offense to it by being very condemning and self-righteous. We don’t need to add offense to it by being incapable of actually loving and being in relationship with people. We really want to show people the compassion of Jesus even as we say very hard things.
I have seen it. You know, it is easy to say hard things to people when they can tell that you care about them and love them. They don’t feel like your project. And when there is a track record that you have with somebody of genuinely loving them and caring for them and taking interest in their life and serving them, when you say a hard thing, it may still be hard, but it fits into a different context. They can’t just say, “Well, it is just because this person is hateful.” They say, “Well no, it is something much deeper than that.”
Stand Firm in Faith
And we have to stand firm. You know, people are really going to want to kind of push us off of what we stand on. They are going to try to evangelize us and proselytize and push us off of faith in Jesus. But we are all going to really have to stand firm, and that is only going to happen when we have a very deep faith in the gospel.
And we can’t be afraid to tell people very clearly about Jesus. We can’t, with our desire for approval, decide that the gospel is offensive, therefore I won’t share it. That is the thing that makes us distinct. That is the incredible message that we have for everybody. And we want to share it freely and pray that the Lord will give us grace. It will be hard. But I am very curious to see the way that it impacts our evangelism, and the way that it impacts this next generation.