Conservative Christians have lost our seat at the cultural table. There is no denying this truth when one looks across our cultural landscape. We, as the church, have lived from a place of privilege in the past, though I would argue not nearly as influential as we have assumed for a few decades, but this place is no more. We have found ourselves on the outside. For some this is good because it can lead the church back to its prophetic voice in the culture. This loss of political power can move us to who we are called to be anyway. For others this is the end of the world. They have used this as a rallying cry for their own political agenda. They have made a Shibboleth out of how we vote and in many ways have alienated themselves from the very culture they claim they love and want to reach. There are many articles and books being written about this decline and why it is either good or bad for us as an American church. I don’t necessarily want to deal with this in this post. What I want to do is to think through our reaction to this truth as conservative believers who feel we are losing influence. How do we react to the truth of this loss of our place at the table? The reaction I see the most in my context is fear quickly followed by anxiety. We have trusted in things being how we romanticize them to be, how we think they should be. We have trusted in a privileged place that seems to have been taken from us and now are facing a culture that seems to be more hostile than hospitable. How do we react? I want to propose that we react in a 1 Corinthians 13:13 kind of way. We react with faith, with hope, and most of all with love.
We react with faith. No matter our place in the culture we must have faith. Faith should mark the church, not fear. When fear runs the church we care more about our standing in the culture politically than we do our posture towards our neighbor. Fear causes us to run to the extremes. It causes us to paint others in the worst possible light, to believe the worst about their motives, and to see them more as an enemy than as created in the image of God. Our faith in Jesus sustains us even if we lose it all. Our faith in Jesus will not let us use fear to demean others, no matter how they may portray or treat us. Fear breeds contempt when we listen to the world over the Word. There are news stations, radio hosts, and websites that prey on our complex of being left out and forgotten with no power. Our faith does not change with the tide of the culture and our worldly power or loss of worldly power. Jesus is the same whether we are called bigots or not. We must not be driven by fear any longer. We must not let others tell us how to think and what we should do. We must turn to our faith, to our savior, to His word. Faith must abide in us as the people of God. Our faith is in Jesus, the one who left all power to humbly come to earth. Faith sustains us. It sustains us because we have faith not in our own power and the security of this world and our standing in it, rather we have faith in Jesus Christ. We have faith in His perfect life, His sacrificial death, His victorious resurrection, and His coming again to redeem and restore all things. Take away our seat at the table. Take away our cultural voice. Take away political clout. Strip it all away and we still have everything because we still have Jesus. And this Jesus is much more powerful and transformative than the seat at the table, the political wins, the privilege anyway. We must quit living in fear of losing something that was never really ours to begin with and must trust in what is ours for all of eternity. People do not think like us. This is no big shock and it should not produce a fear that paints all who don’t as enemies and tyrants. We stand for truth, but not out of fear. We stand for truth with faith. Fear cripples us as the church to where we live for political power instead of the mission of God, we fight for privilege instead of humble service, and we try to win a culture war by any means necessary instead of living by faith in who Jesus is and what He has promised to do while calling others to this faith. We must respond to the loss of cultural power with a transforming faith that replaces fear. This faith is not a faith in political power or privilege. It is not a faith in the hope of what used to be. It is faith in Jesus Christ alone. He is where our faith lies. We must no longer place our feet on the sand of the culture and our place in it, we must place our feet on the rock of Jesus.
Another response from 1 Corinthians 13 we see is hope. We have hope. We have an eternal hope. We may lose our place at the cultural table. One day we may even be persecuted for standing for the truth of God, but we will always have hope. We know where the story is heading. We know the ending of this world. We know no matter how this all plays out Jesus is coming with redemption. All will be made right. We will dwell with God on the New Earth for all of eternity. Redemption and restoration are coming. We must live with this hope. It must infuse everything we do. We are told from many corners of the evangelical world we must be anxious about the loss of our cultural power and influence. We must be anxious about what life will be like if our culture turns on us. This anxiety is evident everywhere from the pew on Sunday morning, to the books and articles that are written, to the fundraising efforts of politicians and religious organizations. Anxiety cannot overtake us. It must not overtake us. Our hope encourages us even in dark days. Hope strengthens us in hardship. We know redemption is coming. We know God is working in all things. We know the promises and the presence of God. Our hope should make us positive about the future. We don’t need angry, anxious Christians speaking for us or leading us. We need hopeful Christians who see the truth of God, stand on the truth of God, and trust God even in the midst of what may seem like dark days. It is not near as bad as we think. These are not new days for the people of God. We are not persecuted as many of our brothers and sisters in Christ are around the world. We must not make ourselves out to be victims filled with fear and anxiety. We can stand for truth without being apocalyptic. We can stand for truth with faith and hope, not fear and anxiety. I am convinced anxiety of losing what we thought we had is killing the church much more than the culture around us. Hope abides in the Gospel. We are a hopeful people. We are hopeful even in the midst of the loss of cultural power because the meek shall inherit the earth. There is nothing anyone can do to us to separate us from the love of Christ. This hope must overflow so we may speak to the culture around us of the hope that is in us with gentleness and respect. Our hope will lead us to stand for truth in a way not defensive or reactionary. Hope must fill our hearts. The hope of the redemption and restoration fills all we do now as we work to fill the earth with the glory of God.
Faith and hope must be grounded, filled, and overflowing with love. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13:13 says love is the greatest of these three. Love must give our hope substance and our faith purpose. Our love for God causes us to obey His word and call others to live by His design and according to His commands. Our love for one another causes us to encourage and challenge one another to live with faith and hope in this culture. Our love for the world causes us to build relationships with those who disagree with us. What I have found is it is much harder to live with fear and anxiety when you know the “enemy”. Love causes us to reach out. Love causes us to build relationships with those around us in our context no matter who they are, and to infuse that relationship with our faith and with our hope. We cannot stay in our Christian bubble and allow fear and anxiety to win the day. We must go to the world with this love overflowing with faith and hope. Love casts out fear. Love overcomes anxiety. In relationship with real people we narrow our focus from winning a culture war to loving our neighbor. Sometimes loving our neighbor is confronting them with the truth of the word of God and calling them to repentance, but one can do this with gentleness and respect and not out of anger and fear. Love is not just being nice. Love is marked by concern for the good of our neighbor. We cannot be for something without being against something. The problem with the church, in my opinion, is we have stood against others more out of fear than out of love and concern. We stand for truth, for God’s commands and designs, because living according to these designs produces the most joy and gives God the most glory. To live contrary to the designs and commands of God is to miss out on the fullness of joy offered. So, it is loving to stand for the truth of God out of love and concern for our neighbor in relationship with that neighbor. Love puts others above ourselves and our place in the culture. We lay down our political clout, our place at the table, our privilege for the sake of others and the spread of the Gospel. Maybe it is time to quit fighting for the place at the table and instead follows the example of Jesus and wash the feet of those gathered around the table. We should be known for our love. Faith, hope, and love. The greatest of these is love. I contend that 1 Corinthians 13:13 is our response to the rapid cultural change around us. We should respond with faith in Jesus and His promises, hope in the redemption and restoration coming, and love for God and for our neighbor. Fear and anxiety have gripped the church for too long. Political power and privilege have kept us from humbling ourselves with love and humility. It is time to respond with faith, hope, and love.