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Confusion and the Church: Seductions of a Post-Truth Mindset

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In mid-2015, social media feeds were abuzz with articles insinuating that an LGBT activist had leveraged the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which constitutionalized same-sex marriage, to file a federal lawsuit attempting to outlaw the Bible as hate speech. But a quick Internet search would have easily revealed that this narrative was bogus. And yet some calling themselves Christians were actually sharing the false story across social media even though they professed to follow Jesus, the One who claimed to be the very embodiment of truth (John 14:6).

A common phrase in Christian circles is that the church is supposed to be “in but not of” the broader culture, meaning Christians are to engage with the culture but not be unduly influenced by it. Sadly, this is not always so. So pervasive and seductive is the post-truth mindset that the church, at least to some degree, has become "in and of" the Culture of Confusion. But this hasn’t always been so. Historically, whenever the church has doubled down on its commitment to truth, especially in the face of opposition, it has flourished, brought credibility to the gospel, and benefited society. The church can once again recapture its positive cultural influence if it rekindles its passion for the principles that revolutionized the world centuries ago.

First, the church must be committed to expressing truth in a compassionate but uncompromising manner. This involves avoiding two equally harmful extremes. On the one hand, Christians must not compromise the clarity of Scripture for the sake of cultural acceptance or to avoid conflict. On the other hand, Christians must not indulge the commonplace practice of demonizing those they disagree with. Jesus told us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:44). Christians are to be “the salt of the earth” (Matt. 5:13–14). We must be able to disagree without being disagreeable.

Second, the gospel message teaches that all of us are broken people with a propensity for sin, anger, and even hatred. Those who follow Jesus are to be washed of such things by God’s mercy and grace. Christians can—and should—speak with conviction and courage in the face of opposition. We must do so, however, in a way which recognizes that those who disagree with us are not the enemy. After all, “we” were once—and in some ways still are—“them.”

Third, the church must always strive for integrity. Christians are Jesus’ ambassadors, and therefore we are called to wisely use our words to convey truth and life. Anger, even if legitimate, can become sinful if unchecked by godly love for others and for the truth. The church must have a wise temperament that leads to wise words saturated with integrity and tempered with grace.

Fourth, all people must be treated with dignity and respect even (especially) when their ideas or behaviors challenge us or must be challenged by us. Christians must also care well for others, because one cannot love God but fail to love the people He created who bear His image.

The confusion and anger swirling about our culture can be daunting and seductive. But if those who bear the name of Christ possess integrity and courage, they can change perceptions of the church and the gospel it proclaims. Integrity is the currency of truth. Courage is its backbone. When we adopt both, and perhaps only then, can the church be the city of light on a hill (Matt. 5:14) that Jesus calls it to be.

Questions
  • How does the post-truth mindset prompt an internal conflict between the desire to share the gospel with others and the pressure to be liked and accepted? How did the apostle Paul view the matter (see Rom. 1:16)?
  • People judge the credibility of a message by the integrity of the messenger. Why is this such an important reminder for those who are Christ’s ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20)?
  • If you utilize social media, particularly to contribute to culturally relevant conversations, how do you strive to do so with integrity?
  • Jesus stated that we will one day give an account of carelessly uttered words (Matt. 12:36). Take some time to self-assess. How can you better utilize words to edify and encourage others by conveying truth and life?

Bible Passages
  • Matthew 5:13–14, 44
  • Matthew 7:1–5
  • John 14:6
  • John 17:14
  • James 4:4
  • Jeremiah 15:19
  • Proverbs 29:8, 11
  • James 1:20
  • Proverbs 17:27
  • Titus 3:1–3
  • Proverbs 15:1–2
  • Proverbs 28:18
  • John 1:1, 14
  • Matthew 12:36–37
  • Matthew 22:37–40
  • Colossians 4:5–6
By: Abdu Murray @ RZIM
 

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