Necessary Disclaimer: I write this with fear and trepidation. Not because I worry how people will react to it, or perceive me. Those who know me well have probably had these conversations with me. I write with fear and trepidation because:
1) I’m utterly flawed. While I have great conviction about the things written here, I also am self-aware enough to know that I don’t have it all figured out.
2) It is difficult to communicate clearly on complicated issues. I don’t want to add to the confusion and polarizing rhetoric already filling this space called the internet.
There are days I feel like an alien living on an otherworldly planet. Like a foreigner in a strange world. An outsider. Now, in some ways this sounds utterly preposterous, right? I’m a white, middle-class, suburban dwelling, American male. I won the lottery with a great family, country, heritage, privilege and blessings too numerous to list. Yet, at the same time I feel like a minority in our current cultural times.
Today, more than any other time in my life, it seems like there are two extreme sides in most arenas of life. Republican and Democrat. Liberal and Conservative. Progressive and Traditionalist. Nationalist and Globalist. There are Christian versions of all those categories. There are atheist versions of all those categories. In most categories of thought, philosophy, politics, religion, education etc. there usually seems to be two big camps. And I rarely feel like I fit in either of them. I don’t believe I’m alone there. Maybe you too?
- I’m too liberal for some of my conservative friends and too conservative for some of my liberal friends.
- I roll my eyes at Fox News. And CNN. And The Huff Post. And Breitbart.
- I hold to ‘traditional’ Christian ethics of sexuality and marriage, but welcome LGBT friends to my kitchen table.
- I’m zealous in my conviction concerning human dignity and the sanctity of every human life. I loathe the notion of abortion. I also loathe the notion of millions of at risk women and children languishing in poverty.
- I see systematic racial injustice as a real thing. I also understand why some do not.
- I see virtue in both capitalistic approaches to economics and the viable need for social programs and structures for those who didn’t win the birthplace lottery as I did.
- I’m utterly dismayed by Evangelicals who propagate an Americanized, politicized Christianity so repulsive to the way to Jesus.
- I’m utterly dismayed at Progressive Christians who move and sway to every single breeze of cultural movement.
Anyone else feel this way? I hope so.
If I can be honest, at times this has created anxiety and has been a source of great discouragement. There is a part of me that I’m not particularly proud of: I’m a bit of a people pleaser. I want to make people happy. I like to be liked. I like to feel like I’m a part of the group. I want to feel at home somewhere.
And therein lies my problem.
I have been trying to “feel at home” in a world that I wasn’t meant to feel at home in. This is what the Apostle Paul was trying to communicate to 1st century Christians while he was in prison for proclaiming the Gospel. Writing a letter while chained in a Roman dungeon Paul says, “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ”. (Philippians 3:30)
What Paul is saying here is very clear. This world as we know it is not our home. As Gospel minded followers of Jesus, we’re strangers and sojourners. Jesus made this abundantly clear in John 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
We’re not supposed to fit. We are citizens of a different Kingdom and that Kingdom is oftentimes at odds with this world and has been since the Fall. If we’re faithfully loyal to the Kingdom of God, there will be occasions where we find ourselves outside the camps I mentioned earlier. If we’re loyal to the way of Jesus we’re going to find ourselves laying our lives down instead of picking up a weapon. We will find ourselves cautious to wield power, because the way of Jesus is to leverage it for those with little or none (Mark 10:35-45). We will find ourselves seeking to live and love in ways that are counter cultural to both secular society and to religious people. You may find yourself a minority, as have many followers of Jesus have through the centuries.
To quote Francis Schaeffer’s notorious book title, “How should we then live?”
I propose that we learn to become a Redemptive Minority.
What is a Redemptive Minority? It’s important to create a sense of clarity around the most important of ideas. When words, phrases and slogans get watered down one of the ways we bring clarity to the forefront is by establishing what we do not mean.
- Becoming a Redemptive Minority is not about trying to reclaim the place of power and prominence in society that was once held. It’s not a slightly different version of the Moral Majority.
- It’s not seclusion and isolation from modern society and her evils into various forms of sanitized Christian bubbles.
- It’s not a false version of tolerance. The kind of tolerance that affirms and tolerates everything except the notion of disapproval.
- It’s not a gloomy resignation. It’s a joyful opportunity to sometimes participate “in the fellowship of His sufferings”. (Philippians 3:10)
So what do we mean when we say becoming a Redemptive Minority?
Faithful devotion to Jesus and His ways. Not a highjacked, counterfeit Jesus that gets used for our agenda, but the authentic Jesus as revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures. The Lamb of God who is gentle and kind to the outsider and marginalized. The Lion of Judah who fiercely opposes the self-righteous. The Sovereign King of all creation who demands our obedience and has earned our affection.
This Jesus is like no other. He will not be confined to a man-made ideology. He cannot be snuffed out by persecution or any other force. His Words and life have stood the test of time and will ring on forever.
In the first century, what is now called Christianity was known as The Way. Those who witnessed His death and resurrection were compelled by what He taught and what they saw. The more Rome’s oppressive regime tried to snuff out Christianity, the more it thrived. Not because it was in step with culture, or because it was corrosive to culture, but rather followers of Jesus redemptively participated in the lives of those who believed like them, and didn’t believe like them. The church became a place where traditionally marginalized people, such as women, racial minorities and the poor could find acceptance and community. When the pagan elites fled Rome because of the plagues that ravaged thousands, Christians stayed behind to care for them – knowing their ultimate destiny was already settled.
Jesus didn’t shy away from those stained by immorality. (See His association with tax collectors, adulterers and thieves.) Jesus also didn’t shy away from compelling them to “go and leave your life of sin”. For over 3 years Jesus sat at a table and broke bread with men who held wildly different political views.
Jesus used his power, not to keep others down, but to lift them up. Jesus was clear when He spoke to the disciples saying, “The way the Gentile leaders use leadership and lord authority for personal gain – that’s not the way to greatness in My Kingdom. The way to greatness in My Kingdom is humility and service” (Mark 10:35-45 paraphrase)
The call to become a redemptive minority is to embrace this Way. The Way of Jesus.
Bold belief in and proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus. Jesus is the greatest figure in all of history. His teaching and His Way changed the world. But it’s not enough to simply admire the amazing qualities of Jesus. To become a Redemptive Minority, we must embrace and engage with the Gospel. The story of the Bible is the redemptive story of Jesus. God coming in flesh to become like a man, for the sake of mankind. Jesus, who did not sin, became sin for sinful men so that they could become righteous and whole.
The path to God isn’t made by what we do for Him. It has been made by what He has done for us. This is the hope that our world needs. This is the good news that can change the hearts of men and women. This is what we must proclaim with our deeds AND our words.
Jesus is making all things new. The broken things will be restored. Shalom will again be a reality. We have been called to participate in this glorious work! God’s desire is that we be a people who are for the good of our communities and cities. (Acts 8:8)
The Gospel compels us to care for the poor, orphan and widow. The Gospel compels us to seek racial reconciliation in a fractured society. The Gospel compels us to speak truth to oppressive powers. The Gospel compels us to live lives of selfless sacrifice that others may know this good news that Jesus has come for them.
Joyful endurance in the narrow way. Maybe even happy endurance in the narrow way. Jesus was clear that the road of a Redemptive Minority wouldn’t be travelled by the masses. (Matthews 7:14) That’s Okay. Here are two reasons why: It’s the road Jesus is on. The Redemptive Minority doesn’t fret over it’s minority status because Jesus is on their side. They know one day, “every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.” Jesus is always faithful and His presence lights our journey.
Finally, this road leads us home. To new heaven and new earth, the place God is making for us. The place where we will finally “fit”. The place where we will feel like we belong. Aches, tears and sorrow gone. Forevermore joy and happiness around the throne of our King.
Will you join me in becoming a Redemptive Minority?