Professing Christians: why, in all our stories, songs, sermons, and conversations, do we keep assuming our non-Christian neighbors think like us?
Why do we assume non-Christians especially understand two key Christian concepts?
I’m speaking about two key concepts in particular: law and grace.
We just keep assuming we can refer to God’s law, and non-Christian neighbors will get it. Or we assume we can refer to God’s grace, and non-Christian neighbors will really get it.
In both cases, we reveal our naïveté. We betray the fact that we’re culturally sheltered.
Let’s look at one recent example, thanks to a statement by Franklin Graham.1 In this May 15 post, Graham asked readers, “What would you take a bullet for? What are the principles and beliefs that you would not compromise under any circumstances? Even if it meant putting your life on the line?”
He went on to refer to a biblical account in the book of Daniel. Then he concluded:
I want to call on every Christian and every pastor to stand firm like these patriarchs of old and not bow to the secular, increasingly godless culture in which we live—even when (not if) we’re criticized, mocked, and labeled intolerant. The God of the Old Testament that delivered Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from their fiery execution is the same God today—and He is still more than able to save. Will you stand against ungodliness? What are you willing to take a bullet for?
A few disclaimers.
First, Graham is clearly writing this for Christians only.
Second, there is a time to address people “inside the clubhouse,” without painstakingly explaining every reference and definition to people who are listening in at the windows.2
We aren’t always in The World. We get to have “subcultures” just like everyone else.
But here Graham seems to have forgotten something: He’s not in the clubhouse. He’s on Facebook. He has the little blue-check at his name; he’s a public figure. And when you’re even a Christian semi-public figure, you cannot assume non-Christians think like you.
1. Non-Christians do not understand God’s Law
Graham makes this assumption when he talks about “patriarchs,” without being wise about knowing how this word has been negatively charged. He also mentions alien names like Blenfwoof, Ermaderd, and Jingunvish (this is how non-Christians hear them).
But he and his many supporters in the comments section3 fail to understand this fact:
Non-Christians do not understand God’s Law, including sin, death, and repentance.
God’s Law is His standard of holiness. It’s His moral perfection. It’s not defined by laws of the universe or nature, or any “rules” outside of Himself. It’s defined by Himself in Person.
God’s Law (which can be upper-cased) is seen across the Bible: in legal code and in song.
But our non-Christian neighbors do not have a clue what God’s Law is, what Christians believe about it, or why it matters for the universe. This means that when our stories, songs, and comments reference God’s Law, they make no sense to non-Christian neighbors.
I can read this Graham supporter’s comment and understand the code. Maybe you can, too:
There is the judgement side of God too , when he comes back to judge at the great white throne !! The sheep and the goats , the unbelievers !! He isn’t just love, but wants to be our Savior and Lord !! And will condemn the unbelievers to everlasting fire !! 😊. Remember he disciplines those he loves !!
But to the non-Christian neighbor, it’s nothing but jargon. Or worse, it looks like this:
God is a hater. He personally hates you and judges you on his great white shark. Animal references for some reason. I personally hate unbelievers. God isn’t love. Spiritual talk. God hates you and wants you to burn in hell. That makes me happy. He wants to abuse you, like the parental abuse you’ve experienced or heard about.
So what’s the solution? How else do Christians assume their non-Christian neighbors understand the biblical concepts of God’s Law, along with concepts like sin, death, hell, and repentance? How can Christians better communicate the truth of God’s Law, by using Scripture first and foremost, but also echoing this truth through our stories and songs?
Tomorrow I’ll explore another growing problem: Christians who assume non-Christian neighbors only feel false guilt from “legalists” and will therefore easily understand grace.